Racing Against Capacity: How Lightning Storm Graphics Overcame Its Biggest Roadblock

Carly Viegut, Communications Manager

February 22, 2024

DeJay Jarecki, owner of Lightning Storm Graphics in Ashland, WI, stands in front of his new high-capacity printer.

Nestled within the Bad River Reservation, near Ashland, Wisconsin, Lightning Storm Graphics exemplifies the significant impact that access to entrepreneurial support resources can have.

The family-owned business, operated by DeJay and Kelsie Jarecki, excels in designing custom vinyl decals, graphics, and particularly, race car wraps. Born from DeJay’s passion for racing and design, the venture evolved from a hobby into a flourishing enterprise.

The Challenge: Racing Against Capacity

Initially, DeJay single-handedly grew his business, leaning on self-learning and online resources. As he refined his craft, he earned a loyal following and built a strong reputation in the racing community. After five years of solitary growth, he sought assistance from the Ashland Area Development Corporation (AADC).

“I was like, ‘I don’t know if anyone can really help me, but who knows?’” said DeJay, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “So, I reached out to Haley, and she said, ‘Come on down, let’s have a meeting,’ and we just went from there.”

With the guidance of Haley Makela, the Entrepreneur Resource Coordinator at AADC, DeJay crafted his first business plan, opening his eyes to new possibilities and addressing a critical bottleneck: an outdated printer that drastically slowed production and couldn’t keep up with the demand for his custom race car wraps. DeJay likened the printer’s speed to “watching paint dry.”

Partnering on a Personalized Financial Package

Recognizing the need for an upgrade, Haley connected with Kara Gunderson, an Entrepreneur Fund (EFund) business developer, to design a financial solution. This collaboration led to a grant from AADC, and a low-interest small business loan paired with a Down Payment Assistance Grant from EFund that enabled the purchase of a high-capacity printer and necessary electrical upgrades to his shop to power the printer.

Haley explained, “AADC has funding limitations, for example we can’t cover construction costs. However, EFund’s flexibility allowed them to cover the remaining printer cost and the necessary electrical work that involved construction. Our resources were able to complement each other’s.”

The Outcome: 3x Production Capacity

The investment has transformed Lightning Storm Graphics by tripling its production capacity and expanding its ability to serve clients nationwide. This surge in capability has not only boosted revenue but positioned the business as a potential job creator in the Ashland area, enhancing the local economy.

“The new printer shattered my previous limitations,” said DeJay. “We’re now equipped to serve not just local businesses but also clients across the country.”

Beyond the financial investment, AADC and EFund continue to provide DeJay and Kelsie with strategic guidance as needed, aiding them in navigating both challenges and opportunities. This blend of capital infusion and expert advice has significantly reinforced their confidence as entrepreneurs.

A Future as Bright as Lightning

DeJay looks forward to expanding his market presence and continuing to innovate. His goal to be the premier provider of custom race car wraps is bolstered by the upgraded technology, promising better quality, and faster production.

“I hope to be the number one guy to go to for the signs, but I love doing race cars,” he said. “With the new printer the quality is so much better, and I hope to keep growing and making better car wraps for clients nationwide in the years to come.”

DeJay’s journey highlights the critical role of partnership and local investment in the success of small businesses. The collaboration between Lightning Storm Graphics, EFund, and AADC showcases how targeted support can address challenges, while also driving growth and innovation.

“Seeing DeJay’s business thrive is a testament to what’s possible when resources and community support come together,” said Haley.

“It’s about more than funding; it’s about empowering entrepreneurs to dream bigger,” added Kara.

Discover Resources for Your Business Growth

Interested in learning how we’re fueling small business successes like Lightning Storm Graphics across Wisconsin? Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a small business owner seeking to overcome your own roadblocks, or simply someone who believes in the power of local economic development, we invite you to dive deeper into our world.

For detailed insights into our initiatives, success stories, and the transformative Down Payment Assistance Grant, visit

Feeling ready to take the next step or curious about what opportunities might await your business? Schedule a complimentary 15-minute discovery call with a member of our dedicated Wisconsin Team. This no-obligation conversation could be the beginning of your own success story, helping identify how we can best support your entrepreneurial journey.

Don’t let challenges dampen your business dreams. Like Lightning Storm Graphics, your venture has the potential to grow, impact the community, and achieve remarkable success. Let’s explore how we can make that happen together.

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