Depending on who you ask, it is rare to meet a 19-year-old with as much ambition as Joe Jasper. From starting his own engraving company while still in high school to continuing that business to help pay for college, Jasper is just getting started. Keep reading to learn about the creator behind Creations with Character, based in Leslie, Missouri.
Can you explain how you first got into laser engraving?
I initially started out with woodworking. Then I built up enough money to buy a CNC machine, and with that I eventually had enough to get into (laser) engraving. I learned about engraving and how it worked when I took an engineering class at school and there was an engraver. We didn’t actually do any of the engraving, but the class had one. So, it intrigued me.
What is your favorite part about laser engraving?
I like how it’s relatively quick — you go from raw material to a personalized item or something engraved in not that much time. I also like how I have the variety of all of the different (projects) that come in. You never know what you're going to be engraving.
What is it that attracted you to the engraving industry?
I knew that I was going to have variation. I also I liked the software part of things, like designing and making it look good, and then being able to mark on different items and making it come to life.
What made you want to start your own engraving company?
Even when I was a kid, I had other business endeavors. I started with woodworking and did that to make hand-turned pens and a bunch of other things. The entrepreneurial role interested me. Besides that, I also was intrigued by the concept of laser engraving.
How have you managed to garner new equipment and build your business while still in high school? What sort of challenges did that present?
Being in school, even now that I'm in college especially, having the homework and trying to work around that and then also having another job and still being able to do engraving. Between all that, I saved up from my previous endeavors, and loaned a little bit to buy used machines so that I wouldn’t be paying the full price.
What types of clients do you serve?
Whatever comes in the door; I don’t think I’ve turned down anyone. I’ve done some custom tumblers for different things. I’ve donated to different organizations doing like donor walls and donor tree walls. I’m working on something of that nature right now. I have a client that I might be doing some duck calls. I engrave painted canvases with pictures on it. I also do cutting boards. I work a lot with individuals that want to buy stuff for their own house or businesses. Realtors are another big client because when they close a house, they get gifts and such. Anything that comes in the door, I try to make it work, especially here in the beginning.
How have people found out about your business?
The newspaper article done on me brought in quite a bit. I have a Facebook page that quite a bit of my business comes through. With the word of mouth and people sharing what I do throughout social media, it tends to get out there pretty quick.
Does the area you live in affect your business in any way? Has the local community been receptive to you?
Most definitely. I live in a small-town community where small business is encouraged. I feel that the local small businesses are supportive of each other. I have really felt that they all want me to succeed. Also, with being in a small town, the word travels fast and people want to buy locally for the most part.
What plans do you have for your engraving business as you start college?
Currently, I am working on engraving through college, hoping to keep that up. I only go to college four days a week, so I engrave sometimes in the evenings and on the weekends to stay up with orders. I’m in school for mechanical engineering and engineering management.
What sort of advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting an engraving business?
Take the plunge. Don’t be afraid to pay yourself for your time and effort — it’s worth something. Especially in the beginning — you’re trying to establish your name to have positive reviews and feedback because no one knows who you are yet. You want to focus on your quality and not let anything out the door that isn’t the best that you can do.
As someone fairly new to the engraving industry, what do you predict the future of the industry looks like?
Personally, around here at least, I feel that it’s only going to grow. People are always going to want personalized items — that’s not going to change. Engraving is a good way to do that.
What do you hope to learn about laser engraving and pick up as you continue in the industry?
I hope that I can experiment with engraving pictures more on different materials. I also hope to figure out how to engrave on more substrates to be better prepared for what customers may throw my way. Along with this, I hope to become more creative with the design software in order to provide new items to show customers, and this will hopefully spark their own ideas of what they may want engraved. I don’t know that I want to get into vinyl or sublimation, at least initially, as I feel that the laser engraving market is less saturated in my local area and provides plenty of business to keep me busy.