Makers of Tomorrow: River Prince

This barely-able-to-legally-drink signpainter is morphing his shop into a powerhouse.
2020 Makers of Tomorrow: River Prince

River Prince

Age: 21

Job: Owner/operator, Prince Sign Co. (Ellisville, MS)

After work: Prince likes to travel with his wife and spend time with his two golden doodles. He’s an avid hunter, fisherman and sports fan, particularly of mixed martial arts.

Quote to know: “As I got into the craft, I wanted to make sure that all signs that we produce were of the highest quality. If there’s ever an issue, we’re sure to go back and correct that.”

Yes, River Prince is his legal name. Yes, he’s only 21. In spite of those details, Prince is establishing a foothold in southern Mississippi with Prince Sign Co. by merging the functions of a traditional signpainting shop with branding and fabrication services. “Signs, to me, are the first impression of any business,” Prince said. “I look to push quality craftsmanship and quality signmaking.”

Prince attended college for two years studying graphic design, but quickly discovered his future was in signmaking after attending sign workshops and visiting with a billboard signpainter. After a brief apprenticeship, Prince co-launched Prince Sign Co. in 2018 with his wife. Based in Ellisville, Prince Sign does most of its business near two larger municipalities, Laurel and Hattiesburg. A stickler for artistry done the right way, Prince has found success in those areas by sticking to his company’s values. “A few signshops have watered the market down there. They do cheap work and poorly designed work. I’m sure this applies everywhere, but because their rates were cheap, people went with them,” Prince said. “So, the streets are littered with poor design and poor craftsmanship. You’ll see plastic curling up and poorly fabricated signs barely hanging up.”

With plenty of nearby businesses willing to cede outdoor wall space for signs, Prince has left his mark around town. “People take advantage of having these large brick walls by applying a mural for advertising or artistic reasons,” he said. Prince Sign’s branding services include logo design and interior design, aiding businesses with color and lighting selection. Prince’s fabrication skills date back to his high school days working construction. Thus, Prince Sign is able to fabricate channel letters and sign cabinets. And, after its purchase of neon equipment from another sign company, Prince Sign can bend neon in house, too. “Certain businesses are striving for a certain feel, so neon fits into that area of nostalgia and gives it an overall classic feel,” he said.

Prince’s youth elicits mixed reactions from potential clients, with some enthusiastic about supporting a small business run by a young couple, while elder business owners occasionally deem Prince not seasoned enough to produce signage for a living. “They almost treat it as, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’” he said. As for his unique moniker, Prince can’t recall a concrete explanation from his parents, though his mother enjoys the outdoors and he did grow up an estimated 300 yards from a large river. In any case, the competition best remember his name.