TradeWraps: Chrome, Colors, & Touch-Ups

On page 48 of the April 2013 issue of Sign Builder Illustrated, (“Wrapping for a Trade”), we profiled TradeWraps™, a 3M™ Certified™ company in Manassas, Virginia, particularly their vehicle graphics and vinyl customization work in the HVAC industies. But they’re more than just that.

TradeWraps has been using a lot of solid-color 3M 1080 Wrap Series vinyls these days thanks to an increase in color change-out requests for personal vehicles. Recently they wrapped a Mercedes-Benz in Matte White and a Mustang in Matte Black. “Those type of projects really appeal to the masses who aren’t in the commercial industry,” says General Manager Brad Rapone, noting they earn their fair share of “likes” for these projects on their Facebook page. “We keep all the 1080 Wrap colors in stock because customers really just like to see them.”

The company is also very excited about the new 3M™ Chrome Wrap film material. Although this film is going to be more in demand for personal vehicles, Rapone has noticed one commercial industry that’s pretty receptive to these graphics—bail bondsmen! That’s right, Colt Seavers to your wrapping rescue! (Note: Kids, ask your parents.) “These guys want to be noticed when they’re parked outside the jails,” he says, “and they’re definitely going to get noticed when their name and phone number stands out in chrome.”

Being located near the Metro D.C. area also means that a lot of TradeWraps’ clients will most likely find themselves getting dinged, nicked, or even totaled. (Hey, no one said D.C. traffic was easy!) So it should come as no surprise that the company also finds itself repairing vehicle wraps every once in a while. For other shops looking to travel down this road, it might be best to follow the Boy Scouts’™ motto: “Be prepared.”

“This is why you need to have consistent color quality with your printers,” stresses Rapone. “If you customer comes back to you to repair a fender or a panel on the vehicle, you have to be able to match the color.”

Rapone also points out that the 3M overlaminate is very good at repelling dirt, bugs, and other debris. “Some people like to wax their cars, and I tell them that if they want the wrap to shine a little bit more, just spray some Windex® on it and this will gloss it right back up,” he says.

As you read in our feature, Rapone surrounds himself with a very talented staff. Yet he also believes that working on the job is one of the best ways to learn, so he always keeps three design interns from area community colleges onboard as well.

“Everybody needs experience, and with markets that are flooded like the design industry,” he explains, “they need to get their hands on anything they can. Besides these students have fresh ideas worth considering.” (Note: Rapone also serves on the Northern Virginia Board of Professional Graphic Designers and grades students’ portfolios and gives advice as to why we would or would not hire them.)

Rapone notices that many of his interns are only taught print media skills and not specialty mediums like vehicle wraps. “Yet they really get a sense of pride some seeing the customer love a design they’ve created and then seeing our installers put it onto a vehicle,” he says. “This brings them knowledge that there are jobs in this industry that they haven’t thought about.”

Rapone also lets the interns work with the customers a bit so they’ll get experience with customer interaction, but he does explain to these customers ahead of time, that they’re going to be dealing with an intern. “We charge a flat fee, not by the hour, for our design work. I don’t want customers to think we’re going to try and profit from free labor,” he says.

As an added bonus, Rapone notes that his internship program has led to customers being attracted to select TradeWraps because of this (admiring the company’s effort at “giving back to the community”).


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