It can be done! This is the true-life story of San Diego-based printing company Nonstop Signs & Graphics, whose founder and CEO Brandon Stapper has gone from door-to-door cold calling sales to multi-million dollar accounts, using unique marketing tactics, SEO and working ‘on’ his business more than ‘in’ it.
|Brandon Stapper, CEO of Nonstop Signs & Graphics|
“I always had a passion for business and generating profits rather than for printing, which helped me in my growth,” says Brandon Stapper, CEO of Nonstop Signs & Graphics. “I was able to focus on strategy rather than the printing aspect. I hired good printers instead of doing it myself.”
Stapper is referring to the rags-to-riches story of his San Diego-based printing company, Nonstop Signs & Graphics. 11 years ago, Stapper set out from Michigan to chase dreams of owning his own business in California. Stapper was just 20 years old at the time, with $1,000 (US) to his name and no college education.
“I was just looking for the right opportunity,” Stapper recalled. “I must have started about 5 different companies. One of them was called 858 Graphics, named after our area code in San Diego.”
The ‘business’ was really just Stapper, a friend, and a $400 vinyl decal machine Stapper bought off eBay. Stapper saved money while working as a restaurant cook. He continued working as he launched his business.
He says: “I read online how to make decals, then offered them for doors, windows, or company cars. I added fliers and business cards, going door-to-door commercially in San Diego.”
Although he had no real background in print or graphic design, Stapper invested in a commercial printer. “I eventually bought a printer because of client demand. I kept getting asked if we could produce other things, so it just made sense.”
“It was a steep learning curve. I had no idea how to print or run a business or do graphic design. 858 was just the business that started taking off rather than my other four.”
Strategy and online marketing win the day
What Stapper lacked in printing know-how, he more than made up for with passion for business strategy and work ethic. His early strategy included three parts: aggressively pursuing big companies in Southern California, using SEO tactics to rank high in Google, and incredibly long hours.
“I was working 100-hour weeks for about 5 years. I would go in at 5:00 am and not come home until midnight, 7 days a week.”
Stapper worked tirelessly from 2007-2012 to grow the company until 858/Nonstop Signs & Graphics began gaining some serious traction. “We started hiring managers and sales reps. I was finally able to give things to them and shoulder less responsibility.”
Finding quality employees became another prong in Stapper’s plan for success. “Something that really contributed to the major growth of the company was finding great staff. We created a really great work environment with a fun, progressive culture. People can come to Nonstop, learn, make more money and really grow themselves. The opportunities and environment we provide are really different in our particular industry.”
Topping Google’s rankings with SEO
The digital marketing strategy that Nonstop Signs & Graphics employs is also very different than many in the printing industry. Stapper spent the early years of the company meticulously formatting every web page and blog post for search engine optimization (SEO) and readability. Focusing on the careful formatting of every sentence that appeared on the site helped nonstopsigns.com climb web search engines. Anytime someone searched Google for printing in San Diego, Stapper wanted to be the first company that popped up.
The strategy contributed to the near-astronomical growth of the company, which enabled acquisitions that carried Nonstop Signs & Graphics into new markets.
“In 2012, we bought Las Vegas Printing. This helped us expand into the trade show market, as Las Vegas is one of the biggest trade show destinations in the world. There’s lots of calls for last-minute printing in the trade show industry.”
In 2014, Stapper acquired Nonstop Signs, which changed the name of 858 Graphics and introduced a long list of great clients that came with the company. Today, Nonstop Signs & Graphics has several brands that take on projects for everyone - from small businesses to worldwide brands.
“When Ferrari decided to break the world record for biggest supercar parade, they asked us to make decals for 1000 cars. It took us 2 days to create the decals, and then our team personally flew them out to the Silverstone track in the UK. We didn’t want to risk shipping them, so our team of 5 installers took the decals to England.”
Nonstop Signs & Graphics also regularly works with motorcycle legend Ducati, providing store displays for every location in North America, Canada, and Mexico.
“All our sales people actually know our product inside and out and understand how everything is made. They’re not afraid to make recommendations to customers on what would serve them better, last longer, or save money,” says Stapper. “We really dive in and learn about the project. We become a true partner to our customers - that’s how we stand out.”
Lately, Nonstop Signs & Graphics has seen a huge demand for packaging prototypes and short-run packaging, especially for new product releases.
Stapper’s love for business strategy keeps Nonstop Signs & Graphics growing. San Diego has placed it on the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in the area for three consecutive years. Stapper was also recently recognized with a CEO of the Year Award. True to the company name, he shows no signs of stopping!
“We’re looking at opening new offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and one on the East Coast,” says Stapper. “We’re looking to acquire a few more companies in the coming years, particularly in the web-to-print sphere.”