A couple in San Diego’s North County is using their small sign business to do something big for local high school seniors and remind them that graduation – coronavirus pandemic or not – is something to celebrate.
Rich and Jennifer Black have lived in Carlsbad for 20 years. They run Signarama in San Marcos, a shop specializing in signs and decals for other small, local businesses.
When the coronavirus pandemic reached San Diego County two months ago, their business, like so many others across the globe, took a huge hit. As did the school year for their twin sons, Ben and Sam, who are seniors at San Marcos High School.
As their senior students transitioned to distance learning, the family realized there would be no traditional graduation ceremony for the teens, no prom – none of those things that make one’s senior year so special.
And, being in the business of sign-making and all, the couple felt it was important to spell out the milestone of graduation for all to see – and not just for their sons.
So, they got to work.
Rich told NBC 7 he had seen lawn signs with school logos and “Class of 2020” messages taking off across the country and thought their business could do that too.
He and Jennifer quickly created a secondary sign business called Signs4Students, offering yard signs for grads. They built the website and created new products in just two days.
The couple knew they needed to keep their family business afloat and creating these yard signs was the way to do that, while also helping students feel proud of academic achievements in this strange new world.
Rich said their main product is now a sign that can be customized to include a student’s name, their school logo and the words “Class of 2020.” Those signs cost around $30 and Rich said people have ordered them for grads across the U.S., even as far east as Chicago.
Rich said the signs, at least for his boys, are sort of pulling teens back into their senior year.
“They’re remembering; they’re celebrating their big accomplishments,” he explained.
Jennifer said their kids and other high school seniors may not fully recognize that they're being "short-changed" on memorable experiences amid the pandemic, but they should still recognize that graduating is a big deal.
So, because of this, the couple wanted to go even bigger with their signs for students.
Really, really big.
The couple started a program on their website to collect donations to pay for giant banners for both San Marcos High School and Mission Hills High School. The idea is to cover the fence outside both schools with these banners, which will include the names of every senior graduating this year from those schools.
So far, the couple said they’ve collected about 70% of donations needed to make those banners happen. Even if they don’t collect all the donations, they’re willing to cover the rest of the costs to give the students something special.
Also, 25% of sales from the normal yard signs ordered by families of San Marcos and Mission Hills High School students are going toward the banner funds for those two schools.
Rich said they’ve been working with the principal at San Marcos High School to figure out the best time to hang the big banner on campus.
The couple said they hope the banner becomes a symbol of pride for seniors – and maybe even a spot for some memorable photos, once the stay at home order is lifted.
Rich said they want it to maybe be a place where people can come write notes of love and support for local graduates and pay tribute to the Class of 2020.
Jennifer said with drive-up graduations now very much a possibility in her community and beyond, the banner could be a big part of those pandemic-era celebrations.
“So, you know, hopefully, that banner will be an integral part of that – whether it’s a backdrop, or you can come and take a photo with it, something like that,” she told NBC 7.
In addition to the signs for students, Rich said they just rolled out another grad-inspired item: Class of 2020 car decals.
He said those cost around $14 and can also be personalized to include a student’s name and school logo.
And, with car parades and drive-thru parties are the rage right now, they’re a hot item.
Before the pandemic, much of Signarama’s business came from car decals and graphics, so this item is also very much in the Blacks’ wheelhouse.
The couple said while the pandemic has been difficult for their family business, the tough times have also taught them a lot – and made them feel closer to their community.
“It’s completely changed in the last few months – the way we operate, the way we interact with our customers,” he explained. “You kind of have to think about the way you do business, and how you help out in the community, those types of things.”
To donate to the Giant School Banner Donation program, go here.