Caitlin Esquibel, Signs by Caitlin

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Caitlin Esquibel, CEO, Signs by Caitlin.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Entrepreneurship is relentless. It is a constant challenge to keep looking forward, change your approach, learn from mistakes, and not settle after successes. The most challenging aspect is keeping your energy up to keep pushing forward.

All of this effort has its rewards. I’m so proud that we’ve built something that gives people a creative outlet. With Signs by Caitlin having done well over a 1,000 workshops, it is still so gratifying to see people’s reactions when they see what they’ve made. It never gets old.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

When deciding to go all in on Signs by Caitlin, I immediately reached out to my father for guidance. He was an entrepreneur himself and knows the terror that comes along with the decision to go it alone. He told me you have to take chances and that it is OK to bet on yourself. I remind myself of his message every day. If I control what I can control and trust in my ability, the rest will take care of itself. No one exemplified this ability more than my father. Even after the early success Signs by Caitlin has seen, I wake up every day wondering if it will all be over tomorrow. I take a personal inventory, gather myself, and move forward on my father’s advice. Thank you, Dad!

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The first week of December 2018, I had a moment of awareness. It was the busiest week of our year and we were operating at capacity. Looking around, I saw our two full-time employees, five part-time employees, and my husband all hustling to support our workshops for the week. It was the most stressful week of our year and everyone had smiles on their faces. The moment wasn’t filled with tension and anxiety. Instead, there was laughter and purpose. Realizing that we had created such a positive force is up there among high points in my career.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Stop talking — do. Twenty-one-year-old me was filled with “shoulds” and “coulds.” Starting a business, or accomplishing any goal, is really just a matter of continuously identifying the next small step and taking it. A few thousand small steps later, you have a growing business. I would love to go back and convince 21-year-old me to change “should” to “will.”

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What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I’ve been fortunate to call Dane County my home for the majority or my adult life. It’s where I landed after college, met my husband, started our family, and have grown a business. The schools, the parks, entertainment, and fabulous restaurants are all so great. It is the perfect place for us to raise our family. As far as working here, the strong support for new businesses and entrepreneurs is truly a blessing. I love that Dane County takes care of its own!

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I played collegiate volleyball. I played competitively for most of my life, which included qualifying for and playing in the National Junior Olympics two years in a row. Most people wouldn’t know since I really haven’t touched a volleyball in years; however, the drive for excellence and spirit of competition is as strong as ever.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Off the record? I’m a sucker for Real Housewives and Live PD or anything crime related. There have been many nights of business operating that consisted of me, my laptop, and the Bravo channel.

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