(512) 887-2407 [email protected]

ActionCOACH WilCo – Andy O’Brien is proud to present his eighth “Business Owners Speak Out” interview series. This is a collection of short interviews and education from business owners with amazing insights into today’s challenges.  

MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien (AO) virtually sits down with business owners to learn how they are working through COVID-19 and their current challenges and successes. Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic as well as ideas on how to avoid making common mistakes.

Larry Perez and Meagan York, Perez Signs & Graphix

AO: Tell me about your business.

LP: We’ve been here in the same location for about 35 years. How it got started, I was working [across the street] for 12 and a half years, that was my uncle’s shop. I’m a third generation sign maker. What we do is merge the traditional way of making signs with the new high technology way of making signs. That’s how we got started; I worked for my uncle for about 12 years and he passed away and then I started my own shop across the street. 

AO: Who is your best customer?

LP: All of our customers, they’re all equal. We have a lot of vehicles that we do graphics for: 18 wheelers, boats, police graphics, the whole nine yards. Then we do billboards, banners, wraps. We wrap refrigerators, cars, trucks, floors, walls, whatever you want wrapped we can do it. There’s no one customer larger than the other. Even the small customers that come in, they’re potential large customers later on. 

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?

MY: The unpredictability, because when it first came out we didn’t know how busy we were going to be, if we were going to be able to support our employees. I take care of payroll. It was kind of scary. We didn’t know if we were going to get any help. We’re normally very scheduled-based in the business and telling our production team, hey, we don’t know what’s going to happen today. So, just getting all of our employees onboard and with unpredictability and not knowing how busy we’re going to be, not really having a schedule all the time like we’re used to. 

AO: What are one or two actions you have taken in your business and how is it working?

LP: Well, we’ve been cutting back on our overhead expenses and we’re cautious about our spending so that way we can maintain that payroll. It’s been beneficial and helps us create more of a profit for the business and continue paying the employees. 

MY: That’s really helped. We’ve been cutting back on over ordering supplies. We’re ordering supplies per job rather than just going ahead and ordering and just having it on backorder. That’s an action we’ve been taking and it’s been working pretty effectively. 

AO: Have you ever done a business strategy session or a pivot strategy session?

LP: Well, Meagan and my wife are the ones that do all the strategizing and a lot of stuff that they’ve done, they pretty much tripled our social media. That has helped quite a bit. My wife goes to a bunch of business meetings and that’s helped also. 

MY: Larry is very much the creative artist, so he is great at showing his art team that works with him. I would say my mom and I are more of the business side. We’re more of the number crunchers. We had to strategize a lot, and who would’ve thought that a pandemic would happen. 2020 was supposed to be the best year, you know? It’s been a little bit of a challenge, but I think it’s made us stronger and better as a company. 

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other business owners learn from your experience?

LP: Well, I think that all of that is true because I remember when I worked for my uncle I learned more from him by the mistakes that he made. He taught me a lot of the sign business, you know, the creativity and how to make signs, but he didn’t teach me anything in the business end of it. He wasn’t really a businessman. Him conducting his business, I saw a lot of problems and a lot of mistakes and I learned from those. When Meg and Denise came in, they took over that part. Really, I’m more of a creative artist and I needed somebody that could help me in the business end, you know, payroll, take care of business decisions, and basically how to spend that money. We all make mistakes and we’re still learning all the time. So, what I will tell people now is get some experience, take some classes, find a mentor, because you will go a lot further. 

MY: I would have to say investing in good employees. It’s hard to find people with the craftsmanship and the work ethic and things that we stand for as a company. Our team now, we love them and they’re great, but it took a few trial and errors to get the team that we have now. So, that’s been a little bit of an obstacle, finding those niche people and investing in them. 

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?

MY: The way our business is growing and how we’re growing as a team. I look up to all of my team members and they inspire me to be a better person and a better business woman every day. Our customers, the fact that they’ve been with us through these ups and downs. And, 2021, I can’t wait for that. 

LP: My daughter. She pushes me and she opens eyes and makes me see what I’m doing all this for. I’ve been doing this for so long, 47 years, and sometimes I’m ready to call it quits and she comes up with some new idea that really inspires me to keep going. So, I still wake up every morning wanting to do what I do. That’s one of the main things. The other one is our customers coming in and saying how much they heard about what we do over here and how good we are, how long our signs last, that type of stuff. We always like to give our customers 110%. 

OFFER: 15% off vehicle graphics and vehicle wraps. 

How To Reach Us:

Larry Perez

[email protected] 

Meagan York

[email protected]

Perez Signs and Graphix

512-255-7058


Don Weckler, Starlite Vapor LLC  

AO: Tell me about your business.  

