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Meet Ruben Cielak of Tako Tyko Signs & Lighting

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ruben Cielak.

Ruben, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My story starts with my family’s experience as immigrants. My grandparents left Eastern Europe before the Second World War. As Jewish immigrants, they landed on Mexico’s coast with very little money and worked hard to provide for their family and make a name for themselves. They passed on this work ethic to my father, who built a steel manufacturing plant in Mexico City and worked hard until his old age. Seeing my father’s dedication to his craft, I watched my father create his own path and provide a good life for me and my 3 brothers. I like to think that I inherited this knack for business and his work ethic as well as the vision to create value in society.

My father decided to send me and my brother off to San Diego when I was 17 because he felt there was a better future here in the States. Without much English or way around America, I naturally gravitated towards looking for business opportunities all the time. I began working in a factory that manufactured buffers for tire rims. I used the knowledge I gained from the factory to see how a business was organized – from employees to inventory, to customer invoices.

From that business, I moved to Los Angeles, where I saw a larger market and I decided to get my real estate license selling residential properties. While I did not sell homes for very long, I met an important figure in the garment industry who manufactured sewing machine parts. Through him, I found my next project in selling sewing machine parts and built an extensive client list in an industry where business was booming during the 1980s.

Pretty soon, my clients in the garment district began asking for other products which I did not supply at the time. These included ballasts, light bulbs, and electric supplies for their factories. As luck would have it, my supplier had a brother who supplied electric parts for factories, so I began buying wholesale and selling his products as well. I quickly realized that my profit margin was much bigger in electric supplies and it opened my eyes to a larger opportunity.

I realized I could sell these parts not only to industrial factories but also to office buildings, hospitals and apartment buildings. As more orders began piling up, I hired more salespeople. Many of them had experience in selling both electric/lighting products as well as service/repairs of signage. They talked about signage extensively and I felt a natural progression to begin servicing the LA area for fixing the hundreds of illuminated signs. I bought a fleet of trucks and hired technicians. Eventually, the next evolution of my company was in manufacturing the signage that we were repairing.

Today, after 30+ years in business, we manufacture and install signs nationwide through a large network of subcontractors for major chain accounts.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think no business is a smooth road. The important part is how you learn from those setbacks and navigate around them. When you start something on your own, no one is as invested as you are in the business. It has always been difficult to source good talent and to have them help you grow a company and commit to having some skin in the game.

I have had good employees and I have had bad employees. I’ve always found there is a business in my industry through the ups and downs of the economies but none of that matters if you do not have talented people working with you. And sometimes, the biggest struggle is keeping the good employees and having to replace them.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Tako Tyko Signs & Lighting story. Tell us more about the business.
We manufacture, repair, and install electric signs nationwide. We have an extensive list of clients from franchise chains, real estate properties, banks, hotels, hospitals, schools, office buildings, shopping centers, retail stores, and restaurants. We are known for upholding our reputation for excellent customer service and delivering an excellent product that exceeds our client’s expectations.

I am proud of leaving my mark in Los Angeles. Wherever I go in the city, I get to take a tour of my gallery. It makes me proud anytime a client greets me and is satisfied with the work our company has done.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
With the evolution of LED lighting, our imagination can run wild with new projects. Before we were limited by neon and fluorescent, because the fixtures were large, they often broke during shipping and handling and needed more maintenance.

Now, LED has made it easier to fit within the frame of the sign as well as to ship, install, and maintain the lifecycle of the product.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Charly F

    May 22, 2018 at 22:28

    Great story!

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