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  • NYC Krispy Kreme

Political science, Spanish graduate sees signs of success in international business

Want a hot doughnut at Times Square in the middle of the night? 
No problem. 
Just walk up to a glowing, bright red sign designed with the help of John Bailey, a University of South Carolina graduate. 
For the past 13 years, Bailey has used his degrees in Spanish and political science as he worked in international business. Bailey founded Firebrand, a signage and environmental branding company, early in 2020. One of the company’s first jobs was to create a sign for a walk-up window at the new Krispy Kreme flagship store in Times Square. 
They used LEDs fashioned to give the appearance of neon with a lower environmental impact. They attached the lights to clear, acrylic sheets to make the sign appear to float in the window. 
“They wanted to put that in the window, right on the street level on Broadway,” Bailey says. Thousands of customers have ordered donuts at Bailey’s sign since it was installed in May. 
When he was in college, Bailey thought that he might go to law school. But his first job after graduation was in a Columbia law firm, where he used his Spanish skills to serve the firm’s international business clients. He decided he would enjoy working in business more than law, and he spent 13 years working for Colite International, a signage company headquartered in Columbia. 
Running his own business was a long-term goal. 
“I know the signage graphics branding world pretty well, but I wanted to branch out into some different areas,” Bailey says. “I wanted to continue to take on more and more challenges outside the branding world for my clients.” 
Also, he says, “It’s never a bad thing, going forward, to own your own company,” and he imagines his two children working with him in the company when they get older. 
But 2020 was an unusual time to launch Firebrand. Just installing the Krispy Kreme sign was a challenge. “We got everything in motion right before the shutdown,” Bailey says. “COVID hit right before they were supposed to install it.” 
Bailey says the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic has affected different sign companies in different ways, depending on whether their signage clients are classified as essential. Firebrand pivoted to other products, such as branded hand sanitizer dispensers, acrylic barriers (also known as wellness screens), and COVID-related signage. 
Bailey says he is saddened to see other businesses struggle. “It’s difficult to see so many small businesses not make it,” he says. 
But the good news is that with vaccines being delivered, 2021 looks like a year with more opportunity. “There’s a lot more confidence,” Bailey says. “I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting year. I’ve seen years like this open up a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of changes. That’s what I’m trying to do right now ― get the business on the forefront of the changes.” 
He says that his two majors have served him well throughout his career. His Spanish degree helped him get his job at the law firm where he discovered his passion for business. The international relations emphasis of his political science degree prepared him to work with people around the world. 
“That’s helped me a lot. I’m constantly interacting with people from all different cultures and backgrounds,” Bailey says. “It’s always been a fascinating thing for me, to learn about things from all over the world.” 

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