"I've been a customer of PNC and its predecessors for more than 25 years. Whenever we've needed capital to invest in our growth, the bank has developed a plan for us. Today, PNC is our only bank - for our business as well as our personal banking needs."
All Signs Point to Success
Sandie Foland began her $9.5 million sign business by painting ads on the back of park benches 27 years ago.
"My husband and I had lived in Italy for 11 years, and when we came back to live in South Florida, I wanted to start a business," she recounts. "I noticed that all of the park benches had messages on them and thought, 'That's something I could do.'"
What Sandie hadn't anticipated was the vast amount of competition and politics involved in the sign-painting industry. She worked to differentiate and diversify her business, investing in the leading-edge technology of the day - a plotter that cut vinyl lettering - and began Baron Sign Manufacturing, a company that is today the largest design/build sign manufacturer in South Florida.
"The timing was right," she says. "The country was coming out of a recession, and things were starting to boom. With my husband, Jerry, leading a strong sales effort, we continually expanded, adding facilities and equipment to meet demand."
Building Strength Through Adversity
Still, Baron Sign didn't soar to its full potential until Sandie reached a personal crossroads. In 2002, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, followed by a diagnosis of kidney cancer that claimed one of her kidneys.
"Jerry wanted me to retire - to sell the business and take it easy," she says. "But I only became more determined. I told him I'd get well and make this business even stronger, and that's exactly what I did."
With unprecedented resolve, Sandie approached the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to secure a loan to buy a 4 1/2 acre lot in an Enterprise Zone of South Florida, where, with bank financing, she built a 40,000-square-foot facility, nearly doubling the space of her existing buildings. Within three years, revenues for Baron Signs more than doubled - from $4 million in 2005 to $9.5 million in 2008.
Sandie recalls: "We had a great business, but I recognized that we needed a building with greater presence and capacity. We started winning airport and shopping center accounts, as well as other $1 million+ jobs we simply weren't able to accommodate in our previous facilities."
Sandie is thankful to have had PNC on her side from the start. "I've been a customer of PNC and its predecessors for more than 25 years," she says. "My banking relationship helped make our growth possible, because the bank provided us with financing for our buildings. Whenever we've needed capital to invest in our growth, the bank has developed a plan for us. Today, PNC is our only bank - for our business as well as our personal banking needs."
In 2009, the recession took a swipe at Baron, but Sandie's optimism remains unshakable. "My plan is to double our business again this year through government contracts and other new business," says Sandie, who adds that her Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) certifications continue to open doors. "We keep reaching out further, because we know we can deliver. We're confident in our future."