Red Clay Graphics & Signs: Sending a Message
Offering vehicle wraps & more.
This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of THE SHOP magazine.
In a market heavily saturated with competition, it’s personal touches and unique offerings that can help set a business apart and create lasting connections.
This approach has helped Erin Ricks, owner and lead designer of Red Clay Graphics & Signs, create a go-to vinyl graphics, sign and wrap shop for her traditional “Friday Night Lights” community.
Located in Moultrie, Georgia, Red Clay Graphics was formed about a decade ago by Ricks, who has a background in fine arts, and her brother. When her brother relocated to middle Georgia, Ricks took the reins and evaluated how the primarily graphics-based shop could diversify and give its customers more.
One way was to focus on full-service branding.
“We try to package everything together and offer our customers all the options that will help elevate or start their company,” Ricks explains.
Red Clay’s services include signs and projects, banners and displays, as well as wraps and murals. The company has served commercial and residential clients, churches and campuses.
“On the surface, Red Clay Graphics Studios, Inc. is a sign shop, manufacturing signs of all shapes, sizes and materials,” the company states on its website. “We are also designers and innovators. We will manage your project from beginning to end with creative solutions and professional quality worthy of your investment.”
The scope of these jobs can vary greatly, from window signage for small mom-and-pop shops, to wrapping a fleet of vehicles for a nearby meat packing plant, to full service projects that include packaging and marketing materials.
It’s this variety of offerings that excites Ricks the most.
“I was scared to death of a desk job,” she says. “But with this work I get to get out, drive around and talk to people. I’m busy all day, so there’s no boredom.”
One of the biggest clients Red Clay Graphics services, and a perfect example of everything the company does to maximize its talents, is a local high-end construction company. Red Clay first started with design and branding and then created a complete strategic marketing plan for the owner that included signs, wraps and more.
“He runs an elite company with fancy graphics, so we knew we were going to need something more than just a typical yard sign,” Ricks says. “He now has custom routed jobsite signage as fine as his homes. We also created two vehicle wraps for him—one full and one partial, which took about 10 hours of total design. It resulted in very effective, eye-catching wraps.”
Red Clay also services a fleet of semis for a large meat packing plant, vehicles for many local farms, and several food truck companies and event trailers.
In addition to the large jobs, Ricks prides herself on giving back to her community. She partners with local schools and maintains a close relationship with the dean of her college.
“If it doesn’t involve education, I don’t participate,” states Ricks when it comes to philanthropic ventures, noting it not only boosts the company’s visuals and allows her to support a cause close to her heart, but also provides a direct line to potential hires.
Ricks utilizes alumni events, job fairs and referrals to help diversify and grow the Red Clay team, which is also a family affair—Ricks and her brother are the founding members, their father is the bookkeeper and financial officer, and her husband Caleb heads production and installs.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
An added benefit of being a small-town company focused on community is that it helped Red Clay Graphics not only survive during the pandemic, but grow.
“It could be in part that we weren’t as affected like bigger cities that had more lockdowns,” Ricks explains.
When COVID-19 hit, however, the shop adjusted its focus by making signage for schools, hospitals and restaurants and then shifted to branding for companies moving to more online formats. It also tried to assist new businesses by making car magnets and Now Open signage.
This isn’t to say that Red Clay didn’t see its fair share of struggles—particularly since many of its customers work in industrial and agricultural fields.
“Lumber prices skyrocketed. It hurt our clients because budgets changed. We utilize a lot of metal, so it was the first time I had to pay attention to embargoes,” Ricks recalls. “Little things like tools and hangers—things we need for our business—were held up if they weren’t American-made. Whenever there are shipping issues, it affects our little town.”
Business savvy, talent and personal connections helped Red Clay prove it has what it takes to continue to thrive and evolve with the times.
“Give us a challenge and we can do anything,” says Ricks. “If we can find it, we can source it. On the design end, you’ll never have to worry. We want to provide the top tier of everything.”