As part of an industry still in its infancy, the folks at NextLED Signs believe steady, controlled growth is the key to profitability.
That means distributing digital display signs through dealers already established around the Midwest and not jumping into new ventures before they’re ready.
“It’s too big of a market for us” to attack alone, said Luke Luttrell, the company’s chief operating officer.
“We’re working with dealer partners who have strong relationships in their communities. There’s no way for us to reach the center of Missouri – say, Sedalia – without the help of a local dealer.”
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NextLED currently works with 30 dealers, mostly in the Midwest but spread from Chicago to San Antonio. In Wichita, where the company assembles its signs, Luttrell distributes through three sign companies: Ron’s Sign Co., Nu-Line Signs and Miracle Signs. Luttrell estimates that NextLED signs make up about 20 percent of the local market.
The signs are mostly owned by restaurants, banks, hospitals, churches and other entities. The company also has produced 18 digital billboards in use in the Wichita area.
Luttrell said NextLED was started in 2011 by Pixius Communications CEO Jay Maxwell and other investors. He and sales director Brett Wright were the “first ones in the door. We’ve built the company along with the support of the partners who are involved.”
Luttrell is a former general manager and vice president of Miracle Signs, while Wright sold advertising for a television station and newspaper.
The first LED sign was installed in Wichita about a decade ago, Luttrell said.
“With my engineering background, I pretty much learned everything about the product. The opportunity came up to start a new company to wholesale and distribute this type of product. Essentially I’m now selling to dealers like Miracle Signs across the country.”
Currently, NextLED employs 10 people, including a sales staff of five, a graphic designer, an engineer and technicians. It leases office space in the Pixius Communications building on North St. Francis as well as warehouse space for assembling the signs.
Most of the electrical components that go into the signs are made in China, while design and final assembly is done here. Dealers sell and install the signs, but NextLED provides help with marketing and after-sale service.
“We will do software training and content creation and direct support” for customers, Luttrell said.
Wright said the company emphasizes a couple of selling points for LED signs, which start at about $25,000. One advantage, Wright said, is that clients have more control in getting their message to potential customers. And although the outlet is stationary, Wright said, research shows that many types of businesses get most of their sales from residents who live within a few miles.
Potential Wichita-area customers can see eight of the signs in action in the company’s showroom in the Pixius building. Different types of customers require different sizes and quality of image resolution, Wright said.
One line of business that NextLED would like to see grow is for sporting and entertainment venues. The company has installed LED signs for a racetrack in Iowa and recently completed a deal with Pittsburg State to install a 16-by-29-foot digital display screen in the school’s new sports arena.
With that type of screen, Luttrell said, “We have to be able to supply live video, live stats and scores, advertisements and all sorts of special things. There’s a very high-end integration that goes along with that. It took awhile to feel comfortable selling it.”
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Address: 301 N. St. Francis