Like many others, for Cathey Sirna, the third time’s a charm. Originally starting her company, 3 C’s Vinyl, in Pittsburgh in 2005, with startup costs totaling approximately $25,000 funded by a term loan, Cathey’s major capital purchase was a wide format printer/plotter. Cathey then moved operations to Sarasota, Florida, to start anew. After an informal “apprenticeship” in Florida, Cathey decided to return to Pittsburgh, armed with much greater working knowledge of the sign industry. Utilizing this knowledge, and an overwhelming ambition to succeed, Cathey started her company for the third and final time in June of 2007. She became certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise by the state’s Department of General Services in June of 2008.
Located in the Hays area of Pittsburgh, Cathey operates a full service sign shop out of her home. As Cathey explains, this has its advantages and disadvantages. Because of the reduced overhead, it allows her to be very price competitive. On the other hand, she admits she doesn’t benefit from walk-in traffic that a retail location would offer. To combat this disadvantage, Cathey spends a significant amount of her time cold calling and networking, both of which benefit from her friendly demeanor.
“What we offer to our customers, in addition to fair pricing, is fresh ideas for graphic design”, says Cathey. “It’s amazing the difference that a new eye-catching sign outside even the smallest retail shop can have on their business. The return on investment for new signage is typically quite obvious.”
3C’s Vinyl offers a wide variety of sign solutions including traditional cut vinyl and full color printed vinyl signs, window and fleet vehicle lettering, custom logos and decals and view-thru vinyl. They have also found success with full vehicle wraps and provide race car graphics to a number of area racing outfits.
Cathey came to the SBDC initially for assistance with completing her business plan. Upon completion, she worked with her consultant to complete her application to the Department of General Services for WBE certification. Since then, she has worked with her consultant in a variety of areas including updating her website to ensure that it is search engine friendly.
In April of 2009, Cathey was able to quit her full-time job to concentrate on growing her sign business. Her current clients have been very supportive of her decision to become a full-time owner and have been diligent in referring new business to her. Her customer base continues to grow and a profit and loss comparison shows her sales are up 61% from 2008 to 2009. In the meantime, Cathey says she is enjoying the benefits of being self-employed and focuses on creating a better quality of life for herself and her family.
“Duquesne SBDC has been with me since the beginning. My first workshop was the 'First Step' workshop in 2005. The help that I have received has been invaluable, and I am grateful that I got to work with such great people. Melissa Aird is wonderful!"
– Cathey Sirna, Owner
Client Name: 3C’s Vinyl
5137 Doerrville Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15207
Industry: Vinyl Graphics & Signs
Year Founded: 2005
SBDC Assistance: Provided assistance with business plan and financials preparation, preparation of materials for WBE certification, marketing materials