We talked to Jovim Ventura of CrowdSigns about Offering Customizable Giant Social Media Event Props during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jovim Ventura: My wife and I are doing well. We have been strictly following our mayor’s & governor’s protocol to keep safe. As much as we miss hugging our family, we’d rather wait, keeping them safe & give them a giant 30-minute hug in 2021.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CrowdSigns.
Jovim Ventura: I founded a print marketing communications company in 2007. In 2014 I married my wife, Dani. A few months after we got married, we were brainstorming ideas on how to pay off her gigantic student loans. We wanted to create a business that was easy to operate with a small team, leverage the internet with few resources, and fairly low start-up cost. We figured out what we were both good at and narrowed it down to a business that merged customized printing & social media, two things we enjoyed. We birthed CrowdSigns.com, which offers customizable giant social media event props. Since we were first to market in the United States with this product, we knew it was going to be a risk but decided to launch anyway. We successfully paid off my wife’s loans in a little over a year.
How does CrowdSigns innovate?
Jovim Ventura: We try to stay on top of trends. We create designs based on what’s going on in the world at any given moment. We base our photo prop designs mostly on current events, but then we also offer evergreen products that celebrate Birthdays, Graduations, Weddings, and holidays.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jovim Ventura: Pre-COVID people still were throwing events and ordering our product. Around mid-march, we saw sales starting to dip due to COVID, and people cancelling their events. Without events, our photo props were useless to our customers. We froze for a month and didn’t have any ideas as we were just trying to wait for COVID to clear. Since we are a lean company, we weren’t too stressed.
One day we visited my in-laws (from a distance). As we were about to leave her driveway, I was chatting with my mother-in-law about our two businesses’ health. I mentioned CrowdSigns was playing the waiting game and on hold until post-COVID. She mentioned we should start printing positive messages on lawn signs for the First Responders, Healthcare Workers, etc. On a Friday night, my wife and I decided to work on my mother-in-law’s idea. We cared deeply about all the workers out there keeping people safe and alive during COVID, so we spent the entire night creating designs with positive messages. You should see my wife when she has ideas, they were flowing! Because we felt deeply about these positive messages on the lawn signs, we ended working the entire weekend. We completed 30 designs that weekend, and they were a hit. We also donated a portion of the proceeds to feeding frontline workers.
Then the Black Lives Matter Movement resurfaced, which deeply struck us. We had long discussions on these matters at the dinner table. We had to speak up on our stance, and we did it through our designs. Our designs made newspaper headlines when a school decided to have us print a large billboard of one of our designs. You can see it here: Article.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jovim Ventura: Amidst not knowing too much about COVID, it was hard to think straight and logically for a few months. Will our businesses survive? Will we have enough for payroll? How will our businesses look in 1-2 years? Although both businesses were operating lean pre-COVID, we still had more expenses we could trim. COVID confirmed that the processes we’ve built throughout the years – worked. We learned that we were all able to work remotely and not lose a step. It forced us even to be more lean, and trimming more expenses didn’t negatively affect us like we thought it would previously. COVID allowed us a chance to take a step back and figure out what we really wanted our businesses and personal lives to look like.
Lastly, we learned that leveraging technology and operating as a lean business throughout the years helped us survive this catastrophe.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Jovim Ventura: As a predominately optimistic person – COVID definitely has tested my will at times. It’s helped that I have an amazing partner. My wife keeps me grounded. She leads our daily morning workouts, which helps keep us healthy during the quarantine. She also cooks healthy meals since we haven’t been frequenting restaurants or take-out. I’ve been helping around in the kitchen and learning about ingredients, which helps keep my brain active. My wife also makes sure we have fun and keep our brains active with games, puzzles, going on long walks. She’s definitely the CEO of keeping us happy, healthy, and sane.
I also chat with my high school Hip Hop crew on Facebook Messenger. We exchange ideas, opinions, jokes, articles, and videos. My crew keeps me feeling childlike, which I feel is very important during this trying time. We’re all brothers, so we have a deep understanding of each other, which helps take my brain away from over-thinking our businesses.
Lastly, I chat with my family and other fellow entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, we are in a unique situation not many people can relate to. It’s not better or worse – just a different situation. It helps to chat and contribute with people in the same “game” as you. Chatting with them definitely helped me navigate through some tough decisions during COVID. A good friend of mine who is also a serial entrepreneur helped me so much. We chat weekly, and it’s great to have mentors that know what you’re going through and to remind you, you’re not alone in this.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jovim Ventura: We’ve had quite a few competitors pop-up through the years. They are all very good companies. So what differentiates us? We design things that we care deeply about and just launch them to the world. We don’t blatantly copy. We like to innovate. We are authentic and unapologetic in our views. If it sells or if it doesn’t sell, we put out products we believe in. I think being honest and authentic with your ideas helps create marketing messages people resonate with. It’s been working for us for 5+ years.
Your final thoughts?
Jovim Ventura: I feel for everyone around the world that’s struggling during COVID. There’s an opportunity in every situation, whether good or bad. We could have frozen-up and lost valuable time & momentum in our businesses during COVID. Listen to people and customers on what they want or need. Listen to every idea and act on the ones that make sense to your business and working in the world. Be able to pivot if needed. If we brushed off my mother-in-law’s idea, I personally would have been even more stressed during COVID. Keep creating things to make the world a little easier or happier.
During this trying time, surround yourself with positive, creative, and smarter people. Always be that person that likes to make people’s lives easier, contribute. Stay curious. Make sure to take some time for yourself to help keep your mental & physical health stable. Take things seriously but don’t forget to stop and laugh. Also, wear a mask already. We’re all in this together.
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