Stonetree Signs

Saying Yes Leads to "One-Stop Shop" Success for Stonetree Signs

Stonetree Signs   |   Asheboro, North Carolina

Michele Bortree, founder of Stonetree Signs in Asheboro, North Carolina, never set out to own a print shop. “I was a restaurant manager,” she said. “But then, after we had our first child, I realized that I needed to make a change.” 

She started by using her father-in-law’s sandblasting equipment, then began cutting vinyl in her kitchen. Over time, she established a shop that grew to fill a 15,000-square-foot facility with a full-time staff of 18.

She succeeded, she says, by saying yes to a wide range of client requests, and by teaching herself what she needed to know to provide solutions. We asked Michele to describe these and other key ingredients to becoming a successful “one-stop shop” for her clients.

Tell us how you grew your business from your kitchen floor to having a full production floor?
Michele Bortree: I expanded my client base one “yes” at a time. Sometimes, I needed to reach out for help, and I’d ask every question I could think of to learn more about the process.  We still outsource occasionally, but mostly we just figure it out.

Have there been some challenges along the way?
We’ve definitely had our share of challenges. Along with the usual ups and downs of owning a business, a few years ago I experienced (and fortunately have fully recovered from) a cardiac arrest. I actually flat-lined in my bathtub before being brought back to life. We have experienced other major bumps in the road as well, including an employee who embezzled funds extensively.

All businesses have their trials, but we are fortunate to have a strong team and great clients.

“People would ask me if I could do this or that type of signage, and I’d say yes. Then I’d get to work learning how to do it.”

Tell us about Stonetree Signs today.
Right now, we have four designers, eight production experts, and four installers, along with myself and two other managers We also use subcontractors when needed, and have one outside salesperson. 

Our clients are in every industry you can think of, from hospitals to construction, restaurants and retail.  We serve large corporations and franchises all the way down to sole proprietors.   

We are a full-service sign shop, producing interior and exterior signage, tradeshow graphics, vehicle graphics, window and wall graphics, floor graphics, banners, posters, decals, apparel, and labels. In addition, we provide copies, business cards, invoices, door hangers, flyers and promotional products.  

We also refurbish older signs, making them look new again. We like to say that we give great facelifts! 
  
Can you give us an example of when you’ve said yes to something completely new?
A few years ago, someone from the local high school asked us to produce a “Student Driver” sign that would be mounted on top of a car for a driver’s education program. Naturally, we said yes.

After a few tries, we developed a magnetic driver’s ed sign with routed acrylic. The sign’s durability has been tested on the “Beer Money” car from the Netflix show “Fastest Car” driving at 130 miles per hour. We now sell what I truly believe is the best driver’s ed sign in the country. We send them all over the U.S.

What’s in your production room these days?
I have two Roland DG printer/cutters – a TrueVIS VG2-540 and a TrueVIS VG-640A. I love the print/cut capability because it helps our production flow smoothly. Our largest client gives us several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of graphics work each year that we print and cut in one seamless workflow. These inkjets are workhorses. In my opinion, there’s not a better printer made anywhere. 

We also have equipment for creating LED signage, and we recently acquired an apparel business with embroidery and screen-printing equipment. 
 
What do you like most about running your own business? 
Above all, I love that I’ve had the ability to be with my kids. We have four children ages 8 to 28. They have all been homeschooled and have come to work with me. Being able to have family here all the time is priceless. It makes this place a second home!

A certain amount of freedom comes with running your own business, and even though the hours can be insane, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

There’s a huge sense of accomplishment in coming from abject poverty to having something that’s successful and truly our own. I do believe that having a background like that makes you hungry! 

What would you say sets Stonetree Signs apart from your competition?  
We are “Your One Stop Marketing Shop.” We do anything and everything a business needs to market themselves, much of it in-house. From business cards and all the little stuff to the big pylons and LED signs to websites and social media, and everything in between. We also take care of personal needs like wedding invitations and small print. 
  
What lies ahead for Stonetree Signs? 
There is no telling! With the space we now have and our equipment and ambition, we’re capable of significantly increasing the amount of business we’re currently doing. I see tremendous growth in our future, God willing. The sky’s the limit!