The History of Acorn: Our Story
Here at Acorn Sign, we have a diverse history with over the past 50 years. Originally founded in 1964, we began as “Acorn Sales and Stamps” and operated mostly as a stamp company. Over Acorn Sales and Stamps’s company history, they developed a signage division, which Steve and Beth Gillispie purchased in 2003 to officially form Acorn Sign Graphics. We spoke with Beth Gillispie, Acorn’s CEO, and TJ Daly, president of Acorn, about the journey of the company and their visions for high-quality work and social responsibility.
When Steve and Beth purchased Acorn Sign, Steve had recently retired from Cadmus Communications and Beth was running a consulting firm. At this point in their lives, their children were grown and they felt drawn to seek out a way to give back to the world. When we spoke with Beth, she described this season of life as them having a “Vision to lead a small business that is values-driven, and a place that we would want to work. We wanted clearly stated values and to be a place where people can come together with high expectations and be unleashed to be the best they can be.”
Together, Steve and Beth embarked on a journey to fulfill their desire to give back and make the world better than they found it. They sought to purchase an established company, so when they found that Acorn Sales was looking to sell their sign division, it was a great logical choice for Steve and Beth to utilize their experience with design and creativity. Not only is signage a necessary product for businesses, it allowed them to highlight the best of both of their careers and focus on social responsibility and organizational management.
Beth explained to us that their main question for themselves was “How do we create a culture that is values- and purpose-driven that will produce an exciting workplace?” They began with the mission to test their deeply-held belief that a values-driven company can produce a profit while operating authentically and according to their values. When they purchased the company in 2003, there were only three employees at Acorn Sign, but they have now grown to over 60 employees.
TJ Daly joined the Acorn Sign team in 2013 as the Sales Director, and after about a year, moved into the role of COO. He oversaw all operations for Acorn, and focused on a goal of structuring the organization and setting it up for growth. About a year or so ago, TJ was promoted to Acorn’s President. In his time with Acorn, TJ has utilized the Scaling Up managerial methodology as a tool for the leadership team to focus on strategic growth and improvement efforts. You can read more about Acorn’s utilization of Scaling Up here: https://acornsign.com/the-influence-of-scaling-up-for-acorn-sign-graphics/.
When we spoke with Beth, she explained that contrary to their rapid growth, they were not intentionally trying to grow the company into the size it is today. Acorn Sign has made two company acquisitions, Sign Graphics in 2007 and Graphic Services in 2013, and Beth cites that they made these acquisitions because their values aligned, and that they always hire for a culture fit first. Holding true to their deeply-held beliefs they were founded on, she also explained that “When you do your work well and you become more visible, it builds word-of-mouth and trust. Growth happens despite you.”
When Beth and Steve purchased Acorn, they felt a deep call towards social and environmental responsibility and continually search for ways to make their products more environmentally friendly. In 2013, David Greenberg, who is Acorn’s legal counsel, introduced Beth to the certification process of becoming a B-Corporation. B-Corporations are businesses that hold themselves to higher standards of environmental performance, legal accountability, and public transparency and undergo an intense certification process to confirm that they uphold these values.
While many companies claim to have green products that may not actually be more environmentally friendly, Beth was searching for a way to validate their green efforts. The B-Corporation process evaluates a company’s entire process in terms of environmental, social and legal accountability, and when Acorn began the certification process, they discovered they were not only high enough to be certified, but they were one of the best in the industry in terms of environment impact. Learn more about our work as a B-Corporation here: https://acornsign.com/b-corporations-the-power-of-social-responsibility/
When a company becomes a B-Corporation, they must recertify every 3 years in order to show that they are continuing their work towards these efforts. Beth and Steve were also interested in protecting the legacy of Acorn in this work, so they took extra steps to become a Benefit Corporation, which is a legal structure only available in some states that says that you are holding yourself to a higher level of transparency and accountability in addition to being a B-Corp. This designation also gives them legal protection while considering the impact on all stakeholders in the company, not just shareholders. Being a Benefit Corporation allows them to focus on sustainability within the company on every level, not just providing the highest profit to the company’s shareholders.
In our company’s history, we have always worked to operate at the highest level of integrity, environmentalism, and social responsibility. Beth and Steve Gillispie formed our company as we exist today, and TJ Daly works alongside them to uphold Acorn’s values and create a healthy company culture. If you are interested in learning more about us or would like to speak to us about your signage needs, contact us today at https://acornsign.com/contact/.