Richie Grantham and his partner had sold their Columbus-area Brinks Home Security dealership in late 2007, and Grantham was looking for “the next right something” to do or buy. His broker had recently listed Sunshine Banner and Signs for its owners, who were planning to retire. He asked Grantham to consider the business.
“We had used Sunshine quite a bit for our vehicle decals,” says Grantham. “I knew Sunshine was a good name. I also felt I could provide a unique brand of customer service based on my experiences as a former customer. So, we went from there.”
Grantham purchased Sunshine Banners and Signs with three employees and a monthly sales target he quickly hoped to double. Soon after, he contacted the Columbus office of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center for guidance in how best to structure his new company and prepare it for the growth he expected.
“Richie’s biggest challenge was getting his feet on the ground when he initially purchased the business,” says SBDC area director Mark Lupo. He helped provide Grantham foundational work on the structure and set-up of his new business.
“I purchased Sunshine in 2008 with the economy booming, then the economy boomed the wrong way,” Grantham admitted in a video news clip published by Columbus CEO.
Lupo encouraged Grantham to attend the FastTrac GrowthVenture course (now called the GrowSmart® program), which he did in January 2009. “Richie used the lessons he learned during this course to further strengthen the infrastructure for growth in his business. In fact, he returned and took it again,” Lupo says.
“When I went through GrowthVenture, those in the program with me provided invaluable feedback,” Grantham says. “I felt like I was the only one in the world going through the troubles and hurdles of growing a business. In this program, you learn you’re not alone, that other small business owners have growing pains too.”
Sunshine is a smaller business than the Brinks dealership, which had staff to do its accounts payable and other bookkeeping. When Grantham began doing the company’s QuickBooks and payroll, he decided to get additional assistance from the UGA SBDC.
“Richie has told us that our QuickBooks training continues to be a tremendous help to him,” says Lupo.
Originally, banners and vehicle graphics were the company’s main product. Sunshine Banners and Signs now offers larger-scale prints like arena banners and building signage. By the end of 2016, they had expanded into lighted signs, installations and LEDs.
“One company was looking at spending a lot of money to replace the four-story sign on the side of its corporate building,” says Lupo. “Richie came up with an innovative solution that saved them a lot of money. They had to go 20 to 30 stories up to install it on the building. It was a huge endeavor.”
Grantham has seen his sales increase every year, his totals well above his original goal. He has doubled his employment to six full-time staff. In 2015 he moved the business from 1,800 square feet to a 7,200-square-foot building across the road, and he’s now looking to expand into a second location in either Auburn or Dothan, Ala.
“We’d like to branch out within 30 to 40 minutes from Columbus, just close enough to keep an eye on things,” he says.
“Mark has a good ear. He has been a real help, very personable,” he adds. “He offers good advice, but just as important, when I have a thought and verbalize it, he’s a good sounding board.”
“Grantham is a strong businessman because he’s hungry to learn,” says Lupo. “He’s also an excellent networker, and is involved within the Columbus business community, supporting local colleges and helping the Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau. He is always present, always wanting to contribute – to be a part of his community – and is a strong supporter of small businesses.”
“Good networking is priceless,” says Grantham. “In today’s environment, where everybody is so tuned in to the internet, having good networking and building personal relationships is what keeps the bricks and mortar businesses open.”