Member of the Month: Fastsigns of Arvada

November 30, 2023

By Ryan Hecht, Arvada Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director

After more than 15 years in various marketing, sales, and general management positions for the Quaker Oats Company and Rust-Oleum Corporation in Chicago, Garret Gifford wanted to own his own business. His wife, Kim, wanted to live in a place where it was sunny more than 30 days out of the year. In 2002, they found Fastsigns for resale in Arvada Marketplace and made the move.

Garret and Kim recently celebrated 20 years in business, which has included an expansion to a larger space in the same shopping complex. “The city is easy to work with and the community has been great, so we really never contemplated moving anywhere else. I feel very fortunate to have our business based in Arvada.”

What services do you offer? What is unique about your services?

We are visual communications experts. We help customers solve issues related to brand recognition and enhancement, safety, wayfinding, interior decor, exterior location identification and other communication challenges. That could mean an illuminated building sign, a monument sign with a digital display incorporated into the design, wall murals, dimensional logos in a customer’s lobby, vehicle wraps, wayfinding signage including ADA-compliant signs, etc.

I think our uniqueness stems primarily from our customer service and the quality of our work. We also have a broad range of capabilities, so rarely are we forced to turn down an opportunity to help a client.

How big is your team?

We currently have 11 employees, plus Kim and myself.

My designer has been with me for 16 or 17 years. Our least tenured person is Katherine, who’s been with us for almost a year, but everybody else has been here three to 17 years.

What is the value of being a franchisee?

The value of being in a franchise network is they have processes in place that have proven successful over the years and they’re continually looking at ways to improve those processes. The technology is changing so quickly. If I were to go to a big international trade show and look to buy a new printer, there are thousands of opportunities and options. It’s nice to have a technical support team at the franchise level that says you can buy whatever you want, but we’ve evaluated these half dozen machines, these are the ones that we recommend and can provide support on.

The individual owners of FastSigns have different experiences, different interests, and different expertise levels in different industries. It enables you to focus on the things that you enjoy and that you’re good at. For instance, we’ve gone heavily after digital signage, so we’ve done a lot with the Jeffco School system and that’s sort of a niche. I have one outside sales manager who is our digital expert. That’s a passion of his and I’m just there to make sure he’s got the resources and the support to be successful. That makes it fun.

What have you learned about yourself in running a successful business?

Assembling a great team and learning to let go I think have been both the biggest challenges and the greatest keys to growing a small business.

I think for most entrepreneurs, you want to control everything at the beginning, and then when it becomes overwhelming, you trial and error delegate some things. Hiring the right people and then trusting them and enabling them to do their job takes more off your plate and gives them a greater sense of empowerment.

I have to continually think about working on the business instead of in the business and being able to continually challenge myself to delegate responsibilities so I can focus more on strategy. Where are we going? What resources do we need, whether that’s more people or different equipment? It’s a different focus from sales and marketing and I have to continually challenge myself to make time for it.

What notable changes have occurred in your industry since you started 20 years ago?

When we started in the business, digital printing was in its infancy. Most all the signs we made were done by cutting vinyl and applying it to something. Today, we can print directly to rigid materials and print in three dimensions, we can efficiently cut shapes out of materials as thick as a few inches, we can print on fabrics and create dynamic messaging via large digital display units. The way we can communicate with customers, with our vendors and with our team has also evolved dramatically. It is ever changing and I don’t see the technological advances slowing in the years ahead.

What are some misconceptions about your work?

Our name. Fastsigns has great brand recognition, but sometimes can be a curse. Fast is a relative term, even in today’s world.

What have you learned about this business community and/or serving the people or Arvada?

Early on I relied on the Chamber for any business and community-related questions I had as I started out in business. More recently I have found value in some of the workshops and courses the Chamber has offered. Of most value I think are the relationships with members and member resources that the Chamber make easily accessible.

Is there a particular business or a business owner in Arvada that you admire?

There are a bunch. If I have to pick one: there are three women, two of whom used to work at Red Rocks Church in the creative department. I have worked with them for years. They decided about two years ago to start their own business, Wit.Co Creative, to provide what they did for Red Rocks to other churches. They have worked with Storyline, a Catholic church school in Lakewood, and projects down in Castle Rock. They’re really creative and I’ve worked with them to decide what materials work best in different situations. It’s a nice partnership and I love people who are passionate about what they do. They are passionate about helping churches grow and create really cool environments for all the church members.

But really, I admire every customer. When you have a customer who says “I’m buying six new vehicles and I want you to do the graphics on the vehicles,” that is a sign of growth and that they’re doing something really good. That always makes my day.


7320 W 52nd Ave Unit A, Arvada, CO 80002
(303) 625-7892


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