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Signs & Labels Hereford

Family-run Signs & Labels Hereford started its life 20 years ago from the cellar of a house. Carys Evans talks all things business, growth and family with Laura Hughes, director of the firm

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(L to R) John, Laura, and Ross Hughes - the father, son and daughter trio head the company

From basement to booming

Signs & Labels Hereford began its life in the cellar of John Hughes’ home 20 years ago. For a while, John operated as a one-man-band, calling on help when needed and working to steadily grow a loyal customer base.

Later on John roped in the help of daughter and son Ross and Laura Hughes and the business became a family-headed operation which works hard to provide “the very best in signage”.

Laura Hughes, director of the firm, describes herself as adding a little bit of extra creativity and calm in the office. She describes how John and Ross are easily confused: “They sound the same, fit into the same boiler suit and have the same attitude to getting the job done.”

Five years ago, after 15 years of growing the business, John moved the business into its first unit. Over the last two years, the firm has taken on another adjoining unit which has doubled the space at 4,500sq ft. This has opened up room for more printers, cutters and equipment.

From this space, the firm currently offers a wide range of internal, external, large-format, and bespoke signage, as well as vehicle graphics, direct print and CNC cutting. The various roles are split between the seven-strong team, but operations are very much a team effort. Laura explains: “We all have set roles within the business and ‘specialise’ in these areas. Having said that, it’s often that we all just muck in on a project.”

Growing pains

Despite keeping a lot of the same customers from the early days, Laura explains how the company has changed a lot over the last two years in particular.

She says: “We have evolved a lot. We now have a great team along with a good range of machinery which allows us to produce and manufacture 90% in-house.”

This evolution has been a learning curve as the company has reached out to new sectors and employed new staff members.

“We ourselves have evolved as well, taking on new staff requires new skills we didn’t realise we needed, managing bigger expenses and trying to come up with ways to be continually creative,” Laura adds.

With customers ranging from colleges, NHS, manufacturing companies to the one-man-band plumber and electricians, the day-to-day running of business varies greatly.

Laura explains: “One day all the guys are out on a sign installation and the next day it’s all hands-on deck in the workshop. This is one of the things we absolutely love about our trade.”

One day all the guys are out on a sign installation and the next day it’s all hands-on deck in the workshop. This is one of the things we absolutely love about our trade


A family affair

For many families, the thought of working together conjures up images of fallouts, clashes and unproductivity. But for Signs & Labels Hereford, the family trio dynamic works just fine.

Despite having different personal goals, Laura explains that with a shared view of where they want the business to go and what is needed to do this, business runs smoothly.

The firm offers vehicle wrapping services, such as this job completed for The Beefy Boys


She says: “John, our dad will admit that when he started – and still now –  he isn’t a very good businessman. He just wants to crack on and make signs which is what he’s good at.

“He is keen that Ross and I learn from his mistakes and encourages us to think for ourselves and learn. We are really lucky that dad lets us essentially do what we like and he is just as excited and passionate about growing as we are – 20 years on. We feel that we have a good balance with our personalities and feel that being a family business and having each other to bounce off gives us an advantage.”

Plans for the future

Looking to the future, the company plans to relocate to Rotherwas, the ‘business centre’ of Hereford where a lot of its clients are based. This will also allow it to improve efficiencies and get the most out of the workspace – something the team finds tricky to do at its current location.

The company’s Mimaki JFX-200 flatbed printer


Signs & Labels Hereford has had its CNC router for the last 12 months and uses it every day. Laura Explains that the firm also wants to explore what other product areas it can enter and be more creative with the machine’s capabilities.

Reflecting on what it’s taken to get to where they are now, Laura says the biggest challenge has been the ‘daily hamster wheel’ of running a business. “We are always working so hard trying to keep the wheel spinning and putting our focus on the work in hand – it’s sometimes hard to take a step back and work on our own business.
“Our ethos is simple and that is to stay true to ourselves and to carry on doing work that we care about and ultimately want to do. We believe in ‘gut-feeling’ and whether it’s right or wrong that’s what you should follow,” Laura says, adding: “I think we need to sometimes stop and smell the roses for a moment and be proud of our achievements rather than analysing and criticising everything that could be better.”


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