The wall at Halo Ink

Lab Lessons: Halo Ink founder shares SMB Lab takeaways

Jeff Hale, founder of Halo Ink, says the SMB Lab prompted him to take steps to reach his five-year goal of $400 million in revenue.

W. P. Carey is pioneering a program to give Arizona’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) access to the resources they need to thrive. The SMB Lab is a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to connect Arizona’s SMB community with faculty and students, business leaders, and development professionals. Read about the SMB Lab’s origin here.

Jeff Hale owns Halo Ink, a specialty printing shop offering a range of promotional items. He started Halo Ink in 2009 as a one-person sign-printing operation in his home. Today, it operates from a Phoenix warehouse and produced nearly $2 million in revenue in 2022. Hale’s plan is for exponential growth, and he says the SMB Lab has prompted him to take action to reach his five-year goal of $400 million in revenue and seven-year goal of $1 billion.

Question: How did you get involved with the SMB Lab?

Answer: I met Hitendra Chaturvedi [supply chain management professor of practice and SMB Lab-co-founder] on a flight, and we talked about the global supply chain and how it affects small businesses. He asked me about [Halo Inc.] and was impressed that we have a growth model and plan on how to get there. We started discussing ways that ASU could assist us with its programs, and he told me about the SMB Lab. He asked if we might be interested in participating, and I said unequivocally yes. Our culture is about constant improvement, and I’ll take all the help we can get.

Q: What did the lab process look like? What issues did you discuss?

A: Three of us represented Halo Ink at the lab, and they asked us what struggles they could help with. At that time, our biggest point of failure was our sales process. We didn't have a sales team — it was myself and my girlfriend. And then we had zero web and social media presence. We had a business that was growing over 60% year-to-year. But our goals are not 60% year-to-year growth. Our goal is exponential growth.

Q: What feedback did you receive?

A: The company is strong because we empower people to create good processes and constantly improve them. But I had been too proud to develop a sales process because ‘Nobody is better than me.’ It was mypersonal demons that I had to deal with and get past. And then, we had industry professionals, students, and professors telling us the same thing: ‘When I Google Halo Ink, I don't find anything.’

Q: What were the results?

A: These aren't just things to consider — they must be put into an action plan. The lab didn’t give us any revelations, but it concreted our ideas and gave us focus. It got us up off the couch.

Essentially five months later, we have a website. We have B2B stores for our customers now. We've added $400,000 in equipment. We’ve brought on a business development leader and a sales director. Our business development leader brought knowledge of scaling and an understanding of creating standard operating procedures for multi-locations. Our sales director has 20-plus years of marketing experience and is helping us develop our sales process.

I have volunteered for eternity to be a part of the SMB Lab because of the value that we’ve received from it.

Q: Why is the SMB Lab such a unique resource?

A: One thing that most people don't understand about small and medium businesses is that we don't have a board of directors. We don't have an advisory board. We have us. It's me. It’s, ‘Okay, do I spend $200,000 on equipment and just cross my fingers?’ It’s so helpful to have a think tank like the SMB Lab for not only dealing with a particular problem but to not feeling like you’re alone on a deserted island. It's nice to know there are people out there who are dealing with similar issues and that they're open to conversation. They wouldn't be there if they didn't want you to ask for help.

Top photo: The main wall at Halo Ink in Phoenix.

Latest news