Vibrant Prints Fuel Growth for Z7GFX
Z7GFX | Hazel, Alabama
Zach Jones, owner of Z7GFX in Hazel, Alabama, has always taught himself what he needed to know to run his business, mainly, he says, because “I didn’t have the money to pay anyone else to do it.” A long-time fan of graphic design, he learned Adobe Photoshop and InDesign so he could run an online business while in college. After graduation he freelanced as a racing engine builder, and then worked at an iron door manufacturer. One day, his boss asked him to wrap a trailer. “I’d never done a wrap before,” he said. “That’s when I discovered I really enjoy wrapping.”
We talked with Zach about how he started Z7GFX in 2016, and how he’s grown his business from one-printer start-up operating out of his parent’s garage to a thriving shop housed in a 4,000 square-foot building – which, of course, he built himself.
Why did you decide to start Z7GFX?
Zach Jones: I grew up in auto racing and watched my dad run his own racing industry business. I learned that being an entrepreneur was not a cake walk, but it had its rewards. After college, I did some freelance work building racing engines, then worked with a company that built iron doors. After doing my first trailer wrap, I knew that I had found my career.
“The VF2 has the new Orange and Green inks.... It’s really wild how bright the inks can be, and how fast they dry. ”
How did you get your training?
In 2015, I enrolled in a Roland DGA Born-to-Wrap class. That was a great introduction to the techniques you need to design effective vehicle graphics, produce quality prints and correctly wrap a vehicle. I could tell that the Roland DG printer our instructor Matt (Matt Richart, owner of Digital EFX Wraps in Louisville, Kentucky) used in the class was really well built. After that, I bought a Roland DG SOLJET 64-inch printer/cutter, and in 2016 I started Z7GFX in my parents’ garage.
Tell us about how you grew your business.
I’ve always been into drag racing and my family has roots there, so those connections really paid off when I opened my wrap business. In addition to racing teams, I do work for racing industry manufacturers, and I do lots of jobs for several big names in the industry.
With help from family, we built our shop facility on some family-owned land. It’s about 4,000 square feet, and the install area is climate controlled. I have one employee now, and I hire extra help as needed.
In 2020, we’d grown to the point where we needed to add a second printer. I purchased a Roland DG TrueVIS VF2-640 64-inch large-format printer and a Roland DG GR-640 64-inch cutter. The VF2 has the new Orange and Green inks, and the print quality is outstanding. It’s really wild how bright the inks can be, and how fast they dry.
We still have our SOLJET as well. It’s a real workhorse – I’ve had absolutely zero issues with that machine all these years. The nice thing about having two printers is you can get projects knocked out really quickly.
Who are your clients today? Are they mainly local?
We’re in the Huntsville metro area, so we get lots of clients from Huntsville and neighboring towns. We wrap fleets for some local universities. We also do food trucks, utility trucks, delivery trucks, catering vans, transit busses, and just about anything else on wheels. We’ve done work for the fire and police departments in the area.
We also provide a lot of custom wraps and color changes for clients who are looking to personalize their ride. We offer more than 400 color options and unlimited ways to customize a car or truck. We saw a significant increase in auto restyling requests during 2020.
Another thing we like to do is help out where we can in our community. Huntsville is a big military town, so we do work with charities for the families of military service members or first responders. We also help out if a local church or charity needs graphics.
Do you do print-and-ship?
We offer print-and-ship graphics for clients who are out of state and even overseas. We send out tons of drag racing team graphics kits, sponsor decal kits, and name and number sets. We’ve recently launched our new website where customers can upload files and we ship them their graphics.
Do you offer other graphics products in addition to vehicle graphics?
We offer custom decals along with printed banners and posters. We don’t do signage in the industry sense of the word, but we’ll help out clients who need 4’ x 8’ signs printed.
How do you attract new clients?
We do a lot of outreach by posting our work on Facebook and Instagram. That really amplifies our word-of-mouth referrals and brings in a lot of clients. We’ve also focused on requesting additional Google reviews because we’ve noticed that the more five-star reviews we have, the more traffic we get.
How do you manage “crunch times” at the shop?
We’re fortunate to have quality production equipment and a great team. Running two printers with fast-drying inks means we can usually manage whatever comes up.
I’m pretty decent at scheduling, but the other day I had a wrap job that just snuck up on me. I had to leave early for a race and the customer wanted to pick up their wrapped vehicle later that afternoon. Luckily, it was a franchise wrap, so they sent the artwork over. I ran it on the VF2 using Roland’s TR2 inks and was able to laminate and install the graphics the same day.
Are there any areas you are targeting for growth or new markets you'd like to enter?
We’re excited to be opening our online store. We’re also working on streamlining our ordering process overall. It’s amazing how quickly you can knock out 1,000 decals and we want to make it easy for our clients to order them.
I like owning a graphics shop because there’s always a lot to do. I’m looking for additional help right now for both production and installations. I think we’re on a good trajectory, and we have the quality production equipment we need to continue to grow the business.