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From the College of Natural Sciences
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BuildASign CEO Dan Graham (BS ‘03) Is Building a Better Community

BuildASign CEO Dan Graham (BS ‘03) Is Building a Better Community

College alum founded one of the most successful start-ups in Austin, an easy-to-use, online service that allows customers to design their own signs, banners and stickers.

dan-grahamDan Graham, CEO of BuildASign.com. Photo: Alex Wang.

When College of Natural Sciences alum and BuildASign.com founder and CEO Dan Graham (BS '03) originally pitched his sign-building software to sign shops in Austin, he was met with nothing but a brick wall.

Instead of accepting defeat, Graham and his partners turned that rejection into the motivation to start their own company. Six years later, BuildASign.com is one of the most successful and innovative start-ups in Austin.

In 2005, Graham and his partners went door to door to pitch their sign-making software to local print shops. For six months they were told again and again that their $7,000 software was too expensive, and print shops felt their customers would reject something that was fully automated.

Instead of giving up, the four partners shifted their concept and in 2006 they founded BuildASign.com, an easy-to-use, online service that allows customers to design their own signs, banners, stickers and more.

“We knew that we had a really good idea so we made the shift from trying to sell software to producing the signs ourselves,” said Graham.

Their intuition was obviously on target.

Graham’s team started out in a 100-square-foot office with virtually no start-up capital. As of September 2012, their headquarters occupy more than 22,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space. They currently have 250 employees, projected 2012 revenue of $45 million and operations in four countries.

Graham insists their success is not due to just luck or timing. He says that a business idea does not need to be fully formed before marketing it. Instead, the business can thrive if it is shaped by feedback and customer demand.

“This is a principle that all start-ups can apply to their business model,” said Graham. “Take an idea, run with it and adjust your model based upon customer feedback.”

Another integral part of Graham’s business philosophy is creating a culture of giving. His employees are encouraged to commit up to 24 hours a year to community service.

“Giving back to the community is very important to us. By giving back we have an opportunity to shape and improve the community we live and work in,” said Graham.

For example, BuildASign.com has donated more than 250,000 “Welcome Home Banners” to family and friends of returning service members.

Graham has also stayed connected to his alma mater, the College of Natural Sciences, helping to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs and job creators. He recently spoke at the college’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Forum, along with four other former natural sciences graduates who’ve become entrepreneurs. He encouraged students to “make connections and begin developing their ideas now.”

“Talk to other entrepreneurs and local business,” he said. “Learn from their experiences and stories.”

According to Graham, signage is the most impactful form of advertising. So it’s only fitting that Graham would be making such a huge impact in Austin. With his philanthropic spirit and vision to “empower expression around the world,” he continues to build a community powered by innovation, giving and customer feedback.

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Thursday, 09 February 2023

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