Mukilteo design firm is like a tattoo parlor for vehicles

When you step into the lobby of the Mukilteo marketing company Wicked Wraps, you’re met by a pair of sinister green eyes. A pitchfork and a devil tail swirl below.

The looming presence of this logo makes the 7,000-square-foot building feel like a giant tattoo parlor. And in a way, that’s what it is.

Wicked Wraps designs, prints and installs vinyl decals that cover three-dimensional objects, primarily vehicles.

“It’s really easy to take a piece of vinyl and stick it on a flat surface. It’s a whole ‘nother story to stretch it around the fenders and the curves of a Volkswagen Beetle,” said Katherine Becher, co-owner and creative director of Wicked Wraps.

Her husband and business partner Wade Becher is the lead installer. He can slap a wrap onto pretty much anything you can think of: sedans and speedboats, cement poles and scoreboards, wooden floors and refrigerator doors.

Most of their clients are businesses looking to advertise as they drive. Wicked Wraps has emblazoned pest control vans, food trucks, Zambonis and biodiesel tankers.

Designs can be as simple as a company logo or as flashy as flames and leopard skin. Some customers bring in pre-made visuals, but most only have rough ideas of what they want. Katherine Becher uses Adobe Photoshop — and her background as a painter — to turn those ideas into images.

There’s also the single-color wrap, which changes your car’s color like a paint job. Get the hot pink or neon green that the dealership didn’t have. Nothing is permanent: Just peel the wrap off if you want to sell the car.

The four-person team at Wicked Wraps works on three to five vehicles a week, which cost clients anywhere from $1,000 to over $8,000 apiece. Jobs take anywhere from three days to two weeks to complete, and all of them are done by hand. It can take up to six hours to position the vinyl, then another hour or two to apply it — smoothing and smudging with a special glove and the help of magnets.

Wade Becher started Wicked Wraps in 2009. He wanted an airbrush paint job on the hot rod he was building, but the car’s complex parts meant that would cost upwards of $40,000. He heard about vinyl wraps and taught himself how they worked, installing green flames on the side of his ride.

“I didn’t know what I was jumping into or what it would become,” he said. “Then I started realizing it was more than just automotive restyling, it was creative marketing.”

One of his first clients was Dwayne Baughman, who owns Direct Carpet Cleaning in Snohomish. Baughman hired Becher to wrap two of his vans after they met at the Everett Home Show.

He’s had him wrap four more since.

“Wade has moved with me and grown with me, and helped me change the look of my company to make it more edgy, more eye-appealing,” Baughman said. “I got a phone call again today that said, ‘I just saw your van going down the highway the other direction. It reminded me to call you.’”

Not all business is from other businesses. A customer who works at Boeing hired the Bechers to turn her PT Cruiser into a WWII airplane. With a Wicked Wrap, it became a P-51 Mustang — complete with bullet holes.

Another client decked out her mother’s walker.

“The people at this retirement community kept getting confused and taking each other’s walkers back to their rooms,” Katherine Becher said. “Her mom would leave her purse in it and go crazy. So we wrapped her walker so that no one would ever take it.”

It’s easy to see how the Bechers balance one another. Katherine Becher went to the University of Washington and has experience in the nonprofit world.

Wade Becher calls himself a go-getter, quick to recount the many ways he’s made money: perfume peddler, vacation counselor, vacuum salesman. He’s proud of his old jobs, he says. They prepared him for this one.

Still, he could only take Wicked Wraps so far by himself. He asked his wife to leave her old job and join the business full time in 2011. “I needed a business plan and a person who could help make it an actual business, more than just a hobby and a dream,” he said.

The challenge now, says Katherine Becher, is scaling that dream “without losing the magic that built you.” That brings her to an analogy she heard from a local entrepreneur.

“He said growing a business is a lot like being a snake — in a good way,” she said. “When a snake grows, its skin starts to get tight, and itchy, and it doesn’t feel good. Losing its skin is not a comfortable process.”

Unlike a snake, a business gets to choose what its new skin will be. At Wicked Wraps, that can be anything.

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