By Thea Engst, Exhibit City News
Seventeen years ago, John Brooks was a veteran working in construction and simply looking for a new job due to setbacks in his industry. He had worked at a pizza parlor as a kid, he had served his country, and now, he was looking for a change. He connected with his former employer in tradeshows and, in his own words, “As they say, the rest is history!”
Today, Brooks is the owner, founder, and CEO of beUniqueExhibits, a rebrand of Sierra Designs Inc. The new company picks up where Sierra Designs left off, making custom cabinets for events, exhibits, and tradeshows, while maintaining relationships with Sierra Design’s long-standing commercial and residential clients. I sat down with Brooks to hear about his vision for his new business, what differentiates beUnique from competitors, and what his goals are.
Firstly, why rebrand a custom cabinet company to focus on event spaces, exhibits, and tradeshows almost exclusively? “This industry always has excitement and keeps you on your toes, no matter how long you have been in the business. I love every aspect of our industry, from meeting new clients to the design collaboration, to working with my great team to build unique booths, to the installation of our clients’ booths, and seeing a client satisfied at the end of the show. Not to mention all the great relationships and friendships I have created by working with some of the greatest vendors that supply our industry,” Brooks said. When you put it that way, the choice must have been easy!
And Brooks via beUnique aims to bring that positive, can-do energy to each and every client. Their mission statement, in his words, is: “Empowering our clients’ vision, creating experiences, being a partner in creating unique show experiences that leave lasting impressions.”
That’s a tall order. I had to ask how a relatively small company (consisting of only 6 employees) maintains those high expectations. The secrets are transparency, relationships, and teamwork. “We don’t treat our clients as just another project to put in the books. We value relationships above all. Relationships are built on trust, and we are focused on developing and maintaining every relationship. At beUnique Exhibits, we hold each other accountable for the commitments we make, and we lean on each other to produce the best possible results. Here at beUnique Exhibits, we commit to a simple but effective practice of always doing what we say we will do, and more importantly, doing what is right by our clients. Transparency is the key.”
Even more so, as a veteran with 17 years of tradeshow experience under his belt, Brooks boasts that his reputation speaks for itself. “Everyone in the industry who knows me knows I work extremely hard and I never give up. I always find a solution to the problem,” he told me. And he doesn’t plan to slow down or keep his company small. “I’m about to turn 50 this year,” he said, “I still have a lot of drive and passion for the industry. I’ve set a lot of goals for becoming a new business owner, and my goals are high, and I don’t know how to fail. In the next 5–10 years, I can see beUnique growing as each year passes. We hope to open an east coast facility so that we can help our clients, no matter what show they would like to attend.”
As always, I like to ask anyone I write about if there’s anything they want readers to remember after reading their profile. Brooks’ answer, like his company, did not disappoint. “I’ve had a pretty good life journey—a lot of people tell me I should write a book about my life’s journey,” he said. “After being discharged from the military (I served years in Desert Storm), when I came home, I was homeless—literally homeless. I had no place to live! I never gave up on myself. If there’s one thing that readers can take from this, it’s: Don’t give up, no matter how hard it gets. No matter how hard you fall, get up and dust yourself off, don’t let naysayers get inside your head.”
From a kid flipping pizzas to a soldier, to a homeless veteran and finally: a father, husband, and business-owner with a bright future—I don’t think I could say it better myself, so I won’t.