Our company philosophy is simple: Offer the highest quality at competitive prices. Understand – and serve – each customer’s needs and let creativity and imagination be the guiding forces behind every project we undertake. Quality. Creativity. Flexibility. These are the forces driving our work at Graffiti Inc. and they’re also the reasons that some of America’s best-known companies count on us – again and again – to meet their signage and graphics needs.

Have you ever stood in line at Splash Mountain in Disneyland and wondered who made those quirky caution signs?

Well, chances are they were fabricated by Graffiti Inc., one of the many small businesses in Irvine that are generating big work and injecting megabucks into the city’s economy.

Irvine is known for housing a number of corporate headquarters, but as in many cities, it is the small business that serves as the crux for the economy.

Of the 19,307 business licenses issued in the city, 85 percent of employers are listed as having 10 or fewer employees and 92 percent have 20 or fewer employees, city records show.

Nationally, small businesses account for 99.7 percent of all employers and create 60-80 percent of new jobs in the economy annually, said Rachel Baranick, deputy district director of Small Business Administration Santa Ana.

Graffiti Inc., which creates signs and murals for many local businesses, amusement parks and restaurants, such as Planet Hollywood, is run with only three employees.

“Your day is spent constantly running around, changing hats from promoter to sales manager to the one that collects the money,” said Chris Trisnan. He began the Irvine-based company with his wife out of a friend’s garage. “I used to work all of the hours that God sent me.”

Ten years ago the company took off when it landed contracts with Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland and Magic Mountain.

“(Small businesses) are a magnet. The more small businesses we get in the city, the more large businesses are attracted,” said Jacquie Ellis, president and chief executive officer of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce.

When big businesses come into a community they look for the businesses that provide services they need to support them, she added.

It’s best to start a small business out of a home, according to the Small Business Administration and SCORE Orange County, a volunteer-based business consulting service affiliated with the administration. Home-based businesses incur less costs and individuals are not committed to a space and a lease, said SCORE Chapter Chairman Bill Morland.

Before moving into an office a year and a half ago, John Jeltema, owner of eNamix, was one of the 3,773 home-based businesses operating in the city.

“It is a constant grind if you are doing it on your own,” said Jeltema. He ran his technical staffing firm out of his home for five years.

Within the last year, Jeltema has faced a lot of turnover, but he is now working with a team of four and aims to have a staff of 12 by the end of the year.

Despite these heartaches every year, there is an increase in the number of small businesses established and that trend does not seem to be slowing down, according to Baranick.

In the last year, SCORE provided one-hour counseling sessions to 5,000 people and presented 2,500 workshops in the county, Morland said.

But small business survival rates are low.

Two-thirds of new employer firms survive at least two years, and only about 44 percent survive at least four years, according to the Small Business Administration.

The organization is dedicated to helping small businesses succeed by offering training and loan programs.

The administration’s Santa Ana office approved 2,700 loans to small businesses for a total of $882 million last fiscal year, Baranick said.

When Ann Crane, owner of Meyerhof’s Fine Catering, decided to buy out the company where she was working, she turned to the SBA to help fund the construction of a new location.

“No one else was interested in helping at the time,” said Crane. “It is hard for a catering company to secure a loan because you have little fixed assets.”

Two decades later, Crane has her hand’s full catering large corporate and individual events, but the struggles never end.

“Being a small business person the job is never done, you are always looking to the next event,” Crane said. “A screw up is a complete screw up.”

So why are so many people interested in starting small businesses?

“I think one of the American dreams, other than owning a home, is being your own boss and having your own business,” said Ellis, who was the co-owner of a travel agency in Houston, Texas before moving to Irvine in 1982.

“It would be more secure to work at a Marriott and I would not have to worry about payroll, but in the end, the buck stops here,” Crane said.

That goes the same for Trisnan, the owner of Graffiti Inc. While the company is now a well-established company, with most business generated through referrals, he has no desire of going big.

“I don’t want to get in a position where I am pushing papers around,” Trisnan said. “As a small business owner, you are in charge of your own destiny.”

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1760 Monrovia Ave.

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Costa Mesa, CA 92627

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