June marks the 4-year anniversary of the founding of Starfish Signs by Laura and Mike Reilly. In some ways, the husband and wife business duo has seen a lot of change happen over these past 4 years, but in other ways, the consistency of their vision for the business has been the driving force for the success of Starfish Signs.
“I think that our initial tagline was pretty accurate – Stand Out. Be Noticed. Get Results,” said Mike. “Particularly for our retail customers, we have seen the value of excellent signage in helping to reinforce their brand, and create a positive initial impression as customers and prospects walk into their business.”
While the vision has remained constant, Starfish Signs has seen serious changes in their facility, their production capabilities, and their team. When the company was founded in 2012, it was just Mike, Laura and one employee in 1,500 square feet of space. As of late 2015, Starfish Signs facility is 4,500 square feet. “More important than the numbers of employees and the size are the capabilities of our team,” Laura explained. “We have a combination of team members who bring exceptional capability to three key areas – design, fabrication and installation. So we are able to take on projects that might seem beyond the capability of a company our size. When we first started, we were focused totally on large format digital printing. However, as we gained experience, we began to gravitate towards larger and more complex fabrication and installation projects. Great design still underpins much of what we do, but now we like to see that design take shape in metal, acrylic, wood and illuminated signs that we build ourselves.”
This evolution of the Starfish Signs capabilities reflects a larger evolution in the mindset of Mike and the Starfish team: bringing production in-house to help improve both quality and speed. “We did not originally go into the business thinking we would do as many things in-house as we do,” he said. “However, we quickly learned outsourcing production work did not allow us to adequately control the quality of our finished products, and the overall project timeline.” Since 2012, Starfish Signs has steadily increased their in-house capability through investment in people and equipment. They now fabricate and install, in-house, about 85% of all the projects, while still partnering with specialists like brick and stone masons when the work demands it.
Bringing the production in-house has helped Starfish Signs stand out in within the industry, and in turn helped their clients stand out. “We constantly innovate with different combinations of materials,” Laura said. “We do this so we can fabricate signs that don’t look like everyone else’s signs, and so that we can provide novel options to our clients. We talk about distinguishing ourselves on the basis of the quality of our products, and the responsiveness of our service. And while both sound like we are stating the obvious, few of our competitors have the same commitment or do this as well as we do.”
Above all, Mike believes in a dedication to the five core values of the Starfish Signs “We believe in being a good member of the community. We want to operate with a high degree of professionalism. Our goal is to be fully in compliance with all relevant government regulations, industry standards, and community expectations. As such, we are fully licensed, bonded and insured. We have a strong safety program. We are increasing our focus on sustainability. And we partner consistently with key community and non-profit organizations that are making a difference in our community.”
As they continue to look toward the future, Mike sees a lot of things on the horizon: “we are beginning to emphasize newer capabilities – digital signage and retrofitting older signs from neon or fluorescent to LEDs – being two examples. With the continued developments in LED technology, I expect to see a convergence between architectural lighting and signage. We would like to be in a position to provide this capability to our clients. And just to give a hint of two other technologies on the horizon: the use of sophisticated image processing technology, to assess the effectiveness of signs, using pre-attentive processing; and experimenting with 3D Printing.”