The Future is Bright for Wrap Shops

Starla Miller, co-chief visionary at Miller Decals, talks looking ahead in the wrap industry.

Various groups and communities value and reward those who apply commitment and knowledge when delivering a product or service. These accolades get recognized locally in your hometown and in niche forums on social media, or even on a global platform. This recognition is how many people define success. However, I believe true success should be measured in happiness. My mom always told me that happiness is a decision. I always thought of this wisdom in terms of my personal life, but I have come to realize that it also applies to business – especially wraps business.

In 2018, after almost 40 years of developing Miller Decals, we purchased nearly three acres of land and imagined an expansion to bring together all the aspects of our industry under one roof in a collaborative environment filled with knowledge regarding everything vinyl related. Throughout this six-year long journey, we’ve encountered many unexpected challenges. As we end the construction phase, it will be a relief to turn our sights on the bright future ahead. Our goal is not only to expand our team, but also provide them with the platform we envision as the next chapter in wrap shop history. 

The wrap industry has been growing throughout this past decade, with more people choosing to start a wrap company or becoming a car wrapper. Entrepreneurial endeavors in this industry are taking place every day. Training for application techniques is offered by manufacturers, organizations, distributors, wrap shops, and social media influencers. It seems easy enough to start this career path due to so much information being easily accessible, but it is equally important to recognize that owning any business and maintaining it is a constant commitment of your time and resources. The knowledge that you gain from years of work is invaluable. Everyone’s journey is different.

Getting started in wraps

It’s easy to say you’re going to start something, like a diet, a workout program, or even a business; the hard part is when you are constantly challenged with adversity. Success requires having a well-developed plan, the determination to execute daily, and resilience. But what if you don’t want to exert the effort to own and grow a business? What if you don’t want the responsibility of being available all the time and responsible for all aspects of the process? Maybe you imagine being a part of something bigger, contributing to its success without total commitment. Two heads are better than one. Three or four or 10 multiplies the outcome and decreases the effort. It is mathematically inevitable.

Initially it is easy for most entrepreneurs to maintain a small crew and handle tasks such as sending out invoices, collecting the money, and distributing it accordingly. Then your business acumen is challenged by taxes, insurance, payroll, and systems to record data. Once you figure that out, you will face the challenge of leading people, forming processes, and measuring performance. At this point, human resources management becomes a concern.

As a business owner, you have grown and shared so much. Your employees have also experienced growth in their various skill sets, fostering a sense of empowerment and confidence to pursue independent ventures. Our industry perpetuates the cycle of creating a job that turns into a business that creates more jobs that turn into businesses. The discussion about this rhythm infiltrates many forums and conversations.

This journey correlates with the four phases in an economic business cycle of expansion, peak, contraction (two consecutive quarters of contraction constitute a recession), and lastly, the trough or low point before the next recovery/expansion. There is much research in many personal and business sectors about the seven-year itch, which is the point where unhappiness about unmet expectations causes a low point where change is a welcome option. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Looking inward to find answers is hard. Learning to adapt and overcome adversities takes work. The economics of society running alongside business dynamics, coupled with individual financial obligations is an undertaking not for the undetermined. 

Prepare for change

Plans can and often do change. Everyone in the wrap industry knows this. The graphics don’t show up, they are the wrong size, the customer didn’t get there when you did so you couldn’t start on time, the wall in the building wasn’t even constructed yet, the layout didn’t match the vehicle, and now the phone number loses a digit, and the list goes on. Every day is an opportunity to be a hero, but some are truly a challenge. Loving the work and loving the process go hand-in-hand.

You define who you are today and who you want to imagine yourself to become. Are you an entrepreneur at heart or do you thrive on collaborating with a team? Booker T. Washington said, “Success is not measured by where you are in life, but the obstacles you’ve overcome.” These obstacles can be approached alone or shared as a common goal within a supportive company. You hold the roadmap and can chart your own course and choose the destination. 

There are 32.5 million small businesses in America, with 52% owned by people aged 55 and above. Roughly 75% are expected to sell, retire, or close within 15 years. So many young entrepreneurs do not realize the gold mine they are facing. The traditional notion of joining an organization, learning and growing, then deciding to leave and start over does not have to continue. It’s going to take time to transition, but I believe this trend of growth within existing ventures is coming. Our journey reflects this evolution. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, we were signing the contract and securing financing to build our new facility. It is now quickly becoming what we imagined. All the choices we have made to grow have culminated into a 16,000 square-foot wrap facility where our team will collectively nurture the dream. Over time, this dream will perpetuate success for not only our individual employees, but also the vinyl industry.

Facing obstacles

Wrap shops have many obstacles to overcome on the road ahead. Establishing a specific NAICS code is crucial for accurate tax filing and insurance cost basis. This will help to ensure that insurance companies will not deny liability coverage based solely on the nature of our business listed on the request for a quote. Over the years our wrap company has been listed under many various categories: from an upholstery shop, sign installers, printers, automobile repair shop, etc. Over time, our policy renewal is becoming highly scrutinized by underwriters.

Increased visibility of vinyl wraps through social media has resulted in an increase in customers, which is a positive outcome. One of the advantages of wrapping, tinting, or paint protection is to maintain the integrity of the OEM paint. It is crucial for insurers to understand this as a benefit for vehicle surface integrity and driver UV protection.

Additionally, insurers need to be aware that untrained and unskilled installers are a risk to the same integrity of the OEM paint. Manufacturers and distributors that trust individuals and companies to install their materials should also consider providing the unified support necessary to improve our industry from a regulatory aspect. States can implement laws regarding wraps, requiring the owner registering the new wrapped color with the department of motor vehicles, setting darkness levels of window tint, or even changing the insurance status of a personally driven vehicle to a commercial one once wrapped. This stroke of a pen can change how we do business and impact the perception of our value in an instant.

It is important to unite as a community and grow our collective knowledge and take necessary steps toward improving and standardizing the measure of vinyl application integrity. Creating a universally recognized system of training and certification will help to establish a minimal basis for insurance coverage premiums to be set. Claims can be tracked based on the appropriate NAICS code and adjusted proportionally to that business owner or segment. This collective effort to level the playing field is key for growth to come. We still have much room for improvement.

Think of our industry as reflecting that of a nail shop versus a national spa chain or a landscaper with a truck and trailer versus a diverse company with many divisions of lawn care. These businesses have been around for a long time and have undergone many steps toward legitimization. 

Looking forward

These past six years dealing with construction, which is a heavily-regulated and recognized industry, has opened my eyes to how some chaotic and unorganized agencies can impact your whole existence. It’s like imagining world peace. There is so much to be done. It excites me that this next generation of wrappers are fresh and new and invigorated to embrace this opportunity to make it better. Transforming these ideals into reality is the dream that inspires and propels us forward. 

One’s personal success is all in perspective, measured by the individual’s unique background and experiences over time. Everyone’s focus should be the pursuit of a series of milestones and achievements, building to a life well lived. Some years you have a few and others an abundance. Finding contentment and happiness along the way and sharing these moments with others is the best definition of success I can imagine. I think that if we all enjoy the journey together by encouraging knowledge and growth toward making steps improving our business, we can all share in the future success of the wrap industry! Come visit Miller Decals and let’s imagine our bright future together. 

Starla Miller bw

Starla Miller

Miller Decals

Starla Miller is the co-chief visionary at Miller Decals LLC, the largest exclusive vinyl installation company in Atlanta.

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