Business branding company opens second location in Washington

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When Imperial-based Spot Light Business Branding opened a second location last month in downtown Washington, the reason behind the move was simple – opportunity.


“I think the signage business is an underserved market,” said Gary McAfoose, Spot Light’s sales manager, during an interview last week at the company’s North Main Street office. “We are taking our product to a market where we can help people.”


Spot Light, formed in February, is a merger of McAfoose’s business, Sign-A-Rama Pittsburgh South, based in Peters Township, with ASK 4 Screen Printing of Imperial, which changed its name to Spot Light.


The privately held company, which employs six, provides screen-printed and embroidered apparel; indoor and outdoor signs;vehicle wraps and graphics; business cards;, and various promotional products such as ballpoint pens and coffee mugs.


It does not do Internet work.


Sign-A-Rama and ASK 4 had relied on each other so much for assistance on jobs that it made sense to combine the businesses, said McAfoose, explaining the genesis of Spot Light.


Seth Zora, co-founder and co-owner of Spot Light, agreed.


“Also, it was basically through our friendship,” said Zora, who owns the company with his mother, Karin Evans.


Spot Light – whose motto is We Bring Your Business to Light! – was drawn to Washington because it wants to expand in the area, as well as in the Airport Corridor and Greene and Fayette counties. McAfoose also said Marcellus Shale played a large role in the opening of Spot Light’s new location.


“It is a huge, vibrant market,” said Zora, when asked why the company chose Washington. “A lot of businesses are coming in. We had, maybe, a 15-minute discussion of where we wanted to be and we found this location right in the heart of the business district.”


The Marcellus Shale natural gas formation is located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and parts of New York. It covers about 65,000 square miles and has been in the news for several years, for its economic benefits and from groups opposed to development because wells are drilled down through water tables to extract the gas. Opponents fear underground water contaminateation.


Gas in the shale rock is trapped in natural pores and rock fractures, according to WikiMarcellus. There is believed to be enough gas in Marcellus Shale to supply the entire Northeast with natural gas.


The Public Utility Commission said recently that natural gas development in Pennsylvania has added $2.1 billion to the state’s general fund. Plus, shale companies have invested more than $1 billion in transportation and infrastructure projects, the commission said.


Marcellus has already indirectly benefited Spot Light. One of its clients, Canonsburg-based Energy Products Co., a distributor of natural gas and liquid pipeline products, has supplied pumps for the shale region.


“We hope to be in position to serve companies involved in the Marcellus Shale,” Zora said. “When they begin drilling at (Pittsburgh International Airport), we want to be right there.”


Industrial companies are not the only businesses McAfoose is targeting for Spot Light. Besides small businesses, he is talking with hospitals, universities, nonprofits and even individuals. Spot Light provided the backdrop banner for the recently completed Pittsburgh Marathon.


“It is not just about putting signs out,” said McAfoose, adding that the backdrop banner is usually where race participants and spectators get their pictures taken. “We also want to help you develop your brand equity.”


McAfoose said a recent study showed that 75 percent of end users of promotional items keep one or more of these products for a year or more. And 84 percent of the end users remember the name advertised on the item.


Promotional products can, indeed, be used to differentiate a business from its competitors. It also is important to choose a promotional product that is functional, so it may be used more than once, according to Robin Samora Inc., a Boston public relations, advertising and branding identity firm.


The company suggests to not overspend or underspend on the promotional item because it is better to not give out anything rather than hand out a cheaply made item. Plus, match your promotional product to your audience and make sure it is fully branded, Robin Samora said.


Spot Light, ASK 4 and Sign-A-Rama’s customer list is a veritable who’s who of local businesses, nonprofits and universities. They include Washington & Jefferson College, Gabby Market, St. Clair Hospital, Horizon Properties, Cathedral Energy Services and Washington City Mission.


McAfoose said 45 percent of all sales for a business comes from signs. An automobile with wrap signs, that is driven 1,500 miles a month can have as many as 300,000 exposures, he added.


“A lot of small businesses can be helped by what we do,” said McAfoose, adding that a roofer who spent $299 to get his truck wrapped got five separate jobs from people who called the telephone number on the sign.


“It paid for itself,” he said.


Plans for Spot Light include more retail locations, as well as a larger production facility, Zora said.


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