Someone once said, “Don’t wait for opportunity, create it.” When Scott walker, owner of VinylWorks, arrived in Wheat Ridge he immediately saw the city’s potential.
Talented from a young age, as a reward for good grades in high school his parents bought him his first screen printer. After finishing a marketing degree at college, he secured a job with Miller (before it was MillerCoors) where he found himself managing over 25 employees who were installation technicians. Fast forward eight years and one company merger later where he found himself laid off. That’s when Scott decided to buy his first vinyl cutting machine.
His idea was to sell businesses vinyl cutouts of their addresses if they didn’t already have it posted. Starting by working out of his basement, he ultimately didn’t feel successful until his second year, but he loved every minute of the job. People may say that owning a business comes with risks, but what they don’t tell you about is the learning curve, and how it affects your business individually from others. Once in the flow of things and as business grew, he expanded by getting his own shop, getting more machines, and eventually had a large enough clientele base that required hiring a few employees.
VinylWorks has a wide array of services, but that’s not the only draw for clients. Mickey Blackwell, Scott’s right hand man is a very gifted graphic designer and adds an incredible amount of value to their products. While only some businesses might be able to afford design firms separate from the printing process, others can be left with limited choices when printing companies don’t have a designer. VinylWorks is the ideal choice and closet thing to a boutique signage store in Wheat Ridge.
Tell me about VinylWorks – What got the business started? How did the idea for your business come about?
It kind of all started off, I guess going all the way back to my high school days, where I was really into making logos , t-shirts, and screen printing – I got my very first screen printing kit in High School for getting good grades and in college I studied marketing with an emphasis in advertising. Later I was in the beer industry for 8 years, and I had experience hanging banners, signs and neon’s. I actually managed 25 guys that did that kind of work all along the Front Range for a Miller Brewing company before it merged with MillerCoors.
I had that great experience but unfortunately that was the first job I had ever lost. So afterword’s I bought my first vinyl cutting machine because well honestly… I love stickers! My friends were like “we love stickers you should start a sticker/sign shop” and I knew about it from being in the beer industry. Once I bought the machine, it’s the classic tale – I started working from out of my house for the first two years in the basement. I had sales experience so I literally went around knocking on every door to businesses here on 38th Avenue. The first year was rough with sales, then the second year I was actually able to make a living off of it. From there, I mean yeah, we’re in year 8 now with 3 full timers, and one part timer in addition to me. It’s really just my love for stickers, that’s all it was [laughs]
Do you guys vinyl wrap cars?
We do wraps for cars, Right Coast pizza for example. We’ve done tons of food trucks and other types of vehicles. We just did a full vehicle wrap for Yamaha,which will be driving all across the US. The largest fleet we worked on was with 30 cars. We’ve also worked with Google up in Boulder at their new location. As mentioned earlier we just got done doing the installation with Visa. Gusto is a really big job that we did down town, also for MapQuest we did a ton of graphics for them. I mean we do stuff for UPS, like their distribution centers in Denver where we made their interior signage and whatever else that need that fall under our services. It’s really cool stuff, we LOVE what we do and appreciate the positive feedback we’ve gotten throughout the years. We are lucky to be able to get the big contracts, but we also love working with locals like mom and pop shops. I also know I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now without my team. They’re all incredibly gifted and I feel very fortunate to have such great employees.
When I started, I just looked around. I thought to myself, “ how many businesses are out there that just need store hours?”. I was like, “If I could just do 10 sets of decals a day, to make a living off” and that turned into where we are now.
Could you describe one of your typical workdays? What do you find most enjoyable?
My typical workday starts pretty much when I wake up and get in the shower. My mind starts going 100 miles per hour with every job, like every busness owner, as with every job, you know you’ve got to do pretty much everything. You have to get the things done from the day before, so I start my day with that, then it’s coming in and sitting down and seeing what’s due for the day and seeing what orders came in. I let Mickey run the shop, than I do all of the sales and installation. So managing that, you know I think at the end of the day my job is typical marketing, accounting and book keeping – reviewing all business information and taking care of things behind the scenes that I think a lot of people don’t know about. In a typical day, I get to step away from running the machines and equipment because my staff is here to handle that.
Does your organization have any big plans for 2016/2017?
I have a pretty big goal, I’m actually working on the business plan right now, my first goal was originally on target for this year but we’ve had a lot of work to do with a larger account, but we’d like to get a second shop open in the Boulder area which would enable us to focus on Boulder and Longmont. We have a lot of clients already in Boulder that we deal with but my long term goal, really, is to have a solid business plan and model so that we could have 5 locations. But really just to take the idea of this small shop because really we only have 3 machines We do so much for small business, we have the big accounts that don’t always know what they’re doing and they need more creative shops like ourselves. There something about us being a young group of independent people that love what we do and work really hard. We don’t just put out designs to collect paychecks, we’re more creative and like boutique shop, versus just a sign or banner shop.
So that’s our future! We’re really looking at getting a new location and to see if that works. I do really love supporting our community and our street because it’s really how these whole things started. Everyone taking care of everyone else – I’ve been in every one of these other businesses and I’ve gotten to know all the owner and yeah, that’s why I support Wheat Ridge I mean I love over there, that’s me [points to his house walking distance from his shop]. It’s a unique community and it’s very tight.
What has been your biggest challenge for your business?
