By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Monday, July 2nd, 2018
T.R. MacMunn & Sons
732 sq. ft.
Rodger and Sharon MacMunn
Roland CAMM-1 Gs24
CAMaster Mini Cobra 3648 CNC router
On Facebook as T.R. MacMunn and Sons
Sign making is my second career. Although I lettered my ﬁrst truck at age 14, I had no one to learn from and absolutely no idea that one could go to school to learn sign painting. Had I met the late Bill Riedel 30 years earlier, I wonder where I’d be now?
Anyway, I went on to spend over two decades in the trucking industry. By 1996 I was completely fed up with that, so I sold out. I invested $10K in software, a plotter, some supplies and dove headlong into the sign business. My very ﬁrst sale was new vinyl lettering on a small backlit face for $53, as I recall. One has to start somewhere.
I’m in a very rural part of Ontario, with a tourism-based economy, thanks to the several hundred freshwater lakes within a 100mile radius. I’m 22 miles from the nearest stoplight. I tell people that we’re so far out that we don’t get Saturday Night Live till Tuesday at 3. I work alone, with the help of Sharon, my wife, who keeps the books in order.
I quickly realized that to even exist, let alone thrive, I needed to ﬁnd a product that I could sell beyond our local area. It wasn’t long until I was making sandblasted cedar signs for waterfront cottage owners, and the rest is history. Although most of my business still comes from within a 50-mile radius, I do get a few jobs in northern Ontario and beyond.
I love to design, hand-carve and paint. Although it took me a little while to get comfortable with CNC technology, I do enjoy tool-pathing as well. I still haven’t mastered 3D modeling and may never conquer it. Besides, I can do most of the things that I need carved faster by hand.
My absolute favorite carving work is hand carving a bird ﬂying out of a scene, although most of those I do for myself. The cost is beyond what most people care to spend, but when customers see them in your shop, it sure gives you credibility. Often that’s all it takes to complete the sale. Since a lot of my work is for lakefront homes and cottages, birds and ﬁsh are pretty popular in the pictorials.
I have no training in art, so I always farmed out any pictorials that were beyond my skill level. In 2003, Donna Larocque walked into my shop, portfolio in hand. Soon we were working together. Several years later, she opened her own shop, Donna Larocque’s Sign Shoppe
, but we continued to take advantage of each other’s skillsets, and we still do.
Although technically competitors, it’s friendly competition, and together we can take on jobs that would otherwise be more than either could handle. We each do our own designs, but Donna does a lot of my pictorial work. In turn, I do much of her woodwork. (The dusty stuff!)
Being located far from my suppliers, the biggest issue is getting sheet materials delivered. Long ago, I realized that it was far more cost-effective to carry an inventory, thus avoiding paying $300 in freight for a $300 sheet of material, only to have it arrive damaged. Dedicating a day to picking up Corafoam HDU board in Toronto, or overlaid plywood in Albany, actually makes sense if you follow the old adage that “a dollar saved is a dollar earned.”
Travel time ﬁgures into most everything here. I rarely go anywhere for just one reason, though, and that makes it all work. I may deliver and install signs, do a sales call or site inspection, then pick up supplies, all in one trip.
I use Facebook for marketing. I had a website for 10 years or so, but switched to a Facebook business page in 2014. My website now just points to that. It’s working much better for me. The interaction with potential customers is a lot easier, and I get a lot more referrals now that anyone can see what others are saying. Nothing else I’ve ever tried has worked nearly as well. Since most potential customers are summer residents, there’s really no other way to advertise and reach them.
as Dimensional signs comprise about 50% of my revenue most years. As I ease toward eventual retirement and become more selective, I suspect that percentage will increase. With a small shop, my overhead is minimal and my commute is only 23 steps.
As long as I’m reasonably healthy, I intend to keep working at least until I’m 70. With ﬁve grandsons not too far away, it’s pretty easy to turn down those jobs that aren’t fun and just go out and play.