Career, Entrepreneurs — May 12, 2011 6:18 am

Entrepreneur: The King of Spin

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The co-founder and CEO of AArrow Advertising has turned sign spinning into an urban phenomenon–and a multimillion-dollar business, too.

A sign spinner on the job in Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Sam Spencer

Max Durovic is, in many ways, like Mark Zuckerberg, the famous founder of Facebook. Both went to prestigious colleges: Durovic attended Georgetown while Zuckerberg hatched his great schemes while at Harvard. Both started businesses with help from their friends. And both eventually built nationwide companies while they were still in college. The difference between the two? Zuckerberg built his social-media empire using computer technology, while Dukovic built his multimillion-dollar business using nothing but cardboard signs.

Durovic likes to say he “spininvented” sign spinning. As CEO of AArrow Advertising (www.aarrowads.com), a guerilla advertising company that uses six-foot long signs to advertise different companies, he is, undoubtedly, an innovator. In the hands of trained sign spinners, these otherwise ordinary cardboard signs have become the newest urban fad in advertising. Sign spinners dance around and perform maneuvers with such names as “the wheel of fortune” and “the decapitator,” promoting a company’s name or logo as it’s flipped and spun through the air. A sign spinner’s job is to attract attention on street corners and near busy shopping centers, inspiring passers-by to take notice of the client company’s advertising.

In summer 1999 Durovic, still in high school at the time, decided to get a summer job as a sign holder. To combat the extreme boredom that comes with standing on a humid street corner for hours at a time, Durovic and his co-workers began dancing and throwing the signs in the air, competing with each other to see who could do the best moves. “We started doing tricks with the signs, and our bosses didn’t appreciate it and told us don’t spin them,” he says. “’You have to hold still so people can read it and see what it says,’ they would say.”

But Durovic and his friends ignored that advice and decided they would develop a concept for their own business. In 2002 they invested a modest $500, bought a printer, made business cards in the shape of arrows and started advertising their company, AArrow Advertising. “That whole first summer we didn’t get any clients,” Durovic recalls. “But at the very end of the summer, we got lucky and picked up a client. They had a couple locations in San Diego and a couple locations in D.C. where I was going to school. So we began servicing all their locations and it was just, like, overnight we were a nationwide company.”

At the time, Durovic’s company had about 10 to 15 employees. As more and more potential clients saw Aarrow workers spinning signs, they flocked to the company. In 2005, after Durovic and his business partner, Mike Kenny, graduated from college, they sat down and talked about ways to expand their company even more. “We started close to home,” Durovic says. “Then we expanded to Los Angeles, then Las Vegas.” Soon the company had clients in Washington D.C.; Raleigh, N. Carolina; Northern Florida; and all over California. Four years after its launch, AArrow Advertising was a nationwide company.

Franchising came next. One to two owners per city are now responsible for recruiting and training new sign spinners, which involves organizing weekly practices for the employees, supervising them when they are commissioned for an event and striving to get more young people on-board with the program.

Sign spinners work on busy corners, hoping to attract attention. Photo Credit: Sam Spencer

The final step was to go global. A professor at a university in Seoul, Korea, stumbled across a Businessweek article about AArrow Advertising and decided to make a class project requiring his students to develop a business plan that would bring good companies into the Korean market. Around the same time, Durovic and Kenny were looking to break into the international market; when the professor contacted them, AArrow Korea was born—despite the fact that there was a recession going on.

Now with offices in 35 cities and nearly 1,500 employees nationwide, AArrow Advertising and its guerilla advertising style are more than just a flash-in-the-pan startup idea. Now, in fact, they’re everywhere. “[We had] about 75 sign spinners in a Ford Fiesta commercial,” Durovic says. “And we did a promo for ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ We did a bunch of music videos. We did the 311 video, ‘Hey You’ and the Ting Tings’ video, ‘That’s Not my Name.’ Snoop Dog uses us when he drops new albums.”

These days, all kinds of businesses have called on Durovic’s company for advertising assistance, ranging from homebuilders and apartment complexes to mobile wireless companies, such as Verizon and Sprint, to the Super Bowl.

Durovic says he wants to continue growing the company and hopes to expand to 100 U.S. cities and 20 more countries around the globe. He also wants to stay committed to helping more young people get involved with his company and inspire them to become young entrepreneurs themselves. “They learn so much [here],” Durovic says. “They get to work on a campaign, so they get paid. They get to experience new cultures, new foods. And it works great over summer since most of our employees are students. It’s awesome.”

As for why he thinks the company has been so successful, Durovic proudly responds, “A sign spinner can do what no other type of advertising can do: turn that intersection into their stage.” 

 

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