By Christina Autry
Entrepreneur Miguel Blanco took the plunge into the world of small business ownership in the Five Corners District in 2001, founding JM Signs & More. With the equipment to make a wide variety of electric and non-electric signs as well as printed material, the Blanco family has created storefront signs for prominent companies such as Subway, Baskin Robbins, or Cricket Wireless in locations all over Texas. JM Signs is attracting corporate and individual customers who not only want quality work, but low, competitive prices.
Miguel’s Master Sign Electrician license, as well as his company’s registration with the City of Houston differentiates JM Signs from many sign companies that cannot meet city requirements in-house. “A lot of businesses think they can just put up a sign, but it’s not that easy,” says Miguel. The ten-year process to become a Master Electrician has paid off for Miguel and the efficiency that it allows his company to complete jobs. “The hardest thing that most sign companies deal with is the electrical licensing. I don’t have to go through another company to pull permits,” he explains.
Miguel, along with his wife Maria, and son Miguel Jr. are heavily involved in this family-run business, as they help maintain the book-keeping, design and produce signs, and “keep the company moving,” Miguel says. JM Signs found a permanent location for operations four years ago after renting a shop for nine years, and previously conducting business out of his garage for about six years. “We saw the opportunity to purchase this building, and we jumped on it. We’re happy here. The community has given us a lot of support,” says Miguel.
With a specialization in illuminated storefront signs, JM Signs also regularly creates anything from magnetic signs, banners, to vehicle wraps, and a huge variety of graphics printing. “We do the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. I install all of the electrical signs myself,” says Miguel. With all necessary computerized equipment owned in-house, “non-electrical orders are completed the same day they are placed,” states Miguel.
Quality and efficiency are not the only characteristics that define JM Signs. Inside the Blanco’s shop there is a sign that describes the business practices that the family holds: Integrity, patience, and a Christian foundation. “That’s how we do business,” says Miguel. “We are straight-forward, and honest. I never tell a customer a project will be ready sooner than is possible, just to get the deposit. I would rather miss out on business than mislead a customer,” he says frankly. “I go out of my way to improve the quality of our products. If I’m not satisfied, I go the extra step to make it better. Our work represents our family, and it represents JM Signs,” he states.
It was after working for a few years at a sign company in high school that Miguel decided to take his chances with starting his own company. “I said to myself, ‘let me just try and see if this works.’ I made business cards, passed them out, and as time went by, I started getting calls and doing small jobs, which turned into bigger jobs,” he remembers.
“At the beginning it was a struggle, but we’ve seen God’s favor in our lives, and He’s given us the strength and ability to stay in business,” says Miguel. “We’ve been able to expand our business by keeping clients happy,” he continues. Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers have given JM Signs most of their business. “Starting a business is hard,” says Miguel, as he explains that even being sick for a couple weeks can sink a business. “But what is hard for man is easy for God,” he concludes.
For Miguel, running JM Signs alongside his family has been a huge benefit of entrepreneurship. “I’m very close with my family, and the business has kept us close,” he reflects. Miguel strives to provide a bright future for his four children, including Miguel Jr., who is in the process of completing graphic design school.
Having experienced what it takes to run a successful small business, Miguel wants to encourage others in the community to continue pursuing their dreams and not to be afraid to get started. “I want to tell them that starting your own business pays off. You might not see it immediately, but you will in time. When you sow the seeds, it takes a while to see the fruits,” says Miguel.
But JM Signs & More isn’t done yet. Miguel plans to “expand, grow, and take JM Signs to a new level of competition in the market,” in the near future. With a strong foundation in the sign-making industry and ethical business practices, it will be exciting for the Five Corners community to see what “more” JM signs will become.