The biggest challenge is understanding how to handle and manage your customers, manage your accounts and that break down pretty much in two ways, one you need to manage your orders because there is such a quick turnaround in the industry now- I mean sometimes we only have days when we get stuff in because they need. So that’s been tough, learning how to manage your consistent orders and then getting the quick turnaround down. I mean learning this is basic but I think the most important thing for small businesses is learning collections, especially when working with bigger accounts , people don’t teach you about how manage working with large accounts that take 30-60 days to pay you. That’s something, you know, I don’t think all small business owner are aware of immediately when starting out. I just think it’s really interesting and important to stay on top of. We have an accountant now that can help as needed; the begging was a different story. Cash flow is so important for a small business. We don’t have bank loans, we’re a small operation and working with those accounts so we’ve changed the way we do our billing through the years and that was a struggle initially because you need people to pay you. That said we’re growing though and we’ve almost doubled our business every year.
How long have you been located or have lived in Wheat Ridge for? Or why did you move/relocate to Wheat Ridge?
I’ve lived here since 2012, but I’ve been here since 2006. When it came time for me to move, there was no question, I didn’t have a single doubt – I wanted to move to Wheat Ridge, over Denver. I like the street for some reason. It was really under developed when I first moved into this building, it was really at the beginning of all the change. There was something about this street that I liked. I saw a lot of opportunity and to be honest the price point was right, I just see the potential.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
I’m a typical Colorado, I love my outdoors. I play soccer twice a week; I’m really into wake boarding and snowboarding, in my younger days I was a competitor semiprofessionally in snowboarding in border cross. I used to race BMX bikes, I was always kind of an action sports guy, I think that kinda works with stickers a little bit and that is maybe why all of that was there. But yeah I’m super active and honestly. I love working on my house and I love gardening. I just love doing home fixing up projects, like tearing out walls, adding new bathrooms and counter tops… I like being at home to relax when I’m not at work.
What is your favorite thing to do while in Wheat Ridge for fun?
I love running around the city and love checking out the growth, wheatear it’s people moving her or redevelopment of homes or just running down 32nd street or Fairmount park, that and all the restaurants here that have slowly been coming into town. I frequent Colorado plus and Right Coast Pizza at least once a week.
If a young entrepreneur walked up and asked for your advice but you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Anyone can run, and start a business, but you have to work hard at it. It can be done, it’s not magic but you really have to be willing to put in that extra effort and time into it. You have to really care about it, it’s not something you can just think will run on its own. I think that’s the basics, if you’re willing to put the time into it, you will be successful.
If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
Eliminating people debt, I know that’s kinda first world problem, but I think it’s hurt a lot of people. That’s not from my standpoint that’s just watching people around me, it’s such a difficult thing for some people to deal with. It can destroy families and ruin homes by putting people in a bad place. BUT if I had to choose a second option, I think honestly fixing our pollution problems. We waste so many materials in our society that we don’t even think about. I wish there were more resources for recycling or reusing things as simple as ziplock bags. People use them once then throw them out, you can actually wash or rinse the bag out and reuse it, you know things like that. The sign industry is not a green energy, they’re doing what they can but green products aren’t durable, they don’t hold up as well or last which is a difficult thing to be faced with. You know, with our products there’s a lot of waste – sometimes because of production there can be up to 50% waste. The vinyl is oil based, we have many products that aren’t made with paper, that feature petroleum based products. Personally I feel really guilty sometime and I wish there was more we could do, again I wish there were more resources. We get a lot of cardboard that we keep, and we try to go recycle it once a week, or once every other week.
If you could high five one person, living or not, who it be? Or who is or has been your biggest inspiration?
My most inspirational person, by far is my Dad. There are two people locally, Tom Schmuke from Quality auto care, has been a great person to talk to. You know just to sit down and talk quick business, I mean they’ve been quick conversations but they’re been so influential. And my dad, I me and my dad is the most important figure, I mean I talk to him almost every day. He cares so much about this business, even though he’s retired and lives in Florida, I bounce ideas off of him and ask for advice. He ran the world’s largest mushroom farm in Pennsylvania, with over 1300 employees. I mean it’s all underground in mines, but he ran mushroom farms his entire life and that was what he did. He was always a great manager; he knew how to hire really great people and treated people really well. When he retire he got letter from people saying they still wanted to work for him and would help out if he needed anything. He always believed the best managers and the best business owners have all capabilities whether they’re being a good people person or being authoritative, they can do all of it when it’s needed because they’re well rounded people. He raised a good family, my mother and him are still married and madly in love to this day. Yeah, I just thought he was a great father and person to look after. On his sixtieth birthday I had to give a speech in front of, you know, like 20 family members and close friends, I had turned 30 right before and I was serious when I said to him that day, “I always said if I could be half the man you were, I’d be happy growing up. And now that your 60 and I’m 30, I am half the man.” I was serous; I mean I was joking but I he is my biggest inspiration for sure.
Scott’s business has been going well, and ultimately he would like to expand to additional markets. To date they’ve worked with big name clients such as Google, Visa, UPS, and Yamaha. If you decide to work with the team at VinylWorks, you’ll experience their amazing abilities first hand. When 5 people can consistently put out amazing products, the friendly service and approachability is just the cherry on top.
Call 303.351.6963 or visit their website at: http://www.myvinylworks.com/ to learn more about all of the services they offer, to get a project quote or to set up a meeting.