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Meet Miguel Pedraza of 5 A.M. Vinyl in Gwinnett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Miguel Pedraza.

Miguel, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In less than a year, 5 A.M. Vinyl created a name for itself within segments of the car community. We’re known for sophisticated wraps, detailed graphics, and special little touches that help our cars stand out. Each car is a canvas, and we take pride in understanding what each customer wants and helping them to achieve a car they didn’t know was possible.

Throughout my life, I enjoyed learning new things. More than ten years ago, I needed lettering on a truck for a completely unrelated business. Rather than going somewhere to have it done, I decided to purchase a vinyl cutter to make my own. Pretty soon, I found myself transitioning into the sign business as I enjoyed the ideas of designing, creating, and bringing something to life. Starting a business during the last recession wasn’t easy, and eventually, I accepted a job at a local sign shop where I installed hundreds of signs and commercial wraps. I loved it at first, getting to work with my hands and getting to see completed projects. But eventually, I wanted something more. I wanted an opportunity to design, but I never went to design school, so that wouldn’t work. I wanted leadership experience, but they said I wasn’t qualified to be a project manager. Like many people, I felt stuck working in the same position for seven years.

I was supplementing my income during this time, working as a photographer and videographer. I taught myself the ins and outs of photography, editing, and programs such as Adobe Illustrator. These skills help me now as I still have an eye for aesthetics.

In 2019, my life was changing. A few personal events helped me realize that I needed something more. I made an offer to my old boss – I would buy into the company, but he didn’t accept. He would sell the company altogether, but it was a price I couldn’t afford. Then, I asked to drop down to part-time hours so that I could start my own business, still not entirely sure what that would be. And again, he said no. It was full time or no time. After talking things through with my wife, I made the decision that it was time to move on.

After so many years of installing wraps, I knew it was something I could do. Although I had years of experience, I attended two of the top training and certification programs in the country for wrapping. Honestly, I thought I would end up doing more commercial wraps but I am so glad that things happened differently. The road wasn’t easy. The first time we (my wife and I) applied for the business license with the city, we were granted a license for on-site jobs but told we couldn’t wrap in our garage. We looked everywhere for a suitable location, but we were quite picky about what we wanted. Eventually, we lucked out finding our current location in Suwanee but even then, it wasn’t easy. The process of getting a special use permit to work on cars in our shop took almost six months. In the end, it was worth it, and we’re finally beginning to really settle into this location. Our success, however, is all due to those first customers who take a chance going with an unknown wrapper. With each one, our reputation grew. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, and for that, we are grateful.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting any business isn’t easy especially when you quit your job to do it. We worked 24/7, and still do, to build this company the way we want. We’re working in the shop an average of ten hours each day, and then I come home to answer emails, edit photos for social media, and respond to inquiries. With regards to wrapping, it’s just me. I have my hands on every car – every part. That’s not the same at larger shops. During busy seasons, we might bring on someone to help, but we’re hoping to grow to a point where we can bring on someone full time.

And my wife does a lot of the back office type stuff. She’s the one keeping records and doing our taxes, all on top of her regular job. She sends off sales taxes to the state every month, and she’s the one that worked for hours to make sure we were properly insured. Very often, she’s the one customers are talking to on social media, as she’s learned a lot watching me for the last six months. I’ll be honest. I couldn’t have done this without her. Finally, of course, there was the licensing and location issues previously mentioned. Let’s just say we learned a lot about zoning laws over the last few months, but we’re grateful for the support we received from the City of Suwanee, who assisted us along the way. Now we’re fully up and running – certified, licensed, and insured – establishing a real presence in the Atlanta car scene.

Please tell us about 5 A.M. Vinyl.
5 A.M. specializes in car wraps. For those not familiar with wraps, they’re made of a thin vinyl that comes in hundreds of colors and finishes. The beauty of wraps is that you could literally decorate your car any way you desire, and several years down the road, you can completely remove the vinyl. The car will appear exactly as it did before the wrap. You can change the color of your car, change only parts of the car, cover chrome, add graphics – almost anything! And we only use quality materials from brands we can trust.

What currently sets us apart, though, is how we do things. Yes, we will wrap your car in any color you choose, but we’re also eager to add elements that contribute to its “wow” factor. For some, it’s over the top graphics, and for others, it’s the subtle touch of embossed letters or names. When doing the larger jobs, I like to tell my customers to aim for the “double wow.” You want people to see your car from far, and think, “Wow!” And as they get closer to the car and start to notice the fine details, you want them to say “Wow!” again. That’s the double wow. Not everyone is going for that, though, and we understand. Every job is important, and each customer is trusting us to do quality work on a vehicle that is obviously important to them. Every job deserves the highest quality we can give, and that is what we strive to provide.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Honestly, I had a great childhood. I was one of five (#4 to be specific), and we were a close family. If I had to pick one, it would be working on projects with my younger brother. I would come up with ideas and we would work on it together. It might start with getting aboard, a couple of axels, and some wheels, and we would work to build our own cars similar to those from soapbox derbies. Even at a young age, I liked working with my hands to build and create something new.

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Image Credit:
Photo credit for Hemi Silver Dragon: Otis Captures

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