Red Tail Wraps makes vehicles (and more) into pieces of art.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Logan Nelson, 36, transforms the every day into moving artwork at Red Tail Wraps. Sometimes he’s designing and affixing business information to the sides of vans and trucks; other times he’s completely changing the color of a car, from bumper to bumper. The possibilities are endless, he says, with the use of vinyl wraps. “You can wrap anything — a wall, or cabinets to make them look exactly like wood or brick, for instance. Wrapping isn’t just for vehicles.”
Nelson graduated in 2003 from Madison College with a degree in graphic design and worked for a couple of area sign shops before deciding to venture out on his own. He launched Red Tail Wraps in August 2014 with his own savings — no banks, no loans — and just renewed a three-year lease at his current location. Feeling comfortably secure, he’s now adding a small kitchen area to his office space.
As for the business name: “I just have an affinity with red tail hawks,” Nelson explains. “Whenever I see or hear a hawk, I know things are good and I’m on the right track. Nothing really messes with a hawk.”
He credits much of his success to a business mentor and advisor, Bob Morris. “Bob was my friend’s dad and the information he provided was priceless.”
Unfortunately, just a few weeks before Red Tail Wraps opened, Morris passed away. “I can’t thank him enough,” Nelson says. Morris’ business card still has a prominent position on a bulletin board behind Nelson’s desk, and on the first day of each month, Nelson sends Morris an email to let him know how he’s doing. “Obviously it gets bounced back, but it’s just something I have to do,” he says, in reverence.
Vehicles encompass most of the company’s work, from graphic design to print to installation. He’ll add logos to business vehicles or sporty decals and decorations to personal vehicles. Recently, he’s seen an uptick in requests for complete color changes for cars and even food carts, using vinyl.
“There’s a saying in the wrap industry that paint is dead,” Nelson notes. “That’s because there are so many different vinyls now. If you can’t find a vinyl you like, you probably won’t find a paint you like.”
In a storage room there are dozens of 60-inch-wide rolls of vinyl, from white and solid-colors to various shades of chrome; simulated carbon fiber vinyl, which offers a textured look and feel; and iridescent vinyl that changes colors in the light. “If you see some unusual colors coming down the Beltline, chances are it’s vinyl,” Nelson smiles.
The industry, he notes, even makes a suede vinyl to make a vehicle look and feel like suede leather. And while vinyl does not attach well to rust, Nelson says a growing trend is covering a perfectly good car with a vinyl designed to resemble a rust bucket — in a colorful way, of course.
Wrapping takes a lot of heat and a huge amount of patience, yet protects the paint underneath. The heat makes the vinyl pliable so it can be affixed without wrinkles. It can similarly be removed later, with heat. Depending upon the installation, a vinyl vehicle wrap can last for years, Nelson explains, even through extreme weather.
Red Tail Wraps has created vinyl graphics for Fresh Madison Market downtown, and lined a football hallway inside Camp Randall Stadium. Thus far, Nelson’s done most of the work himself, with the help of a sub-contracted installer.
With the business making money, Nelson hopes to hire a couple of people soon. He owes a lot of that to the business planning he did early on with Morris, which he says prepared him for the roller coaster of business ownership, and he still learns something new every day.
“Think positive thoughts and positive things will result,” he advises. “Owning a business is nonstop. There’s competition everywhere, but there’s plenty of business to go around.”
Red Tail Wraps
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