Norm Lanier didn’t always think he would be sitting and creating a million dollar plus decor sign company after the age of 50. Throughout his life, Norm worked for other people, never wanting to risk being out on his own, but after he turned 50, Norm took a chance and followed his own dream (through an original side-hustle) into the marketplace that has led to more success than one could ever think.
In following that passion of creativity, Norm created Lone Star Art, the top place online where people go to get metal, wood and other types of signs for their home, whether designs done by Norm and his team or personalized on their own.
Living out his American Dream with his family in full support, we spoke to Norm about what it means to be American, his advice to others wanting to follow their goals ‘later’ in life and all about his signs that are made 100% here in the U.S.A.!
1. Let’s start off Norm… Why are you proud to be American?
It’s mind-blowing to me how many people are willing to risk their lives to come to this country. All those immigrants trying to get in will tell you America is the greatest country in the world. Is it perfect? No, but you won’t find another country that offers the opportunity for anyone to be successful. Note, I say “opportunity”. No one is going to hand it to you.
2. You started your company later in life and have had a lot of success! What is your advice to others who are over 50 and want to just now follow their own passions/projects?
It’s easy to make excuses about why it’s too late to chase your dream. You’ve got a mortgage, kids in school, you’re busy and the job you have isn’t “that bad”. The way I did it made the transition much easier – I created side-hustles until I found one that worked and was bringing in substantial, stable income before I left my regular job.
3. What is the biggest lesson you have learned since starting your own company?
It’s actually two things: 1. Listen to what your customers want. and 2. Be flexible. Many people have this fantasy that when you go into business, you just get to do what you want. That’s called a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies; but when you want people to pull their wallets out and give you the money, you have to give them “what they want”. This doesn’t mean that it can’t have your vision built into it, but it does mean that this vision has to align with what the customer desires. Being flexible is the second thing. I can’t tell you how many different times I’ve had to pivot over the years. The only constant is change and you have to watch trends and your business. You have to go where the money is or eventually, you’ll go out of business.
4. How long does it take for a concept of yours to finally come out and be sold on your site? Any new products coming soon you can tell us about?
I’ve built an amazing team around me and put systems into place that allow us to have many products go from an idea to a live product in only a couple of days. Since we manufacture in-house and many of our products are print-on-demand, we don’t have to wait for a literal slow-boat-from-China to deliver the goods. When a customer orders, we will often print and ship the product the same week. We’re always coming out with new products. We have a new line we just launched that lets the customer in real-time build a personalized sign with cartoon images of their dogs or themselves. We have a popular, funny sign that says “Keep The Gate Closed No Matter What the Dogs Say”. On that sign, you can include several dogs, while customizing the breed, color, and name of each dog. We also have a new one for people that love to camp and RV that says “Welcome to Our Campsite”. You can customize the couple sitting in chairs to look like you or friends. It also allows you to add names and customize the type of camper to put in the background.
5. Why is it important to keep your products made 100% here in America?
I was tired of being squeezed from both sides. On one side I had marketplaces like Amazon raising fees and on the other side I had Chinese manufacturers squeezing profits. Years ago, I made the strategic decision to bring as much as I could in-house. I wanted the control on quality, speed and the ability to experiment with new products easily. It has turned out to be a huge advantage. When supply chain issues started and cargo ships were sitting with billions of dollars in inventory off the coast of California, we didn’t miss a beat. More importantly, I’m employing Americans. While everyone else is sending all the jobs overseas, we’re paying Americans a fair wage. I’ve had several employees buy houses since they started working for me. That makes me feel great.