‘Greeting Card for the Neighborhood’
Friends and entrepreneurs Stacie Francombe and Ivonne Simon respond to COVID-19 by helping people celebrate special occasions and creating jobs for others.
Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.
The colorful yard sign company, Sign Greeters, headquartered in Atlanta, is quickly spreading cheer throughout the United States. Co-founded by Stacie Francombe in Atlanta and Ivonne Simon, in Coral Springs, Fla., the joint venture was a natural collaboration for the two women who met in 1992 as sorority sisters at The Ohio State University. Now 28 years later, Francombe’s marketing experience and deep involvement in the Jewish community, including managing the 2019 JCC Maccabi in Atlanta, and Simon’s financial background and recruiting skills, form a successful team. Their yard greeting sign company has rapidly expanded, with 41 licensees in 11 states. Amazingly, COVID-19 was their business catalyst. When Francombe lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic, her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.
Francombe, Sign Greeters CEO and co-founder, explained, “We saw that there was a demand for service that offers a unique way to celebrate when people are feeling anxious or uneasy. During this pandemic, we knew families were looking for new ways to celebrate birthdays and special occasions.”
Simon, Sign Greeter president and co-founder, added, “We also wanted to help people looking for a new source of income after losing jobs. They are now regional licensees of a company that is both meaningful and profitable. It started with people we knew, but then others approached us. Some have been in corporate America and were looking for something that is new and exciting.”
Sign Greeters provides inventory, marketing materials, training and social media support for licensees across the country. Licensees include wedding planners and photographers who found themselves out of work during the pandemic. It was a natural fit for them, allowing them to continue helping customers celebrate joyful events. The yard greeting signs are something everyone enjoys, not only the lucky recipient. For those who walk or drive by, good news is spread to include everyone in the celebration. The yard signage, with balloons, flowers, hearts and stars, lets the whole neighborhood join in a family’s simcha.
Francombe described the yard signs as “greeting cards for the neighborhood.” She said, “Our goal is simple: make people happy,” offering a few examples of memorable signs her company provided.
A young man rented a “Happy Birthday” sign for his girlfriend’s Labrador Retriever.
A grandmother rented a sign welcoming her granddaughter home after a long hospitalization for a serious accident.
And a sign celebrating a teen’s completion of cancer treatment proclaimed, “Hip, Hip, Hooray, Chemo Ends Today!”
Sign Greeters customizes and installs catchy displays ranging from celebrating graduations to promoting events at synagogues. The company has become a leading participant in drive-by celebrations, outdoor gatherings and Zoom parties, and photos of their work are ubiquitous in social media. Notably, the company specializes in surprises. The process of renting the company’s personalized signage includes assistance with selecting the right graphics, themes and color choices that fit each specific occasion, individual hobbies or special interests. Rental periods range from one day to much longer periods of time. The average rental is for two days, typically over the weekend, with a Friday drop-off and Sunday pickup.
Elisa Iteld Ellman, who found Sign Greeters through Jewish Moms of Atlanta, was so pleased working with Sign Greeters for her daughter Sarina’s fourth birthday, that she recently ordered a sign to congratulate her daughter’s “Morah” (teacher). “Sign Greeters made my daughter so happy! They did everything! It’s the best money I’ve spent in a long time.”