Henson Sign & Graphics puts personal stamp on their work

by Clay Neely - clay@newnan.com


Photo by Clay Neely

The team at Henson Sign & Graphics. From left are, Matthew Thomas, Jeremy Henson, Kirby Collier, and Natalie Burnett.

In the wake of the 2009 economic crisis, many in the workforce found themselves scrambling to adjust to the new conditions they faced.

When many watched their hours and benefits get cut, some looked back to their natural talents and backgrounds as a possibility for new economic opportunities.

A lifelong Newnan resident, Jeremy Henson formally studied education and art at both Reinhardt College and the University of Georgia.

However, following college, Henson spent the next 17 years working in the emergency services field, 12 of those with the city of Newnan.

“Being a firefighter, I feel that I do have to mention that because that’s who I am,” Henson said. “But there’s such a fine line when dealing with customers who might see me doing this as a hobby or not being focused entirely. They just assume that since I’m a firefighter that’s my sole identity. That’s not exactly the truth; it can really complicate things sometimes.”

Five years ago, he founded Henson Sign & Graphics as a way to use his previous education in art and graphic design to assemble a company that he felt could succeed in the Coweta area.

However, Henson picked an unlikely time to start his own business. In 2009, the “Great Recession” was in full swing, but his company found opportunity in one of the most unlikely places – the business sector.

“In the beginning, we tried to offer as much as we possibly could to the small business,” Henson said. “We found ourselves working with both startup companies and many companies on their last leg.”

Many of the latter turned to Henson in a last ditch effort to revive their brand.

“We would have companies who were down to their last penny so they figured they would just go ‘all in’ with their marketing just to see what might happen,” Henson said.

Henson felt the best way to complement these bold decisions would be with a bold approach.

“Instead of doing the typical one color sign or logo, we tried to create the most eye-catching art possible in order to help raise the profile of those who were in dire straits,” Henson said. “We took a chance and it worked.”

After initially starting the company out of his own home, he quickly felt the need to expand and found an opportunity to rent a building that he now shares with his wife, Brandi, who owns and runs Clippers Hair Salon next door.

“It’s been a real blessing,” Henson said. “Since we both run our own businesses, it was hard never getting a chance to see each other as much as we would like. Now we’re all together and it feels more like a big family around here.”

Since Henson can’t be at the shop full-time, he made a point to hire the best and the brightest to ensure that the company runs smoothly in his absence.

“Being at the fire department, you’re surrounded by specialists, and I wanted the same thing for this company,” Henson said.

As one of the members of Henson Sign & Graphics, Natalie Burnett studied graphic design at the University of Alabama and feels there is a very unique quality about Henson Graphics that separates them for the rest of their field.

“I would describe us as a full-service company to other businesses,” said Burnett.

“A lot of other design firms just give you the design and send you on their way, but we often find ourselves working with individuals who might not even have a design yet.”

“We’ll see their vision through, from the initial vision until their final product is exactly what they had in mind,” said Burnett. “I feel that doing it this way builds a much more personal relationship with the client.”

Henson agrees with her assessment and feels that it’s the attention to personal service that will ultimately keep Henson Sign & Graphics a step ahead.

“We always aim to go above and beyond for our customers while adding a personal touch to what we do,” Henson said. “No matter the budget, we will collaborate to come up with something really nice and that keeps them coming back. “

While “trial and error” was par for the course during the inception of the company, Henson feels that it was a positive experience and continues to push himself and the company in terms of just what is possible.

“The machines are running no matter what,” Henson said, pointing at their industrial-sized printers. “We’re constantly evolving and as we get bigger we make new rules.”

During the formative years of the company, Henson and his crew found themselves working primarily in the commercial realm. Now that many of his customers are starting to request more “personal” work, he feels that it’s a sign that the economy is on the rebound.

“When we started the business, people had stopped spending their money on personal, fun stuff – boats, vehicles,” Henson said. “But we still enjoy doing work for our companies. They’re the ones who helped us from the start.”

Some of the “fun stuff” include paint wraps and tuning films, which give a very realistic brushed metal finish to cars, trucks, boats and anything else that a client might envision.

“From the time the customer comes in the door until they leave, we don’t sub anything out,” Henson said.

While Henson Sign & Graphics continues a steady pace of growth, the company’s advertising budget doesn’t weigh heavily in Henson’s mind. While his company specializes in helping other companies achieve a higher public profile, he believes that his clients are the best form of advertising available.

“Frankly, all of our finished products serve to be the best advertising that we can do,” Henson said. “The first project we ever did was wrapping my Dodge 3500, and we built our business on it. Now we’re going on our fifth year.”

While many of Henson’s customers have asked if he would like to put his logo on their vehicles, he doesn’t believe it’s necessary.

“When someone will ultimately ask them where they got their work done, they tell them,” Henson said. “That’s my kind of advertising – quite literally, word of mouth.”

While working two jobs and being a father of four children doesn’t exactly leave Henson with a surplus of free time, he’s doing his best to maximize it.

“We’re trying to reach out to the community and support the arts,” Henson said. “We’ve donated our scrap vinyl to Bette Hickman (local art teacher) but we want to do more. It’s just that we’re working with such a finite window of downtime,” he said.

While Henson Sign & Graphics prides itself on staying ahead of the curve in terms of trends and work, Henson is modest in his assessment of the company’s achievements.

“As artists, I guess we don’t really give ourselves that much credit,” he said. “We think what we do is normal.”

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