Myrtle Beach entrepreneur making fast signs and community connections

On the Grand Strand slightly more than a year, J.J. Snyder and husband Mike Snyder hit the ground running when an opportunity arose for the pair to run FASTSIGNS of Myrtle Beach on Grissom Parkway.

They had never been to Myrtle Beach before, and came down on a 48-hour weekend recon mission to find housing and scope things out. J.J. Snyder, originally from St. Simons Island, Ga., grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago. At this point she was accustomed to the fast-paced northern mindset. “I’m used to being able to change gears pretty quickly, but in the South that just doesn’t happen,” she says. When looking for property, she was gently admonished by a real estate manager to turn it down a couple of notches. “That was probably healthy and good for me in this environment,” she says.

A blended family with five daughters and a 240 pound English Mastiff, the Snyders now live in Socastee with an eye to an eventually move to Pawleys Island.

Snyder says she is an airline brat. Her father and grandfather were both commercial pilots, and it was her dad’s job with United Airlines that took them to Chicago. Early on she developed a love for flying and joined the Civil Air Patrol at 13, where she learned how to fly gliders. She went into the Air Force ROTC and garnered a full ride scholarship to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, attending the school’s Prescott, Ariz. campus. Her ultimate dream was to fly F-15s, and her scholarship was contingent on giving four years to the Air Force upon graduation.

“They pulled me aside one day and told me that I wouldn’t see female fighter pilots in my lifetime,” she says, adding that perhaps she could become a trainer and a pilot slot would have required a minimum of eight years. “At that time, that was half my life. I was not willing to give them eight years if they were not going to let me fly the plane that I wanted to fly.” She went home and married for the first time.

Snyder went into sales, focusing on the business-to-business segment. Her husband has been in the printing business his whole life, most recently coming from a FASTSIGNS franchise in Indianapolis, where they lived before moving here. “His gift is operations and running a company, and my gift is outside sales. The sweat equity is coming from both of us.”

FASTSIGNS [] tag line is “More than fast. More than signs.” And Snyder puts it this way: Our goal is to partner with other businesses to help them find solutions for their visual marketing.” The Web site goes one step further, stating that customers get “visual communications solutions including sign and graphic consultation and design, production, delivery and installation services.”

Snyder has sometimes found herself at the front desk. “I have been pulled back in a couple of times, but now we have somebody that I am hoping will stick,” she says. “It’s a very important role.” She adds that they have been blessed in regard to their production staff. “We have some great guys that really care about their work. They are not just throwing signs up on the street. They want it to look good and be right – and we will make it right.”

The top priority for FASTSIGNS of Myrtle Beach is top-notch customer service. “It means a lot and it is truly our passion.”

“I love building the relationships,” says Snyder. “I love going out and meeting people at their places of business so that I can learn what their needs are. Some of my past experience might help them think of a different idea to market their business visually.”

She recently returned from a sales boot camp in Dallas, and looks forward to attending a FASTSIGNS outside sales summit in August. “I went last year and it was phenomenal,” she says.

Snyder is thrilled to be living at the beach. “When we moved to the Chicagoland area, my grandparents were still on St, Simons Island, so I spent every summer of my life there. I have the beach running through my veins,” she says. “I knew I wanted to go south and my dream was to be coastal. When I met my husband, those dreams aligned. He is the same way.”

The Snyders enjoy the restaurants on the Marshwalk in Murrells Inlet and like to hit up the Market Common. “We joined Pawleys Island Community Church, and we’re diving into that.”

Looking to the future, Snyder says the goal is to grow the business by at least 100 percent during the next two or three years. “We’re looking to move to Pawleys Island and want to get more involved with the community,” she says. “We don’t want to just have a business here. We want to give back, dig our heels in and become a piece of it.”