Laser artist powers up for expansion

Jason Lefton, founder of Big Secret, is moving his startup to a much larger Jackson Ward workshop. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Jason Lefton, founder of Big Secret, is moving his startup to a much larger Jackson Ward workshop.
Photos by Michael Thompson.

Big Secret is getting bigger.

Big Secret, a laser-powered startup in Jackson Ward, is moving this month into a new, larger headquarters and has launched an online store.

The 4-year-old company uses its 800-pound, 120-watt laser to cut, etch, and engrave designs into material like wood and glass for its clients.

It has leased a new 2,000-square-foot space at 120 W. Marshall St., about a block from its current 400-square-foot home at 308 N. Adams St.

Founder Jason Lefton said the added space will give Big Secret room to add more lasers. It also allows Lefton to keep the business in Jackson Ward.

“I made a very conscious decision to be in Jackson Ward,” Lefton said. “I wanted to be in a creative neighborhood.”

Lefton, 34, said at any given time Big Secret can be working 10 to 20 projects for up to 15 different clients. The price of Big Secret’s services can go up to $30,000. The company has one full-time employee and hires part-time employees as needed.

Its work has included laser-engraved loaves of bread for the 2014 Elbys, a local restaurant awards ceremony, and chestnut boxes for theory11, an online magic company.

“What we do is definitely a very niche thing,” Lefton said.

Big Secret

Big Secret’s online shop lists prices from $32 snowflakes to a $850 wooden 3-D skull created in collaboration with artist Joan Tarragó of Barcelona.

Its new home has been vacant for years, Lefton said. A local ad firm will take over the current space.

With the launch of the company’s online store on Sept. 12, Big Secret adds a retail component that Lefton said he has wanted since he started the company in 2010.

Among the store’s offerings is a $32 wooden snowflake that shoppers can customize by typing in letters that computer code translates into a unique carved pattern. Norfolk-based Grow designed the code for Big Secret.

Lefton said Big Secret has grown in each of its four years in business. He credits the growth partly to a cultural shift toward handmade goods. He cited the upcoming RVA MakerFest as an example of the renewed interest in handmade goods over digital technology.

“In general there has been a lot of backlash to screens,” Lefton said. “As a direct result, you’ve seen a lot of trends toward hand making.”

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13 Comments on "Laser artist powers up for expansion"

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Mary Beth

Way to go Jason! Your talents and dreams continue to grow.

jason laferrera

Jason has been a dream to work with! Professional and creative, he’s been able to deliver pretty much anything we’ve asked for!

Matt Wallace

I have worked with Jason on a few projects and the work he produces is absolutely incredible. With his attention to detail and willingness to step outside of the box routinely, I’m not surprised to hear of Big Secret’s continuous growth.
Looking forward to what those ‘more lasers’ will produce.

Jason Sullivan

Awesome guy running and awesome business. It’s great to see they’ve outgrown their space (Bigger Secret?), and even better to see that they’re staying in Jackson Ward.

David Peyton

Woah! This is exciting my friend! The customizable snow flakes are going to be awesome! Great work!

Aaron Grant

Jason Lefton is probably one of the most driven and passionate dudes I have met in Richmond. Big Secret is doing amazing work and is definitely a company to keep your eye on.

Casey Rivkin

Big Secret is a great company, led by a great guy. I could not be more excited for it’s continued growth and success. If you’ve ever worked with Jason, you know how great he is to work with. He meets deadlines with ease and his passion and talent is evident in every single thing that he produces.

Bryant AuCoin

Get this man some Whiskey for all his hard work!! Awesome job Jason, crushing it.

Mike Johnson

I have been a fan of Big Secret from day one. They have always gone above and beyond for any project we have sent their way. We will continue to use them and wish Jason and his team the best of luck in their new space.

Adam Stackhouse

The Big Secret online shop is incredible – so many beautiful pieces. Congrats to Jason on the big move!

Tom Hohman

Big Secret has been working with us for two years now both manufacturing parts from scratch and adding aesthetic flourishes to others. Our industrial and artistic applications have been successful every time and I look forward to the new digs as well as a custom snowflake from the online store for this holiday season.

Clay Farnsley

Really exciting move for Jason and Big Secret! They work hard to create ground breaking pieces for clients. They also made a huge move online so check that out as well!

Sherry Minson

Jason has just a charming personality, not to mention this great talent. He will do extremely well bridging his art into the Retail market!