It shouldn’t come as a surprise that several of the major sign franchises systems have connections to the printing franchise industry. Franchisees in both segments are small business people who deal in communications and digital technology. The similarities seem obvious.
SIGNARAMA, which claims to be the “world’s largest sign franchise”, was founded in 1986 by the father/son team of Roy and Ray Titus. Roy Titus was also the founder of the Minuteman Press print franchise system which boasts 926 franchisees worldwide, with 785 in North America. According to Entrepreneur, SIGNARAMA has more than 850 franchisees—519 in the United States, 47 in Canada, and 310 overseas. It is a traditional franchise operation with investment costs, franchise fees, royalties, and a 35-year franchise agreement.
Operating under the umbrella of the United Franchise Group (UFG), which claims 1,400 franchises in 50 countries, SIGNARAMA is one of five franchise operations in the group. Others include Billboard Connection, which is another sign-related franchise system that has 83 US, eight Canadian, and 20 overseas franchisees. The other members of the group include EmbroiderMe, Plan Ahead Events, and Transworld Business Advisors. SIGNARAMA is based in West Palm Beach, FL and, like the other members of UFG, is family owned and privately held. Ray Titus serves as UFG president while long-time company veteran Jim Tatem is president of the SIGNARAMA operation.
While its roots don’t stem from a printing franchise, FASTSIGNS recently tapped a long-time franchise print veteran to head up its operations. The franchise itself was founded by Gary Salomon and Robert Schanbaum after Salomon observed vinyl banners being printed at a computer store in Austin, TX. The two convinced the shop owner to train them in exchange for a promise not to open a competing business in that city. The first FASTSIGNS opened in Dallas, TX in 1986.
Today, FASTSIGNS has some 457 US and 81 international locations and operates as a privately held company. It is also a traditional franchise model. While Salomon remains with the company as Chairman of the Board, in 2008 FASTSIGNS brought Catherine Monson onboard as CEO. She had previously been president of PIP Printing and had also worked in the Sir Speedy franchise system in operations, franchise development, sales, training, and marketing communications. Monson has instituted a franchise conversion program and initiatives, including the introduction of QR codes into outdoor signage.
Signs Now was founded in 1983 and became a part of the Allegra Network in 2005. It has some 200 locations, with 170 in the US. Allegra Network is a print and graphics franchise network with some 550 locations in North America and abroad which operate under the Allegra Print & Imaging, American Speedy Printing, Instant Copy, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing, and Zippy Print banners. Signs Now president Steve White also serves as the chief operating officer of Allegra Network, where he manages both the print and sign divisions, which both are heavily involved in conversion and merger programs. Recently White and the other members of the Signs Now executive team moved from the former Signs Now headquarters to the new 67,000-sqft Allegra facility in Plymouth, MI. The new headquarters features a training facility, research and development center, and corporate offices. Allegra is a privately held company.
Another sign-related franchise with roots in the graphic arts is Speedpro USA, with some 65 locations in the US. Speedpro also has 46 locations in Canada, where the initial concept was created in 1992. The franchise specializes in large-format digital graphics such as vehicle wraps, floor graphics, photographic murals, and trade show booth displays. The franchise was founded in Canada by Blair Gran who had worked for many years in the graphics industry. In 2003 the concept was introduced to the US with the first location in Dallas, TX.