Customer Profile: Budget Signs, Bradenton, Florida

Interview With: Christian Slager

How did you get into the sign business?

Wow, this one is a long, but cool story. My parents were going to start “Christian’s Toy Store,” which was going to have non-violent toys and books for kids.

They looked at a unit in a busy shopping center, but didn’t like the idea that the landlord wanted them to be open 7 days a week, insisted that he could audit their books every few months, and if they were making money, raise the rent. They went to the sign shop across the street to find out how much they needed to budget for signage. It was owned by a retired gentleman that had been an engineer in his former life, designing and building RV’s, who did NOT have to work, but his buddy in Indiana had started a sign shop and he thought it was the coolest job he’d ever seen. So, the gentleman had owned it for five years, but being of retirement age and not needing the money, he turned away any projects that were too big or that he really didn’t want to mess with. After my dad told him his concerns about the landlord and shopping center across the street, the sign shop owner said: “Why don’t you buy my business? I’m ready to move onto my next venture.”

My father had worked with computers his whole life, and found the brand new Gerber IVb machine that was in the shop to be fascinating, along with the large presses with the different wood and metal type that lined the walls, and the rest is history! I was 7 years old at this point, and was at the shop after school every day. While the other kids from school were playing when school wasn’t in session, I was learning how to draw shapes with x & y axis moves. I loved it, and at 31 years old now, I still do … normally ;-)

What types of work do you do?

We have always stayed a vinyl sign shop, but prided ourself on better design than your normal “quicky sticky” shop. We do vehicle lettering & graphics, window lettering, banners, large format printing, vehicle wraps, etc. and have recently begun to offer apparel screen printing, ad specialty products & printed products through the use of wholesale vendors. We try to be a one stop shop for our clients.

What is your favorite kind of sign work? Why?

Anything out of the ordinary. I used to have a guy that was into model boats & airplanes; he would bring me completely white models and say “have fun!”

Remember, I grew up with the Gerber machine, where things were more mathematically than visually determined, so I enjoy having to figure out all of the curves and lines in order to make striping and graphics fit perfectly.

What are your biggest challenges in the sign business, day to day?

I don’t know that I would say it is a challenge, but one thing that I miss from “the old days” is that clients would simply come in and say “I need a sign that says this…” and my dad would say “ok, I’ll call you when it’s done.”

He would call them in a few days, and they would come that day or the next to pick it up. These days people tend to insist on proofs for the simplist of projects, then call multiple times a day to see if it is done yet! Then, once it is done, they don’t show up for weeks to pick it up! LOL. Things are much more stressful today.

My dad is glad he is out of this business world.

Do you have any funny customer stories?

I think anyone that has been in the sign business for more than a year has experienced the engineer who wants 12″ tall letters that say “Insert your extremely long message here” in an 18″ wide space. ;-)

What’s your favorite thing about the sign business? Your least favorite?

Believe it or not, I love reading my customer’s minds. A lot of my employees get frustrated that they can’t figure out what the client has in their head, and aren’t able to put into words, or on paper. I guess I have been blessed with the ability to just “get it”, and seeing the client get excited that we are on the same page makes me smile. My least favorite thing would be the insane hours that I put in – my buddy that has a shop in the next town over and I have yet to think of anyone else in any other industry that puts in the hours that we sign folk seem to put in.

What equipment / software / materials do you work with every day that you couldn’t live without?

My Versacamm has become our most-used tool, and we treat it like gold. As far as software goes, FlexiSign & EstiMate are the backbones of our company. Every job goes through both programs.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the sign business?

A year or so back, our local newspaper asked me the same question, and I hold to the same answer… if you want to start a sign business,

work for one first!

I’m all about personal experience over book knowledge. Both are important, but when every day shop-life starts swirling around you, the book knowledge goes out the window and the experience carries you through. If you want to start a sign shop, I would recommend working for at least 3 years in one, and of course you will have to be involved in every aspect, from customer service, to working the tables, to managing people.

If you wanted to be known in the industry for one thing, what would that be?

I’d love to be a consultant for our industry. I have a few shops around that are actually competitors but call me on a regular basis with questions about pricing and software and materials and dealing with employees, etc. I’d rather be friendly, and see us all thrive and help each other out, and see quality signs and designs around me than a bunch of Times New Roman condensed to 45%, Photoshopped to death, and printed on cheap materials. My dad used to have sign painters and screen printers that would come in and sit for hours drinking coffee and sharing “war stories” about our industry, and I want to keep that cameraderie going in my business. Most see this as poor business sense, but I figure if after 21 years in business being the oldest shop in town that is still owned by it’s original owners (26 years if you add in the 1st owner) we are still around, and well respected by clients and competitors alike, we must be doing something right!

Where do you want your business to be in one year? Five?

In one year, I would like to have my staff able to completely run our shop on their own without me. In five years I would like to have a second shop in a neighboring town, running smoothly, and have myself going between the two.

What is the primary reason a customer should do business with your sign shop?

The primary reason our current customers DO come to us is because of our family feel. We have a laid back attitude, and even the “stuffiest” client leaves our shop smiling and reminded that we are all people first, and business people second.

I’ve never been that “guy smiley”, fake kind of person, and none of my employees are either. We treat them like friends and family and actually talk to them about “the big game” or ask them how their kids are doing these days, just like my father and the previous owner did. I guess we are kind of an oasis in the corporate machine that our society has become.

Christian Slager & Family


Budget Signs
5203 Cortez Rd W Unit 3
Bradenton, FL 34210

(941) 755-6719

“Even the “stuffiest” client leaves our shop smiling and reminded that we are all people first, and business people second.”



  • myra says:

    This story made me smile and nod my head in understanding. A fascinating tale of entrepreneurial spirit in a family.
    It’s obvious that Christian has a deep understanding of the industry, how to go with the ebb and flow of it, and intuitive insights into his own strengths and preferences.

    I also like that he has a clear vision of the future, and keeping that vision firmly in mind it will be exactly what he will achieve, I think he understands that he does not even have to know HOW he gets there, as long as he knows where he wants to go.

    A story like this makes me almost want to come back out of semi retirement and make more signs.

    I hope that the profiles of Sign makers will continue, I would welcome that.
    I liked the questions, and was happy with the clarity of the answers.

  • Jay says:

    Very well said. I enjoyed the answers very much.

  • Mark Smith says:

    Hi Myra and Jay, thanks for stopping by and commenting!