Meet the Owners
Kenny & Danielle Sutherland
Owners of Highway Man Signs
Our story starts in 2002, when our original founders Jim and Linda Sutherland decided to start a new venture. Jim had worked in the auto service industry for 30+ years and even had a very successful auto repair shop of his own, but was faced with a dilemma that many people in that field eventually come to; failing physical ability. You see, auto mechanics is a very tough, very physical, labor-intensive job, and he had a choice; continue on in the field he had known since high school, or find something new. He and Linda also had something else in mind, a legacy for their son, me.
Looking back I am extremely grateful for the foresight they had, but at the time I wasn’t so sure. I thought the concept was cool, I even came up with the name “Highway Man Signs”. Originally, Dad had a small 24″ vinyl cutter, a computer, and a table we mounted in an old blue and yellow step van. He would go to events and cut decals, make small yard signs or banners and be on the “highway”, hence the name.
I, like many people my age, (I was 17!) didn’t have a plan for the future. I knew I didn’t want to run a business, and I had a great job at a local grocery store making $22,000 a year, so I had pretty much arrived. I continued down that path for a few more years, when I finally had an epiphany that I was wasting my life, so I did what any rational 20 year old would do. I joined a band.
Now understand, I didn’t just pack up and hit the road, I was more cautious than that.
I continued my job at the grocery store working 8-4 and helping my parents at the sign shop after work and on my days off. It wasn’t long before we moved the equipment out of the truck and into a store. Customers are less receptive when they think they could be kidnapped. Now we finally had a shop, and Highway Man Signs was born. Now, being in a band, and working in a family owned sign shop had its perks. Bands need merchandise. Banners, shirts, posters, decals… all of a sudden I was a graphic designer. I had actually been designing much longer. In 1994, a game came out called Nascar racing for PC. Made by Papyrus and Sierra Games, it was the first true Nascar racing simulation, complete with a paint shop for custom car designs. I loved the game. I especially loved designing cars. I played it constantly and every sequel that came out got better and better. This coincided with the beginning of the sign shop. I could design paint jobs in our design software and then import them into the game and onto the cars and race them (this will be important later). I was starting to fall in love with graphic designing.
A Change of plans…
In 2006, my dreams of being a rock star had faded. As many bands do, we broke up. This hit me harder than I would like to admit. You see, we were a christian band and I really had found purpose for the first time. I believe Jesus is the savior of mankind and we were spreading that fact the only way we knew how, through music. I was also done working at a grocery store. I was asking God, “where do I go from here?”
The sign shop was growing, and I was working there almost as much as at my full time job. Dad said he could pay me what I was making at the grocery store, so I decided to take a leap and go to work at Highway Man full time. I also decided to go back to school. (Apparently I can’t do one thing at a time). I attended RSU in Bartlesville for 3 semesters, where I held a 4.0 gpa. By now the company had grown significantly enough to invest in some new equipment. We were still making everything on that old 24″ cutter, but I had my sights on something that would change the course of the company. I wanted to do vehicle wraps. Remember the racing game? I had been practicing practically my whole life for this moment. It’s crazy to look back and see God’s hand leading me the entire way. We bought our first printer, a 30″ Roland SP300V, and I started wrapping vehicles.
Taking the Reins
It wasn’t easy, I quickly learned I needed training. I enrolled in a wrap installation class at one of our suppliers in 2009 and wrapped my truck a few weeks later. It was at this point our business skyrocketed. We immediately outgrew our small downtown shop in Dewey, OK, and moved to a much larger shop on highway 75. Highway Man was back on the highway! It was around this time my parents asked if this was the path I wanted to take. Was I ready to take over the business for real? I prayed about it, and I couldn’t see a scenario without the sign shop in my future. It had become one of my passions. I still played music at my church, but this was going to be my career. In 2012, God led me to join the internship at Guts Church. There I learned to grow in my capacity as a leader, and how to take on larger projects. In 2013, after my internship graduation I hit the ground running. We expanded our printing equipment by adding a 64″ wide format printer, and a couple years later, finally a flatbed printer to increase our capabilities.
Hitting the Gas
The next few years we had explosive growth. In 2014 we opened our second location in Skiatook. In 2015 we began adding our current staff, and honing our craft to become the best sign company in the region.
In 2016 we moved into our current location between Bartlesville and Dewey.
We’ve come a long way from that blue and yellow truck with a 24″ cutter to today, with 2 locations and printing capabilities up to 98″ wide! My dad Jim, now retired, still has an office at the shop and I still occasionally go to him for advice. We still continue to grow and find new ways to service our industry, and though some things have changed, our commitment to family, legacy, and our customers is stronger than ever!
In 2018 I made the greatest decision to date by marrying the love of my life, Danielle, and in Feb of 2020 we had our first child, our daughter Ezra Rose.
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