By Christine Rasmussen
When Durango-based Fast Signs owner Laurie Sigillito asked SBDC Director Joe Keck if he could spare an hour to offer feedback on an upcoming sales presentation, Keck had a better idea: Why not have a panel of advisors from the Business Advisors Network listen to her pitch?
The Business Advisors Network (BAN) is comprised of 25 business counselors with wide and varied areas of expertise. Clients can meet individually with an advisor or request a panel of advisors to listen to pitches or presentations. Services are available in Pagosa Springs and Cortez in addition to Durango.
In June 2010 Sigillito presented to a panel of six business advisors her pitch for selling a digital signage/advertising package to the Durango-La Plata Airport.
“I cannot tell you how useful this was,” says Sigillito. “Number one, it was great exposure, and number two, it gave me a chance to really practice in front of a group of people. They were truly helpful: they went through all of my numbers and offered ideas for how I should restructure it. I would ask, ‘Do you think I should say this?’ and they would say, ‘Yes, definitely bring that up.’”
After the initial meeting with the BAN panel, Sigillito sent revisions and received a quick response from the group on how the presentation looked. She then went into the meeting with the Durango-La Plata Airport Commission with confidence in her polished presentation. A month later, the Commission awarded the contract to Fast Signs, and recently, Telluride Airport approached Fast Signs about installing a digital signage network. Next in the pipeline is a possible contract with the St. George, Utah airport.
The digital signage realm is opening new doors for Sigillito’s business and has other Fast Signs in the country calling her, asking how they can get into their local airports. The Durango-La Plata project won “Project of the Year” at the Fast Signs Franchise Conference. There are over 500 Fast Signs Centers in North America, with some Europe and Australia, all independently owned.
“It’s great because now we have a way to get revenue into Durango from outside of Durango,” says Sigillito. “And I think I’ve figured out a way to compete against [their biggest competitor].”
The Durango Airport Project was the catalyst to a Fast Signs’ niche, and the BAN panel’s feedback on Sigillito’s presentation helped get the ball rolling.
“The advisors knew Durango: when I talked about our pitch they’d say, ‘This is good – we need to show you are keeping the dollars here,’ and ‘We need to advertise Durango differently.’ They were excited about the opportunity. So they helped me simplify it quite a bit, and when I did my presentation to the Commission they did not have one question.
“I don’t think I could have gotten that kind of feedback from anybody else,” she adds. “It’s really awesome that we have that resource here, and it’s free.”
The BAN presentation was not the first time Sigillito used the resources at the SBDC. It started with a “Marketing for Smarties” class before she had any intention of opening her own business; Sigillito saw it as a good way to network among marketing circles as well. Then she found out about the Next Level Entrepreneurial Training classes through the SBDC monthly newsletter.
Through the Next Level Training Sigillito learned about the financing resources available through Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado, which helped secure the initial funding for Fast Signs in late 2008/early 2009 when she could not obtain financing through local banks.
Sigillito used the Next Level class to stay focused while drafting her business plan for Fast Signs. “You systematically go through each chapter, for example, you learn all the different ways to know your competition,” she recalls. “Everything I was learning in class I could immediately apply to my business plan. The class helped me be more thorough than I would’ve been, and just having the teachers there to bounce ideas off of was really beneficial.”
The business plan was thorough and then some, because Sigillito went on to win “Best Business Plan” among the state’s 14 SBDC’s and was honored at a ceremony in Denver.