On December 15th. 2010 local business owner Bev Miller won the “Business Women of the Year” award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Bev could be an inspirational figure to many women.
“Who would have thought that I would go from being a single mother on food stamps to being the employer of more than 50 talented people as the owner of a commercial sign company?” marvels Beverly Miller.
Bev is the president of A Sign by Design, a Zionsville-based commercial sign company specializing in high-rise electrical signage. She started A Sign by Design out of her home in 1988 as a struggling single mother.
A Sign by Design is a full-service commercial sign company that takes a client’s idea for a sign, creates it, navigates the legal system for approval, then manufactures and installs it.
Miller developed a knack for the sign business while working toward a degree in accounting when she interned for a small electrical sign company. Believing she should never take a position without knowing what her company sells, she learned the sign business. Her eagerness to learn earned a promotion to sales associate, where she quickly went from selling restroom signs to working with large developers and private business owners.
“There was no project too large or small for me to tackle,” she says. Although she appreciated the opportunity, the commission-only job barely covered her expenses. So, with $1900 in her savings account, no business plan and no equipment, she decided that the potential rewards were worth the gamble and started her own sign company.
“I recognized that in order to succeed as a one-woman business in a predominately male industry, I had to work harder and smarter,” states Miller. “I knew that it was imperative that I surround myself with highly qualified individuals who could deliver high quality products in a timely manner. My goal was and still is to provide clients with the most innovative designs using the latest technology to provide a quality product.”
Miller made sales calls and hired subcontractors from her home office. Then in 1992, she rented space and began hiring staff. “I hired a diverse staff of skilled team members who were highly qualified in their trade. They are challenged to be creative and are empowered to make decisions independently. I believe that is why, in an industry rampant with turnover, our retention rate is high,” she says.
Many team members have been with A Sign by Design for more than 15 years. Today her staff of 50 includes graphic designers, metal fabricators, neon benders and crane operators who take pride in their craft.
In 1995 she made the decision to manufacture and install her signs. “Moving the production in-house enabled us to guarantee client satisfaction, provide a superior product and keep up with technology,” she says. When A Sign by Design started, it produced electrical signs. The only illumination options available were fluorescent or neon. Today, the company uses LED lighting in over 95% of its signs. “In addition to being low voltage, LED lighting is also low-maintenance, which makes our customers satisfied and happy,” states Miller
“Our signs landscape the city,” Miller declares. “They identify the products and services you use on a daily basis. At the airport, the RCA sign. “Welcomes You to Indianapolis.’ ‘The Community Hospital sign directs you to the emergency room or to your doctor’s office. The view from your seat at Victory Field provides an illuminated roster of our clients: Courtyard by Marriott, Duke Realty, the Hoosier Lottery and Key Bank.”
“We have expanded our operations by manufacturing and installing signs across the country as far as California. Our Verizon Wireless signs appear in five states. And it all began in a spare room with a telephone, a fax machine and a desire to succeed,” Miller concludes.