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Heart to Heart

Pivot Point

How passion and purpose keep entrepreneur Jeremy Siegers moving forward

When Jeremy Siegers discovered commercial art, he knew he’d found his life’s calling. 

“A family friend owned a local sign company and one of his sons was away at college, and they got really busy, so the owner asked my father if I’d be interested in working at the company,” Siegers recalls. “I walked in and my eyes just lit up. This is commercial art—commercial graphics—what businesses use every day for marketing and branding. When I walked in those doors, I fell in love right away. I’d found my passion in life without even looking for it.” 

That moment was a turning point for Siegers. 

Now, more than two decades later, he’s the owner of Sharp Mill Graphics, a multi-surface branding management company based in the Chicagoland area, providing expertise in commercial printing, promotional products, and corporate signage for medium-sized and Fortune 500 companies nationwide.

But that moment was just one turning point in a long series of pivotal moments that have shaped the direction of Siegers’ life. 

“I was born with Muscular Dystrophy, but I didn’t know I had it,” Siegers says. “I was like every other kid. I wanted to be outside and play with my friends. I played Little League baseball, and I could hit the ball and throw, but I couldn’t run.” 

As much as Siegers willed his legs to run, he couldn’t make them go fast enough. Onlookers and parents in the crowd sometimes heckled him for being lazy, but it was just one of a number of issues about Siegers’ mobility his parents had begun to notice. Finally, at a family gathering, a nurse who was also in attendance suggested that Siegers mother have him tested for Muscular Dystrophy. He was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy at age 14. 

“When I got to high school, I couldn’t take PE because of my diagnosis,” Siegers recalls, “so I took all art-related elective classes. Art, drawing, ceramics—I was creative and loved it all. It put me on a level playing field because I could sit at a desk and didn’t have to worry about my weak physical muscles and could let my mental strength do all the work.” 

In college, Siegers sought to find a career track in computers because sitting at a desk would allow him to use his skills while also providing a path forward as his muscles continued to weaken. He settled on a major in network communications management and continued working at the sign company, until the owner’s son graduated from college and the company didn’t need Siegers’ help anymore. 

“I was so bummed,” Siegers says about learning that the job he loved was ending. “It felt like my heart got ripped out. I knew I needed another job, so I started looking online for something that would be as fulfilling, and that’s when I stumbled on information about an open house for a distributorship that sells sign-making equipment and asked my dad if he wanted to go.” 

That Saturday afternoon open house turned out to be another turning point. Siegers took the money he’d made from the sign company job and invested it in himself. Or, more specifically, in his own sign-making business. 

“I taught myself to design and make signs,” he says. “I’d design and make everything, then I trained my dad on how to help me install it. And pretty soon, my side business was making my car payment and paying my car insurance while I was still going to college full-time.”

The endgame, Siegers says, was to graduate college with his bachelor’s degree, get a job as a network administrator and keep making signs and graphics on the side. But after more than a year of interviewing, he still didn’t have a job. 

“When I graduated from college, I was getting around on a mobility scooter pretty much full-time,” Siegers says. “Every job I interviewed for, all they saw was my disability. It was heartbreaking to go through that for a solid year, but meanwhile, my side business that was built around me, my expertise, and my passion was growing. No one cared that I had a disability.” 

That brought Siegers to another life-defining pivot point. 

“I sat down with my parents and told them I was going to run with my own business and make my own luck,” he says. 

Siegers has been making his own luck since 2003. Sharp Mill Graphics is proud to be a certified disability-owned business nationally with Disability:IN and in the State of Illinois. 

“We value integrity and are passionate about building solid relationships with senior-level managers at medium-sized and Fortune 500 companies throughout the Chicagoland area and nationwide who recognize the valuable skill set and unique perspective we offer,” Siegers says. “For our clients, we’re an extension of their marketing department and work together to bring their ideas to life with our multi-surface branding solutions. We can make your job easier, save time, solve problems, and help your company look sharp at every angle and on every surface.”

After navigating the world with mobility equipment most of his life, Siegers sees his disability as a “superpower.” 

“I’m overcoming obstacles every day,” he says. “I’m always thinking, trying to come up with solutions [for the obstacles I face.] I’m just trying to live my life and do what I’m passionate about. Passion and purpose are what drive me. If you have passion for something and you have a purpose, you can really do anything you want if you put your mental strength to work.” 

Learn more about Jeremy Siegers and Sharp Mill Graphics by following Jeremy on LinkedIn or visiting Sharp Mill Graphics online. 

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