Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Ron Morabito. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Hi Ron, thanks for joining us today. Risking taking is a huge part of most people’s story but too often society overlooks those risks and only focuses on where you are today. Can you talk to us about a risk you’ve taken – it could be a big risk or a small one – but walk us through the backstory.
Let’s go back in time a bit. The lockdowns had just begun. Uncertainty was sweeping. Our business, like many others had faced a decline. Think of the products a signage and printing company produces. Especially one like ours who is involved in creating signage for so many sports teams and events. That all came to a screeching stop. As the owner I was faced with decisions to make. Do we cross our fingers and hope for the best? Do we take the wait and see approach? Neither of those have ever been my style. I’m proactive, I knew I needed to do something, but I was unsure of what that something was, so I started to brain storm. First thought. The vast majority of our day to day clients were closed. So, who’s open? Restaurants. That’s who, but only for takeout. Next thought. So some restaurants are open for takeout. How do people know who’s open and who’s not? They need a sign of course. We printed up a hundred banners to start. All the same, reading OPEN FOR TAKEOUT. With a small V Group logo at the bottom and our web address. I live in Downtown San Diego. I grabbed a stack and started walking door to door. I gave every restaurant I passed a banner and a business card. Some people seemed confused. Was I selling something? Some even thought I was trying to apply for a job. I simply said we are a local sign company, here’s a free banner and we’re just trying to do our part. After walking to all the places I could, I started to drive around and did the same thing. Next step, email people. I contacted some of our sports clients to start. I know they have restaurant partners and perhaps they could use the banners as well. I immediately was cc’d in on emails from sports teams to their restaurant sponsors with the free banner offer. Restaurants jumped on it. Some asking if they could have several as they have multiple locations. I didn’t want to be the guy that said no, first one is free, then you have to pay. I simply accommodated the request, no matter how many they needed. Next I emailed marketing and PR contacts of mine. Some of them surely have restaurant clients as well I thought. Again, near instantly I was being cc’d in to their clients. Many more took us up on the free banner offer. One in particular was a large name brand insurance company who represents many restaurants. They liked the idea so much they asked us to print some with their logo on the bottom to give their clients. They wanted to pay for them since they were now branded as theirs so we gave them 50% off the normal price. All in all we ended up giving away over one thousand banners to restaurants from San Diego to Northern California. These were hard costs for us to absorb, but to me it was the right thing to do, and with our logo on the bottom, of course we are getting some marketing out of it. Guess what happened next? The restaurants and hotels started calling us. Many of which had gotten the free banners, some who even just saw our logo on so many others. Orders for floor graphics and tents starting rolling in to start. Then orders for more banners, some saying We Are Hiring, or promotions of their latest sale. Custom masks with their logo, social distancing signs and more. I never expected to get such a response. We now have many restaurant and hotel clients we would have likely never worked with had it not been for the banner giveaway. What I hope the take away from this is. Do the right thing, even when it may not be easy to do so. It may just come back to you in a big way.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I was born and raised in New York. When I was 30 years old I visited California and fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to move here. Within two months of that visit I was living in CA. As a teenager I worked in a signage / print shop. I was not very good at it. To the point that the owner routinely moved me from various stations in the hopes that I would be good at one of them. He didn’t give up on me and I am forever grateful for that. Despite his efforts, I was never what anyone would consider a great sign maker or printer,. That said, it gave me a wealth of knowledge about the industries. Most people work in one area of a shop. Whether it be on a printing press, bindery, graphic design etc… I worked in all of them. While I may not have been the best at any, I had a vast understanding of all the pieces to the puzzle and what made it work. Fast forward a bit, I am 19 and became a stock broker in New York. That experience gave me a lot of insight into sales, and the greater business world. In my early twenties I wanted to start a business. What do I know about? Signage and printing of course. I knew that I had a great understanding of the business, I just had to hire talented people to produce the end result. I had that business in New York for 8 years. I sold it when I moved to California and started V Group. V Group is now in our 15th year in business. We are a custom signage and printing company. On the signage end we produce items like banners, tents, backdrops, wall murals, dimensional signs and the like. In short, if it’s a sign, we can do it. On the small format printing side we offer catalogs, brochures, posters and other similar items. We also have a full on separate custom cabinetry division which began as a retail display offering to accompany signage. It’s grown into both commercial and residential cabinetry projects. We are extremely service driven. If you contact us you will get an immediate response. That is very important to me. Quality and turnaround times are equally important. We are used to tight turnaround times, especially in the world of sports signage. We understand that many times there are last minute sponsorship deals in the works and when they get the green light it’s go, and the signs must be up in time for the game in the deal. Even when it seems really tight, we somehow end up pulling it off. Quality of course to me should be a given. We strive for perfection, if there are any issues we always work to make them right. I think what sets us apart from many is the service level, and in partnerships especially, a return on investment. We have many partnerships with teams and organizations.
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
I think if you look at V Group, you will see a long running successful business. That thankfully happens to be true, but not without challenges on the way, The path getting there was certainly not a straight uphill line. In my first business back in New York I struggled greatly. Some months were terrific, others were awful. At one point it was so slow I started a small catering business on the side to make ends meet. I would cook all the food with help from my Father at the time. I’d deliver it, work parties. Whatever it took. I remember not being able to afford health insurance. My doctor used to let me pay him in food (true story). I’d show up with some homemade Italian food, he’d start eating right at his desk and say “so what’s wrong?”. If I needed any medicine he’d give me samples from the back. He also told any pharmaceutical reps that wanted to bring him lunch he wanted them to order from me. Old school New York Italian guy, much like how I grew up in my family. This is one example of many. I feel most entrepreneurs can relate to struggle, but we love the challenge. Another issue I faced when I first started was I was young, and looked young. I can remember countless times people saying, so this is your parent’s business No, my parents worked for the gas and electric company. I had trouble being taken seriously, but it just made me work harder and prove myself. In business there will always be always be obstacles, no matter what level you’re at. It’s come with the territory. Navigating and overcoming is the key.
How did you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?
This is an easy one. About $50. When I started my first business I was 22. I didn’t know if I’d sell any signs or printing. I had never done it. So I did not want to rent a building, lease equipment, hire staff etc… I had some business cards printed up for around $50. I had a yellow pages and started calling people. I started by adopting the pitch I used as a stock broker and just tweaked it to signage and printing. It worked very well for setting appointments, Once I met with people and they asked me to quote projects I would goto a local signage and print shop. I would say I’m in the same trade and need wholesale pricing. They would quote me a discounted wholesale rate, I’d resell it and that was that. It worked well for quite awhile. After some time. when I knew I this was working I then ventured into the facility, equipment, staff etc. I am glad I did it that way. Saved a lot of upfront costs until I was more established.
- Website: https://vgroupsigns.com/
- Instagram: vgroupsigns
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ron-morabito-717701162/