A $2 Million A Year Admobile Business
James Riseborough Story
Here's something that will catch your eye--a grown man driving a larger-than-life green turtle up the highway. The driver is James Riseborough, owner of Turtle Transit, which brought in $2 million last year by transforming ordinary cars and trucks into promotional vehicles.
Riseborough, is the talent behind a company that specializes in 3-dimensional graphics and mobile display. In short, they transform unassuming cars into eye-popping, sculpted advertisements.
"Anything you can imagine, we can build," says Riseborough. And he's not kidding. To date, the company has created a rhinoceros, a fleet of monster cars, and a mechanical chair-sized hand replete with gaudy fingernails for local rockers Aerosmith.
Only a year from its inception, Turtle Transit boasts a formidable client list that includes among others, Monster.com, Arnold Brand Promotions, Harley-Davidson Café and Stonyfield Farm. The company cleared $500,000 the first year and expects to triple that in the next three years.
"I never think of myself as an entrepreneur. That's more of those guys who drive into Boston and sit behind a desk and call the shots--the guys in three-piece suits," says Riseborough.
As an industry, outdoor advertising includes billboards, wrapped buses, taxi tops and other promotions in public spaces. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America estimates that it's a $4.8 billion industry and growing.
Riseborough pulled together a small-business plan and sought the advice of accountants. He came up with the name Turtle Transit because, "I wanted something with some playfulness--turtles are slow, they creep along and they have a big back for advertising,".
With his own funding and talents, he created marketing materials including "Cecil," their turtle car. Cecil is a Volkswagen Beetle refashioned, or morphed, as the Turtle Transit team would say, with layers of sculpted foam and fiberglass to create dimensional turtle-shell detailing. Add to that myriad green paints and a larger-than-life reptilian turtlehead poking out from the hood, and you've got turtle transportation.
With Cecil on the road, Turtle Transit is turning some heads. "To wrap the graphics is very safe, everyone is doing it. We wanted to take it to the next dimension. The turtles and the monsters are definitely catching people's eyes over any wraps," says Riseborough.
"There is risk in creating a monster or a turtle, but without risk there is no reward. You've got to stick your neck out sometimes."
For a full morph, the company estimates projects at approximately $20,000 to $30,000. That excludes the initial price of the car, which the client assumes. Smaller projects, such as adding a 3-dimensional element to a vehicle can be in the ballpark of $10,000 to $15,000.
That's not a lot of money when you consider the cost of traditional advertising, says Michelle Silk, account supervisor at Boston-based Arnold Brand Promotions. "With the state of the economy, budgets are slashed and people just don't have the money to spend on a 30-second commercial. We try to think of different ways to bring brand to the consumer," she says.
Together with Scott Betty, director of nontraditional marketing at Maynard-based Monster.com, they came up with the idea of a fleet of monster-morphed vehicles. "The program, for us, is a way to localize the brand and bring the brand to life."
The Monster cars are stationed across the country and tow interactive workstations with unique IP addresses. Monster.com can be virtually anywhere, including career fairs, public events and even in neighborhoods that happen to have high concentrations of health care workers, for example.
The program provides Monster with flexibility and something even more cherished by marketing executives and that's data. "We can track it from the broad stroke and look at overall account registrations and resumé posting monthly by markets we are present in. We can also go granular and look at specific events," explains Betty.
The cars themselves are real "head-turners" says Silk, who credits Turtle Transit with "A-plus quality." "These guys don't know how to say `no,' " she adds.
Turtle Transit attributes its success to hard work and an intense commitment to quality. All the work is done in-house using foam, fiberglass, auto paint and a variety of creative techniques. The company guarantees its work for the life of the vehicle.
This attention to detail has led to some pretty long hours for the team. Riseborough reflects that the many late nights cost him precious time with his newborn son. "He's the biggest event of my life, and I couldn't be there. But you know, I can put him through college, and that matters too," he adds.
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