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(October 2012) posted on Tue Nov 06, 2012

In Yellowknife, Signed delivers digital printing to Canada’s far north.

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By Mike Antoniak

One of the shop’s largest recent orders called for production of a series of 156 reflective vinyl-on-Dibond signs for the De Beers diamond mine; about half of these measured 8-foot x 10 inches, while the rest measured 10-foot x 10-inches. And When Stantec Engineering acquired a local architectural and engineering firm earlier in the year, Signed printed and installed the graphics, backlit signage and channel letters to convey the name change.

“I never turn anything away,” she says. “We even still print a ton of vehicle magnets, although I try to encourage people to move away from them – because they’re constantly being stolen. The cab companies use them for their logos and numbers and they're constantly coming in to replace them. While I want to increase our sales, I also want clients to have the best look they can. I think vinyl looks more professional.

“We also do a lot of banners for local business, all kinds of signs for the airport, local charity events and golf tournaments.”

Building on initial success
Sales this first year, Pacey estimates, should tally around $250,000, with signs and graphics accounting for 70 percent of the business, design services another 10 percent, and the rest in varied print projects. As she looks to build on that base, she’s planning to invest in some new equipment.
“We got a good deal on the business and we knew the equipment would have to be replaced,” she says. “We’re shopping around for a Mutoh 64-inch printer and a Summa cutter.”

Even purchasing equipment from Yellowknife entails some special considerations. “I’m learning a ton about what we need, what will work best for our environment and who’s going to be able to service the business from afar.” Because the area gets so little rainfall, her team has to work to maintain adequate humidity in the shop. Pacey must make sure static electricity won’t pose any significant problems for any equipment she’s considering.

“If we need something fixed, it means flying someone up here, putting them up in a hotel, providing their per-diem allowance,” she continues. Even if her company assumes those costs, few vendors have the staff to dispatch. “I’m trying to find out who’s willing to do that for us.” It all adds to the price of the equipment.

Comparable fees can apply to vendor-provided training: “Thank God for the Internet, we’re able to learn a lot online,” she says. “Major suppliers out of Edmonton have also been very good about talking to us over the phone, or answering our email when we need help.”

When you enjoy where you live, have a friendly rapport with the people you work for and with, you learn to adapt, and accept such day-to-day challenges as mere costs of doing business. In Yellowknife, as anywhere else on the planet, success is built with the same few ingredients: the quality of printed products, responsive services, and the positive perceptions they generate.
“Word of mouth is key to getting new business in a place like this,” Pacey concludes. “Your reputation is everything.”

Freelancer writer Mike Antoniak is a frequent contributor to The Big Picture magazine.