FARGO-Owner Ryan Fritz was thrilled when Office Sign Co. was named Small Business of the Year by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce this summer. He knew this was his last chance, because after a few planned hires, his company would no longer qualify as a small business.

It's hard for Fritz to believe sometimes just how far Office Sign Co. has come since he launched the business in the basement of his Fargo home in 2008. At the time, he was looking for a way to be his own boss so he could spend more time with his daughter, Ceely.

Fritz, who studied commercial art in college, initially planned to do freelance marketing and design.

"I thought, 'I'll make a few signs. I'll do some marketing. I'll do some freelance illustrations. I'll make some T-shirt designs. And somehow we'll make ends meet,' " he said.

But he eventually decided that concentrating on signage made the most sense. He remembers typing "office sign company" into the search bar of his computer and things just sort of clicked.

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"I thought, 'I think that's the name of my company' because that's what I was looking for. I was looking for an office sign company," he said.

Fritz proceeded to launch an e-commerce site specializing in standard office signs, nameplates and badges. Today, his company also sells customizable signs and logoed merchandise. From mugs and coasters to engraved plaques and more, no order is too small.

"I think that's what sets us apart. A lot of companies have set-up charges. A lot have minimums," he said. "We love if we can get an order of 600 mugs from Bell State Bank. But we're selling online and throughout the U.S., and we'll take any size of order and bring that money here to Fargo, North Dakota."

Jack Yakowicz, marketing and accounts manager, said the company is also known for its focus on quality control.

"We treat every order as the most important order in the world," he said. "Most people are 'Let's get these orders out the door. Let's see if we can do it in a day.' We take the time to analyze every crevice of the sign. Anything that isn't to our standards, which Ryan established from the get-go, doesn't leave our facility."

A majority of the business continues to be online, but Yakowicz said their goal is to secure more local business.

"To anyone in Fargo who has driven past us, we're centrally located in downtown Fargo, just stop by sometime," Yakowicz said. "We'd love to give you a tour and show you how we work and what we have to offer."

Fritz has another goal, as well. While he is happy about receiving the Small Business of the Year award, he said there is one that would mean even more.

"It's not about accolades and awards, but if we were someday to be recognized for being the best place to work, that's the goal," he said.

Fritz places a lot of emphasis on culture. From pizza parties to a keg fridge, Fritz wants Office Sign Co. to be a place where people enjoy working.

"We try to have fun, but we balance it with hard work," he said.


What: Office Sign Co.

Where: 310 NP Ave., Fargo

Contact: (701) 526-3835

Online: www.officesigncompany.com