Local entrepreneurs’ celebratory biz a sign of the times
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/05/2022 (251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Susie Freedman Tapper was planning her daughter’s 16th birthday last winter, she never would have guessed it would lead to a new business venture.
Since an indoor party for her daughter, Maddy, wasn’t an option, owing to pandemic-related restrictions, Freedman Tapper had to get creative. An online search lit her fuse.
“I didn’t want (Maddy’s) birthday to pass by without making a big deal out of turning 16,” she says. “It was in the midst of the pandemic and everyone was house-bound. I wanted to make a sign because people were starting to do those drive-by birthday parades.”
Local sign options were available but Freedman Tapper wanted something different. A quick online search revealed that the yard card sign industry is booming in the U.S.
You’ve likely seen them in your neighbourhood — large, colourful displays used to celebrate different occasions, such as birthdays, engagements, anniversaries and new additions to the family.
“I thought, ‘This is a great idea. It’s not a huge investment of money or time to get started because there are vendors that make (the signs) in the U.S.,’” she says.
Freedman Tapper saw an opportunity to bring some much-needed joy to not only her 16-year-old daughter but also to fellow Winnipeggers celebrating milestones
“You can start your inventory small and build it. So I called Shannon at midnight and told her about it.”
Shannon Golding is Freedman Tapper’s friend of more than 30 years and her business partner.
“So many times we’ve sat down and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could start our own business?’” Golding says. “One night at midnight, Susie called and asked me to look at this thing on Pinterest. So, we looked at (the signs) and in an instant, we were like, ‘OK, let’s order them and see what happens.’”
Leveraging her background in graphic design, Freedman Tapper created a unique look for her daughter’s birthday sign. Golding started social media accounts, shared photos online and boom — Bling My Lawn was born.
“We use Instagram, Facebook and word of mouth — that’s all it’s ever been,” Freedman Tapper says. “And we’ve made a website.”
Despite a lack of major advertising, news of the business spread like wildfire — so much so that the duo had to hire people to help install the signs.
Freedman Tapper and Golding rent their yard signs starting at $150 for a basic model up to $185 for a “luxe” sign, which includes a fuller display. Every sign has optional add-ons, such as additional numbers and letters, custom keepsakes and LED spotlights.
They do outdoor signs in the winter, too.
“Rain, rain, snow, sleet, these signs can withstand (anything).”
Inventory was initially stored in Freedman Tapper’s basement but as the business grew, she quickly realized they needed more room. Last September, they officially moved into an office with additional space.
What began as a pandemic-inspired venture has evolved beyond just outdoor signs. The duo now creates indoor sign displays for parties and fundraisers, a division they call “Bling My Bash.”
“We’ve evolved into event decor. We can do centrepieces, which we’ve done for weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.”
The expansion has convinced Freedman Tapper and Golding to change their business name to simply “Bling,” which will encompass both Bling My Lawn and Bling My Bash.
Since their first day 18 months ago, Bling has done 375 indoor and outdoor signs.
Prior to being a business owner, Freedman Tapper dabbled in film production. But she wanted to find something new that would give her flexibility with her husband and two kids.
“I was looking for something that could be my own,” she says. “I was tired of everyone asking how my children and husband were and never asking me about what I’m doing, because I didn’t have my own thing.
“So, I was searching for my own thing and we found it with Bling. Wait, does that rhyme?”
One of the business’s best parts is being able to share positive experiences with their customers.
“During COVID, we all needed a little piece of happiness and to see our kids happy,” Freedman Tapper says. “This was really the best job. All we did was bring people happiness and everything was about celebrating.”
Golding says the business also helped them navigate through the pandemic.
“We had something to focus on when everyone else was in their house. And, frankly, nobody was in a good mood. We were all stuck at home and the kids were doing school from home and it was chaos,” Golding says. “But (Susie and I) were busy and always on the go. We were together all the time, outside in the freezing cold, but we were so happy because we were able to get out of the house and celebrate milestones.”
Starting this business enabled Freedman Tapper to be a role model to her two teenage daughters.
“I want my girls to see me doing lots of things. Moms are the hardest working people ever and we have to juggle five million things,” she says.
Now, people are asking Freedman Tapper’s family about “her thing,” which is Bling.
“Our families think it’s great and they’re proud. My husband has people come to his office and say, ‘We ordered a sign from your wife’s business.’ Now, they’re talking to him about me.”
Sabrina Carnevale is a freelance writer and communications specialist, and former reporter and broadcaster who is a health enthusiast. She writes a twice-monthly column focusing on wellness and fitness.