One company’s take on business signage offers the right franchisee candidates a relatively competition-free and easy-to-run business that also allows them to transition into ownership at their own pace.
Boulder Designs, headquartered in Waco, TX, does in just a few weeks what Mother Nature takes thousands of years to do.
“We actually build boulders — rocks, if you will — from the ground up,” brand new company owner Butch Mogavero said during a recent interview from the company’s Texas headquarters. “We build them out of common aggregates and proprietary admixtures.”
The man-made boulders are completely solid and are not just designed to look like boulders, but are actually 100 percent solid and are meant to last as long as a natural boulder would.
Company logos, photos, memorials, fire pits and more can all be made by the company, but the boulders are mainly used for company signage, Mogavero said.
Although Mogavero just purchased the company a few months ago, it’s actually been around officially since 2008 and — together with its sister company Border Magic — currently has around 95 franchise units.
Prior to owning Boulder Designs, Mogavero had a curbing and landscaping business, as did the original owner of Boulder Designs, Eldean Bergman.
Although Mogavero’s landscaping and curbing business was doing well, the entrepreneur said, he recognized that Bergman’s business — Border Magic — had superior products and he decided he wanted to acquire it.
When he first inquired about acquiring Border Magic in 2010, that company had just introduced the Boulder Designs concept. Mogavero finally made his move in 2015 to acquire the company and it seems that the boulder building arm of the company has turned out to have the highest potential for success because it has the least amount of competition.
“There’s very little competition, if any, because nobody else builds them like this,” the business owner said.
Although the business is now Mogavero’s, Bergman is still with the company on the production side and is still making boulders for the company’s original corporate store in Rantoul, IL, Boulder Designs and Border Magic National Franchise Representative Les Sander said during an interview from Rantoul.
Bergman started Border Magic around 1987, Sander said and originally expanded the company via dealerships, but switched to a franchising model in 2003. Bergman introduced the Boulder Designs model in 2002, Sander said, to give his Border Magic franchisees something to do during the winter months and quickly realized it would stand alone as its own franchise. Boulder Designs officially became its own franchise brand in 2008.
Boulder Designs took off in popularity, Sander said, because of the uniqueness of their signage and the fact that amidst all the wooden and plastic signage out there, the natural looking boulders really stand out.
“The natural look of a boulder is aesthetically pleasing and we’re finding it is much more welcomed in towns and municipalities that are doing beautification,” Sander said.
People persons need apply
Franchisees who are interested in Boulder Designs should like working with people, Sander said. They don’t need past experience in any certain area, as the franchise has developed a system that allows anyone to do it.
Although it’s not necessary for the franchisees to work outside, someone who does enjoy being outside would do well. It’s a good fit for people who don’t want to work in an office anymore, the national franchise representative said, as it gives them ample opportunity to do hands-on work.
Aside from the obvious uniqueness of the product, Boulder Designs also offers a unique way to get into business ownership.
While many other franchises will require a leap of faith into full business ownership, franchisees can transition into business ownership at their own pace with Boulder Designs.
It’s not uncommon for franchisees to only do their Boulder Designs work on a part-time basis as they get their feet under them, Sander said. They can keep their regular job while they get their business going and grow the franchise at their own pace.
One person can effectively run a Boulder Designs, meaning it can be just an owner-operator outfit without having to worry about hiring employees until the franchisee is ready to expand their business.
This, along with the franchising system Boulder Designs has set up that virtually allows anyone to be able to run one, makes it ideal for veterans looking to get into business ownership.
“I think a lot of veterans like systems,” Sander said.
Many veterans, when looking into business ownership, can be leery of jumping in right away, he pointed out, and Boulder Designs’ ability to allow them to transition into business ownership slowly is appealing.
“We have a much more easy transition than most franchises,” he added.
Training is at the company’s corporate headquarters and consists of four days of hands on training about how to make the product, plus sales and marketing training.
After that, franchisees go home and set up their shops. Boulder Designs supports them with that and will go to their location if necessary.
“Most guys find they are able to get going right away with the tools we give them during that initial four-day training,” Sander said.
Currently, Boulder Designs is concentrated east of the Mississippi River, in the Ohio Valley and throughout Pennsylvania, although it does have franchises in New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, along the east coast, and in New England.
It still has locations available right across the continental 48 states with the only place where they’ve reached the saturation point being the greater Indianapolis area. There are still some territories available in northeast Indiana and Michigan.
If there is any competition for Boulder Designs, it would be companies that make monuments and headstones working with marble and granite. If they are working with rocks, these companies will typically sandblast something into an existing rock.
The problem with that, Sander said, is that a customer has to first find a rock and then make sure it’s big enough to hold what they want it to say.
That’s not the case with Boulder Designs.
“We take what you want on your rock and we design the rock around it,” he noted.
This also helps Boulder Designs to accommodate their customers’ budgets better. For veterans and other franchisees looking for a solid franchising opportunity, Boulder Designs delivers.