Interview: José Ferreira from SignGeeks and JMF Signs and Graphics in conversation with Output
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By Morwenna Kearns
24 August 2012
SignGeeks was set up in response to the closure of similar online spaces
'Mad signtist' José Ferreira founded JMF Signs and Graphics in 2010 after eight years as a sign-maker, creating signs, vehicle wraps, garments and other display products, and followed the launch of his new company with the SignGeeks online forum this year. Here he tells Output's Morwenna Kearns about running a sign business during the recession and how the internet is an ideal information resource for other signage companies.
Why did you set up the SignGeeks forum?
Well, after the closure of another sign-making forum I felt there needed to be somewhere new and hopefully a little different for sign-makers to connect, share and learn. I was offered a lot of advice and help in the early days of my company, mainly through the sign-making forums. The advice was invaluable to me and I wanted to offer something back to the sign-making community.
The one thing I have noticed is there isn't a huge amount of advice available through social networks. Seeing as they play a major part in most people's lives, I figured it was time to explore the opportunity and so the SignGeeks Facebook page and Twitter accounts were started. I very quickly found that the social networks are great but are limited due to the lack of privacy from sign companies' potential clients or non-sign-making folk, so I set up the new SignGeeks forum to run alongside them.
What are your plans for the new forum?
The SignGeeks forum is a free forum for sign-makers. The site is going to be a brilliant resource for new and established sign-makers – not only great for the information and advice available to members, but also for the off-topic banter and conversation. There will also be a lot of tutorials from SignGeeks, and users are able to submit their own too. In fact one of our members has already submitted one when they joined and it's excellent. I am also putting together a directory of trade suppliers for the site.
The forum is a work in progress at the moment and we will keep improving the appearance and content of the site over the coming weeks and months. But since the launch we have had quite a few members joining and plenty of topics and posts.
How do you intend to deal with manufacturers and suppliers posting on the forum?
Trade suppliers and manufacturers are more than welcome to join in on the site. If a supplier wants to take part in the day-to-day threads on the forums or wants to offer advice I ask that they do it in an unbiased and impartial way. I don't want suppliers posting 'adverts' as a response to a sign-maker in need.
I have actually set up a category on the forum where suppliers can post their latest offers or deals. One of the main aims with this category is to get trade suppliers offering their excess stock or discontinued items to the trade instead of selling them on sites like eBay where our potential customers can buy signs cheaper than we can make them.
What are the issues facing sign-makers at present, besides the economy?
I'm not sure about anyone else but one of the things that really gets to me at the moment is trade-only suppliers offering their products to the end user at a price similar, and in some cases, cheaper than the trade price. I drove past a supplier recently who was advertising A-boards for sale to the general public at £40 each. It makes it very hard for small companies like mine to make a living from these products or to even offer them to my clients. Another thing that affects most companies, I would think, is competitors offering their services at a fraction of the cost compared to myself or other local companies. I find it keeps driving the price of signs down. And it's especially hard when the cost of everything else goes up.
If money were no object, what's your ideal bit of sign-making kit?
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