Custom vehicle emblems
Some folks bestow their vehicles with nicknames. And if a person wants to go even further and let the whole world know that -- by way of example -- "Anna" is the moniker of their automobile, Bowser is there to help with EmblemArt. He can produce an adhesive stick-on emblem adorned with chrome-style lettering saying just that. "We get a lot of car name emblems," he says. Someone else may want a tribute to the person who worked with them on an automotive project, perhaps a late friend or relative -- say, "Uncle Jimmy."
Or it could be a customer in New Mexico who wants "Albuquerque Edition" in gold-tinted lettering. "A lot of people take pride in their city," he notes regarding some of his customers' requests. His products have adorned everything from a Ford Focus cruising down a highway to a 1950s hot rod at a drag racing strip. "We have a couple of supercar manufacturers that use us," he notes, as well.
And it's not just cars. It might be an emblem for a toolbox or a computer case. Or an emblem for the inside of a cabinetmaker's creation. Or for the exterior of musical amplifiers. He describes customers as being "pretty much anybody that wants to do any kind of branding at all."
One thing Bowser can't do is reproduce something that's copyrighted or trademarked by another party -- that is, "unless we have a specific and explicit permission from the IP holder, that intellectual property holder," he says. "It's the hardest concept to explain to people." So, in general, no sports team names or existing car brands are allowed.
A potential customer of Bowser's can submit a design they've created as, for instance, a CAD file and he'll use it to produce anywhere from a single emblem to a couple hundred or so. For additional design fees, Bowser can even bring to life, say, a logo that's been sketched onto a napkin.
At his facility in Orem, Bowser uses CNC milling equipment and lasers. As one example, he can etch and cut out acrylic pieces, and then do chrome-like nickel plating on them. For orders larger than 300 pieces, Bowser works with a manufacturing partner in Canada, already known for its work with authorized resellers of car emblems for major automobile brands. They'll do injection molding and then utilize a "three-step chroming process -- so it is actual chrome that's on them," adding more colors than Bowser can do in his own shop. "We meet or exceed the standards set by the Daimler Group," Bowser says of that specific work.
A friend of Bowser's in Hawaii started EmblemArt as a hobby in 2000. "He just got too busy for it, but he didn't want his website to die," says Bowser, who has a degree in two-dimensional art. So Bowser helped out, taking on all the production tasks, as well as designing a new web site. When EmblemArt jumped within Google searches from around page 10 to page three, and income had increased from around $300 to $1,000 per month, Bowser purchased the company in 2010. "At which point, I actually moved it from Hawaii to Utah, because Hawaii is so far away from being able to go to trade shows and stuff like that," he adds.
Today, the company has annual sales between $120,000 to $200,000. "We have a lot of clients in Canada, we have a bunch of them in Australia," says Bowser. "Occasionally, we get clients from the UK." Customers have even come from as far away as Africa and Asia.
For gearheads who personalize their cars to outrageous extents, they'll often want onlookers to know how their vehicle stands out, how it's ultimately their own work under the hood. Ordering their own emblem "just kind of changes their entire outlook on it -- it becomes 'theirs' all of a sudden."
Bowser says, "We're disrupting what people thought was possible. And we constantly get emails that are, like, 'I never knew that this could be a possibility, I'm so excited.' And then when they get [the emblem], their dream has come true."
Challenges: Competition from vendors of cheaper, lower-quality work on Etsy, who don't "offer any support when stuff goes haywire." On the other hand, Bowser says, "We guarantee our products. We don't have a written guarantee, but we've never had any issue. When people come to us with issues, we fix it."
Opportunities: It's not just the growth making emblems which the company has already become known for, it's also using its existing machinery to do additional types of work. For instance, Bower has a new company division which does custom engraving on things like glass tumblers and bottles, or keychains and dog tags. Bowser calls the service "a hot thing right now" -- especially with existing clients. When he provides a customer with a complimentary engraved tumbler at the holidays, "they might order a few thousand of them," he's discovered.
Needs: A better overall national economy. Bowser says, "The real joy comes in helping the individual. And their money is tight. Our money is tight. But everybody has to make a dollar to be able to eat, right? And the economy the last couple of years has been a killer. Discretionary funds among a lot of individuals have drastically gone down."