Harris has your number
AROUND THIS SAME TIME NEXT YEAR Kenneth Harris is hoping he will have a second vehicle and a trained employee.
And it has nothing to do with his ability to cope with the volume of work he gets or anticipates he will but all to do with his willingness to share the knowledge and passion he has for making signs and printing.
With about 25 years in the business, the owner of The 21st Century Sign Makers has changed the way he operated initially, moving from a shop to going mobile. This has led to an increase in business and heightened awareness of his operation, which includes making licence plates on the spot.
Harris is not afraid to admit that the sign making business is not easy and is nowhere what he remembers before he opted out five years ago. Back then, he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, he had a lucrative contract with a major car dealer and he counted upscale hotels and other businesses among his regular clients.
“When we first started the business, we were back in the 20th century, so I named it that because it was ahead of its time in terms of technology.
“We were the first persons in Barbados to have a computerised router with which we did the Almond Beach sign and the Almond Beach Village and we later went on to do Mango Bay. Any type of face that you typed into the computer, the router can cut any material, wood, PVC, brass, aluminium, or stainless steel,” the businessman said.
The equipment allowed him to make signs that others in the business could not.
His entry into the business started when he landed a job at a sign company called Summer Graphics, but before that all he had was his “love for drawing and creating things”.
“If you’re really interested in something, you’ll find other ways of being able to produce other things,” was his explanation.
It was while he was employed by another sign maker that he realised he could branch out on his own, he did, and he has not looked back.
“At present, we can do everything except neon signs,” he said, before explaining that the use of LED lights can have the same effect and pointed out the Jo Jo’s sign in Black Rock, which he did, as an example.
Not boasting about his achievements, he said he took a break when he had achieved all that he wanted to and he was “comfortable”. He only decided to rejoin the field in January this year after his son was born.
What he found was that a lot of the people who knew about him have moved on and those who have replaced them have their own people so he has to start over.
He is not worried though and admits that he has not been pushing as hard as he used to.
He also noted that it would take something shocking, different and more outstanding than his competitors to get people’s attention and “get back into the market”.
But it was his solar panelled van boldly proclaiming that he could make licence plates in ten minutes that caught this newspaper’s attention as it moved along a City street.
“I got some of my equipment and started in my Toyota Starlet; I used to cram everything in there, my 10×10 tent, a computer monitor, paint, and head down Speightstown every day. I told myself there had to be an easier way than this,” he recalled. The easier way came with the purchase of a van which allows him to stand and work.
“I would like a bigger vehicle but you have to creep before you can walk. One step at a time,” said Harris.
The decision to be more mobile instead of being at his primary location at Six Roads, St Philip is working out for him and he is working out how to service his licence plate customers more efficiently, to reduce their waiting time.
He explained that after he is called, a picture of the road tax disc is required to show it has been paid, unless, of course, you are meeting him so he could get the vehicle’s measurements and he would do it in person.
Harris is ready to broaden his offerings, moving from T-shirt printing, property signs, and banners to producing 3D signs and “other things”, and, with a chuckle, he kept those plans close to his chest – for now. (Green Bananas Media.)