"Be there. Show up. Get involved. Be deliberate and intentional about utilizing the wealth of resources and opportunities WBCS and WBE certification is bringing in front of you. It is all about taking that first step. Don’t let go of any possibilities that present to you!" -Indu Sanka
Indu Sanka is the President & CEO of FIRST SIGNS Graphic Solutions (FSGS), a full scale branding and sign manufacturing company located in DFW. They have been certified just over 2 years, and in that time Indu has won multiple WBCS awards, participated in the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Businesses program, and partnered with other WBEs for contracts. In 2019 this led her to winning the Parade of Stars Rising Star award, the Women Working Together award , and receiving a Lillie Knox Investment Award. Below she discusses how getting involved with WBCS right after getting certified helped her achieve this milestone.
You were the winner of 3 major awards in one year from WBCS – Rising Star, Women Working Together, and Lillie Knox. What contributed to this success?
I am new to the entrepreneurship world compared to my fellow WBEs. Even though I come on board with an MBA from SMU and 12 years of corporate business consulting experience helping prestigious brands like Southwest Airlines, running my own business has been a humbling experience for me. Ever since I acquired FSGS in Nov 2017, it has been a steep learning curve.
Women’s Business Council Southwest has provided me the support system in terms of the network, resources, and opportunities to learn, get inspired and expand business. This was much needed for me as I was trying to maneuver through the small business world and find a strategic position for FSGS in the market. So, I have utilized every opportunity that I was presented with through WBCS, including attending every possible networking event, participating in the vendor outreach events, utilizing the sponsorship opportunities to gain visibility, and volunteering on the committees. Taking an active role and being intentional about utilizing the benefits of WBCS membership combined with the comradery, support and mentorship I received from fellow WBEs are contributing factors to our amazing first year with WBCS.
Taking an active role and being intentional about utilizing the benefits of WBCS membership combined with the comradery, support and mentorship I received from fellow WBEs are contributing factors to our amazing first year with WBCS.
You were a recipient of the 2019 Lillie Knox Investment Award; What inspired to you to apply, and how did you decide what you would use the award money for?
I met with and learned about the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business program at the 2018 WBCS Business Works Expo. This led me to applying for the program, then going through it and graduating in May 2019. Through this program I have come up with a very detailed and strategic growth plan for FSGS that requires multiple significant investments and new personnel over the next couple years. Investing in a bucket truck is a much-needed next step in 2019 towards our growth plan.
What sets FSGS apart in the industry is our consistently reliable customer service. Reliability is one of our key core values and our team deliberately trained to take promises seriously. We take complete ownership of meeting customers’ deadlines on signage projects. This kind of partnership is very much appreciated by our target clientele who deal with signage on a regular basis as a part of their core operation. The purchase of a bucket truck will FSGS will let us take on more projects and keep bigger installations in house, enabling us to maintain consistent reliability for our clients.
Since winning, how have you been able to utilize this money, and what results have you seen?
We were able to purchase the bucket truck in Nov 2019 combining investment award with our own funds. This has helped in making our operations more efficient, reliable and safe. This enables FSGS to offer faster turnarounds without compromising the quality and reliability promise; and retain and attract more customers while keeping up customer satisfaction.
Tell us a little about your partnership with Mixed Media Creations (MMC) that won the Women Working Together Award. How has WBCS helped you connect to other WBEs for mutually beneficial partnerships/business deals?
The networking events that WBCS puts together throughout the year have been a great way to meet fellow WBEs and learn more about their businesses. I met MMC team at one of the events and quickly realized that our customer segments overlap a lot. I took the initiative to setup one on one meetings with women leaders in related industries that I met through WBCS. I have had the pleasure of learning from and working together with several wonderful women in construction, design and marketing industries including Kris Sorokwasz with ABGI and Susie Carter from MMC.
MMC’s customer had a hard time finding a reliable sign vendor who can handle out of state projects of significant magnitude, and complete the job on time working seamlessly with the designers at MMC. After we worked together this project, their customer was thrilled with the quality of work and consistency of service.
We at FSGS offer the partnership the branding companies need to be able to serve their clients on signage needs. We operate as an extension to their own team and take consultative approach in being resourceful to them. Doing business with fellow WBEs is very important to us because our business thrives up on strategic partnerships.
Doing business with fellow WBEs is very important to us because our business thrives up on strategic partnerships.
As a Rising Star winner, what tips do you have for WBCS Members who are looking to get more recognition or become award winners, specifically within their first couple years of being certified?
Be there. Show up. Get involved. Be deliberate and intentional about utilizing the wealth of resources and opportunities WBCS and WBE certification is bringing in front of you. It is all about taking that first step. Don’t let go of any possibilities that present to you!
Feel free to add anything else you’d like to share:
I sincerely want to thank WBCS one more time and every time I get the opportunity. All the factors that have contributed to the great success we are experiencing at FSGS have their roots at WBCS.
This wonderful organization has given me friends, supporters, mentors, teachers, vendors I can rely on, partners, clients, an awesome group that makes me feel welcomed and most importantly a great validation my sincere efforts. I am truly thankful for it.