Antonio's printing keeps growing

FRESNO -- Antonio Serrano equally loves two things in life: his wife and his job.

The 50-year-old México City native, who grew up working at printing and publishing companies, dreamed of opening up his own small business in México City.

But, in the late 80s, a printing company in the United States was looking for someone with experience in the industry and Serrano fit the bill with more than 15 years of experience at the time.

He left behind his friends and family for the opportunity to work at a branch office in Fresno. Six years later, he quit in order to open his own business on Belmont Avenue.

"My dad is the first in his family to own a business. He doesn't come from a family of business owners so he has had to learn everything on his own which is usually the hard way," said his 18 year-old daughter Jaqui Serrano.

In 2006, Serrano opened A pronto Printing, a full-service printing company that offers customers a wide range of services and products including customized items for businesses such as business cards, flyers and brochures. He also takes special orders of signs, banners, magnets, vinyl letters, t-shirts, caps, mugs and balloons for private occasions such as weddings, quinceañeras and birthday parties.

"My dad chose the location because of the foot traffic and because of the Hispanic population. He knew that he would be able to better serve his community there and still be able to offer reasonable prices," said Jaqui, a recent Fresno High School graduate who is A pronto Printing's full-time manager and assistant.

She says her father's success has been hard earned.

"My dad took a major risk. Most people wait until they have enough money to start a business and my dad didn't. He also doesn't know how to speak English, so he wasn't sure what he would do if he had an English-speaking customer," said Serrano.

A pronto -- which means "fast" in Spanish -- was designed to attract Latino clients initially.

"When someone reads the word 'pronto,' they think 'fast service' and that is what my dad wanted people to visualize when they read the name--that something can be done quickly and effectively," said Serrano. "We have noticed that Hispanic people don't have a lot of patience and they usually want their orders processed quickly."

The business has more than 2,000 English- and Spanish-speaking clients throughout the Valley, thanks to the help of Antonio's three daughters and younger son. Two full-time and two part-time employees manage the day-to-day operations.

Jaqui is responsible for overseeing transactions and finances. She also makes sure each client is satisfied with their order.

"After I graduated from high school, I got into this mind set that I need to help out my dad more. I need to get more involved and so far, I have learned a lot about how a business functions. One thing I can tell you is that it's not easy," said Serrano.

Perhaps the most difficult part is having to share with her extended family who still resides in México City, the challenges of running a business in America and the realities of operating in a recession.

"Everyone thinks we are super rich back home and it's very frustrating. We just aren't. The same way the money comes in through our doors is the same way it goes out and because of the economy, we are just trying to pay the bills, keep the business going and hope to survive," said Serrano.

She admits her mother has become frustrated and has attempted to convince her father of shutting down the business and wait to re-open until times get better, but he refuses.

"My mom knows my dad has his whole heart invested into this business and that he loves waking up every morning to come here and work," said Serrano.

Antonio has turned to his children for help -- putting Jaqui in charge of operations in hopes she or her older siblings will carry on the family business.

"I want them to learn the importance and value of owning a business and to appreciate the hard work that goes into it," said Antonio.

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