DW: After 21 years in corporate America, and I got laid off, and with my severance package we started Starlite Vapor LLC July 11, 2013. We are a family-owned and advocacy-driven business selling vapor products to people wanting to kick the habit of smoking combustible tobacco that kills 1,300 Americans daily.  

AO: Where are you located in Williamson County?  

DW: 14745 West Highway 29 Ste. C Liberty Hill TX. (Must be 21 to enter)  

AO: Who is your best customer?  

DW: Typically, anybody who has been smoking cigarettes for years looking for a better lifestyle. The electronic cigarette market has greatly increased in the last decade. Our best customers are the people who realize there is a better, cleaner, and at least 95% safer alternative to combustible tobacco. The people that say “I have tried all of the recommended ways to stop smoking and nothing works please tell me about vapor products.”  

AO: What has been the greatest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?  

DW: Probably the greatest impact would be watching all the stores and businesses having to shut their doors due to the outbreak. Luckily, my son Jordon and I read through Governor Abbott’s stay home orders and really tried to look at who can stay open. We said, “According to the FDA we sell tobacco products and all convenience stores sell tobacco products.” We were able to stay open because we changed our business model and offered PPE, hand sanitizer and household products to our customers. We were probably one of the places that actually stayed open after COVID hit. We have a number of customers who are in the law enforcement agencies, including a Texas Ranger. The couple of weeks when everything was closed he came in, strange look on his face, like, “How are you guys open when other places are closed?” He looked over at our wall where we have all our  PPE and everything and he looked at us and gave us a thumbs up. He’s like, “You guys got it going on.”  

AO: You took action by changing your model. How did that make a difference?  

DW: By staying open we were able to help the surrounding areas where people would come in from Marble  Falls, from Fort Hood area [asking], “You’re the only vape shop open in the area, how are you doing this?” We’re like, “Do you need a mask? Do you need hand sanitizer? Do you need toilet paper?” We just gave everything to the people, pennies over cost, not looking at making any money on any of that.  

AO: Are there any other actions you took?  

DW: We follow the CDC’s and State’s recommendations to maintain social distancing, and use disinfectant cleaning to have a safe environment for our customers.  

AO: Have you ever had a pivot or business strategy session in your business?  

DW: Just a little bit from what we do here in the shop itself. My son is a classically trained chef with years of management in the restaurant industry, and with my experience in corporate America manufacturing we feel our business strategy is sound. We have been members of SFATA Smoke Free Trade Association for years. We’ve had the opportunity to go down to the State capital and fight for vapor rights. So, we’re doing pretty well on that side.  

AO: What mistakes did you make along the way, and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?  

DW: Probably just to be flexible and don’t hesitate to adapt your business model. The vapor industry has always had a big target on its back from Big Pharma, Big Tobacco. They don’t want us to succeed. One of the most important things we have learned is the lengths our government and state agencies will go to because they are losing Tobacco MSA money. It’s not about the people’s health, they see only dollar signs.  

AO: What is most inspiring to you today?  

DW: The most inspiring thing is when we have new customers walk in the shop thanking us for helping them on their journey to a better, cleaner lifestyle free from smoking. What the vapor industry has done and continues to do in the fight for people’s health and rights while being targeted by the FDA, CDC, Tobacco, Pharma and other  groups. When COVID-19 hit, hundreds of e-liquid manufactures stopped production lines to make hand sanitizer and in many cases delivered it to front line responders at no cost.  

OFFER: 10% discount to new customers as well as all military, first responders, and NRA members. Loyal  Customers (aka “Frequent Flyers”) always receive 10% off in the shop.  

How To Reach Us:  

Don & Jordan Weckler 

Starlite Vapor LLC  

512-778-6222  

14745 West Highway 29 Ste. C  

Liberty Hill TX 78642-4393  

[email protected] 

https://www.starlitevapor.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/StarliteVapor/ 

 “If yer smokin’, you’d best be on fire.” 

Industry Advocacy:  

CASAA Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association http://www.casaa.org/ 

SFATA Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association https://www.sfata.org/

VTA Vapor Technology Association https://vaportechnology.org/ 

AVA American Vaping Association https://vaping.org/


MasterCOACH Andy O’Brien wants to interview you! If you’d like your business to be featured in one of our upcoming “Business Owners Speak Out” interview series, please submit an interview request HERE and a member of our team will contact you to schedule your interview.


SIGN UP for our “In 2 Action Newsletter” to see more interviews, receive valuable business resources, and be eligible for exclusive offers from ActionCOACH WilCo!