THE NBM SHOW Heads to Long Beach

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California will be the home of THE NBM SHOW on July 23–35, and one couple has a strong argument why they think you should attend.

It was at THE NBM SHOW in Charlotte, North Carolina, almost six years ago when Julie and Chad Ballard started shopping for their first laser engraver. Since then, the couple have grown their North Carolina-based business, iEtch, to serve customers all over the country in all three of the graphics-related markets served by the three magazines represented at THE NBM SHOW: Sign & Digital Graphics, Awards & Engraving, and Printwear.

“I think at the first show we were pretty focused on the lasers because we knew that’s where we wanted to start,” says Julie Ballard, the CEO and majority owner of iEtch. “But as the years progressed we’ve definitely used THE NBM SHOW to add different things, and for us to research suppliers. A few years later we added large-format printing.

“Most shows we go with an intent to either look at a new process or a new item or new machine or whatever, or to find a different kind of material that we’ve been looking for. Usually when we got to THE NBM SHOW we have a list of things that perhaps customers have asked us for, so we go and find those.”

Mrs. Ballard, who has a degree in business administration, says that as her kids were getting older, she was considering getting out of the house and back into the work force. Her husband, Chad, who works with large industrial lasers at his full-time job at a manufacturing company, suggested she consider started a laser engraving business.

“I think he showed me a video on YouTube or something,” she recalls. “I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know.’”

But they went to THE NBM SHOW in Charlotte and settled on three lasers they thought would work. After talking more with the sales reps and doing more research, they decided to take the leap and buy one.

The business started slowly. There was a definite learning curve for operating the machine and learning CorelDRAW, she says. The couple also had to learn how to price jobs appropriately and learned which jobs would be most profitable.

But the sales rep who sold them the machine steered some business their way, and they started reaching out to people they knew and the business started to grow.

“The next year, 2011, we figured out we could do apparel with the lasers, so we went to the show to specifically find suppliers for vinyl, for heat press,” Julie Ballard says.

Today they offer a variety of items, including full-color banners, indoor/outdoor graphics, team apparel and other textile printing, and engraving on a wide variety of substrates.

What started out as a business run out of her home took over a retail storefront in Denver, North Carolina, last year, Mrs. Ballard says.

She says she would definitely encourage others to take advantage of the resources available at THE NBM SHOWs.

Also last year, iEtch added another tool to its toolbox, thanks to something Mrs. Ballard saw at THE NBM SHOW.

“I’ve known what sublimation was for a long time, but I was just not willing to add one more thing,” she says. “But then after seeing them demonstrate it, I’m thinking, ‘You know, this is something I can do.’ So we added sublimation last year at THE NBM SHOW when it was there in Charlotte in 2014, and it’s been great. It’s been one of the great things that we’ve added. Customers love it and it was easy to learn.”

The Ballards will return to THE NBM SHOW in Charlotte in October of 2016, but the next show is right around the corner, July 23 through the 25 in Long Beach. The show provides the opportunity to preview hundreds of products, meet suppliers in person, and discover new possibilities in crossover markets.

And don’t forget the learning opportunities, both in the classroom and on the show floor.

“I look at THE NBM SHOW as a place to go for ideas, and to learn new things,” Julie Ballard says. “We’ve done classes at THE NBM SHOW before and they’ve been extremely helpful. It’s a great way to educate ourselves and expand our business, for sure.”

Registration is free and includes plenty of educational opportunities on such diverse topics as CorelDRAW, sandcarving, rhinestones, lasers, workflow software, digital signage, sublimation, and special effects printing.

You’ll find more details at, including a comprehensive list of all the classroom training available. Training sessions in the hall will also be offered all three days of the event. 

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