Dallas Business Journal

Custom Laser Engravers making a mark in tough economy

Investing in a new engraver paid off for custom business Dallas Business Journal by Jessica Huseman, Staff Writer

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SMALL BUSINESS, BIG MACHINE: Kay and Stephanie Spruill use a machine with a laser that can engrave every- thing from leather to granite to glass and can handle materials as large as 3 feet wide and 21.5 inches deep.

The mother-daughter team of Kay and Stephanie Spruill at Custom Laser Engravers can help you customize just about anything. Their studio is filled with samples of everything from boulders engraved with addresses to tiny stencils made for a caterer who wanted to spray-paint an edible logo onto truffles.

“One time we did a huge sausage maker,” said Stephanie, who does the engraving. “That was pretty exciting.”

Custom Laser Engravers evolved out of a shop specializing in engraving, monogramming and hot-stamping services that Kay has owned since 1998.

“We wanted to be able to offer all aspects of personalization, so we needed to be able to move beyond our rotary engraver,” Kay said.

So the pair invested in a top-of-the-line laser-engraving machine in April. The massive machine arrived in May, and Stephanie spent a month teaching herself how to use it.

After trying out the laser on hundreds of different materials and meticulously cataloguing how to engrave each one, they opened up shop in the Design District of Dallas on July 1.

Since then, the business has taken off. Just over three months after opening, Custom Laser Engravers is constantly getting new orders — from individual customers to rush orders from companies needing 1,000 items engraved.

The laser can engrave everything from leather to granite to glass, whether curved or straight, and can handle materials as large as 3 feet wide and 21.5 inches deep. There is no length limit.

“There are always going to be things we can’t engrave,” said Stephanie, hovering over the laser engraver and positioning a place mat she was turning into stencils. “But as long as you have enough material, I’m willing to give it a shot.”

Stephanie has also added a personal touch to her machine: Lego building blocks. She needed something that would stabilize the products while they were being engraved and provide a perfect right angle.

“Legos are perfect!” she said, repositioning some of the colorful building blocks to fit the stencil. “They seem simple, but they snap together however you need them to and create a perfect right angle to ensure that everything comes out straight.”

The Spruills always thought they would be a shop for individual customers. They liked the idea of customizing anything that anyone could desire for their home, wedding or a gift. But after realizing how valuable their service is to businesses, they changed paths.

“We still want to do those individual customers, but we are trying to position ourselves as a business-to-business service,” Kay said. “Companies love giving away trinkets, and you don’t realize how much of the same stuff is out there until you send an employee to go find something. We can provide something no one else has and make it look however they want.”

A look “no one else has” was what Karin Zaya, executive assistant at Midland oil company Wagner & Brown Ltd., needed when she was tasked with finding invitations to send out for the opening of the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, a project her late boss founded for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

“My current boss is a firm believer that an invitation sets the tone to the event. Our invites are always memorable; it is always more than just a printed piece of paper in an envelope,” Zaya said.

Originally, the plan was to go with a snow globe with a replica of the center inside. After waiting several weeks for the snow globes to be shipped, they ran out of time and moved onto the next best plan: acrylic pen stands with an image of the center etched onto it.

Zaya ordered 1,000 acrylic pieces from E&D Plastics, a custom plastics fabricator in Dallas, which recommended Custom Laser Engravers to do the etching.

“We only had a matter of days to get these 1,000 pieces etched, and I just called Stephanie and asked her, ‘Can you get this done?’ and she said, ‘Absolutely, we will make it happen,’” Zaya said.

Stephanie, who received the order on a Monday at 4 p.m., had only five days to complete the task. “It was definitely a race to the finish,” Stephanie said. “I worked late hours getting it done, but we knew they had a hard deadline.”

Such a hard deadline, in fact, that when Zaya’s boss’s plane happened to land at Love Field on Friday night, she called to see whether Stephanie could drive them out to the airport — and Stephanie agreed.

At 8 o’clock Friday night, Stephanie finished the project, packed up the boxes and drove immediately out to Love Field with her mother to meet the plane before it took off.

“Their willingness to do that gave us several days’ more time to get the invitations sent out and also saved us a fortune on shipping costs,” Zaya said. “I’m so grateful they did that.”

Article courtesy of Dallas Business Journal. Photography courtesy of Jake Dean.

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