Walton Laser Graphics: Whimsical Wishes for Workers

When CEOs and managers send Christmas cards to customers, they usually select artwork with cozy candlelit cottages in snow-filled valleys, embellished evergreens surrounded by toys and gifts, or for the faithful, they perhaps send a nativity scene or religious symbol. Business owners in the construction equipment industry, however, have another resource—Idaho artist and Christmas card designer, Cindi Walton, of Walton Laser Graphics.

Walton packs a sleigh-full of holiday hilarity in her customers’ “Ho, Ho, Hos” and draws both human and animal characters for her whimsical cards. “My cards depict workers on the job, dressed in holiday garb installing, or pumping out porta-potties, using cranes, dozers and forklifts, sweepers, pavers, dump trucks, tow trucks and fuel delivery trucks, as well as concrete and other building equipment,” she says, “I also include a line of cards for companies offering janitorial services, rental equipment, temporary services and sales of canoes, kayaks and rafts.”

Kringle’s Jingles
Long-time customer, Jeffrey Cameron, of Johnson Environmental Services in Florida says, “Walton’s cards are unique and great for our industry. There is nothing else quite like them in the market as they are the perfect combination of holiday spirit and humor.” The third-generation, family-owned portable toilet and septic company has been a loyal Walton Laser Graphics customer since 1999—the first year the card company offered designs for the portable restroom industry.

As a design permits, Walton will inscribe the company name on that particular piece of equipment. Customers have the option of using one of Walton Laser Graphics’ greetings, or one of their own. The artist also offers a line of jumbo postcards for select equipment categories, as well as a line of T-shirts with a company’s logo or one of Walton’s designs. As a bonus, customers get a free sample T-shirt along with complimentary Tootsie Rolls with their orders.

The St. Nick Niche
Walton’s journey toward finding her humorous niche in the world of greeting cards began 19 years ago. “I learned how to use a Macintosh computer when I was a secretary, and became interested in graphic design. In 1990, after a stint as a real estate agent in California, I came up with the idea of creating a line of Christmas cards,” Walton says. “My husband, Lee, wanted to sell his building equipment company and retire, so he gave me his mailing list.” She had tried designing and selling holiday cards to her real estate network, but only got a few orders. Then, she and her husband made a friendly wager in 1991. “He bet that if I targeted his industry with humorous illustrations and messages, I would get a better response,” she explains, “I did, and Lee won the wager in 1992.” In just three years, her cards were selling nationwide.

The Waltons moved back to Boise, Idaho in 1995, to be closer to their aging parents. “I took my first art class there at the age of 30, and after 15 years of trying to fit classes into my family and business life, I finally graduated from Boise State in 2002 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree,” says Walton. “Because my business is seasonal, peaking between September and mid-December, I was able to make time to attend the university to hone my drawing skills during my slow sales period.”

MAC-Made Merry
In the formative days of her endeavor, Walton explains, “I designed the cards on my Macintosh computer, and we printed them one at a time in my home studio on my laser printer.” As orders increased, Walton’s husband made plates from her designs, and they bought their own offset printing press. Walton briefly outsourced some of the design work to freelance artists, and employed another artist to help with the mass printing work, but for the most part, it has been just the couple working together to grow the business.

Walton adds, “Today’s art and publishing technology allows me to make my sketches, scan them into the computer, and then re-draw and paint them in Photoshop—a very different scenario from the days of painting with acrylics and watercolor on canvas and paper. We need to keep less inventory now since we print just what is ordered on our Toshiba color laser printer.”

The card company’s marketing consists solely of mailing brochures and generating orders from the company website. “We’ve had good luck with our brochures over the years, mailing 200,000 yearly between 1999 and 2003. Now, the Internet is the main source of ordering and an increasingly vital component of our sales effort as we learn more and more about which key marketing terms will optimize our online presence,” says Walton.

Customer-Centered Cheer
Regarding future plans for Walton Laser Graphics and the effect of current economic challenges in the construction-related industries, Walton notes, “We took orders for 78,000 cards in 2010, and have seen about a 50% reduction in orders. But, in 2005-06, we purposely started to scale back to allow Lee to retire from his second career, and give me more free time, too.” Walton handles almost all of the business herself now, except for the holiday crunch when her husband helps with packing and shipping.
Walton has always embraced a business philosophy that she says is relationship-based. “Lee and I decided from the very beginning that not only would we work hard to give our customers a quality product with great service, but would always give them even more.”

Rose Crawford, of Crawford’s Septic Service in Pennsylvania, and a Christmas card customer for almost a decade, is happy to testify to the company’s high standards and customer-centered practices by saying, “Let me tell you, this company has spoiled us. The cards are so comical, we can’t wait to see the new ones each year, and our customers look forward to them, as well. Plus, we get T-shirts and Tootsie Rolls—so what’s not to love about a Walton-inspired Merry Christmas?”

For more information about Walton Laser Graphics, log on to www.waltonlasergraphics.com,
or call 1-800-700-0532.

Story by Daurelle Golden Harris

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