On a winter day in 2010, Thomas Pusecker said he’d happily sell Gregg Frame Studio to anyone who was willing to take it off his hands, so he could retire. When Ryan DeLapp, Pusecker’s employee of eight years, asked if he was serious, he said he was and DeLapp immediately began looking for financing.
It’s not every day that a worker buys the business they’re working for, but DeLapp knew the studio’s customers well and believed the transition from employee to owner would be fairly seamless. His confidence was also buoyed by the studio’s strong sales record.
“Even during the recession the business was profitable, and I felt there was potential for growth with a change of outlook,” says DeLapp.
Since taking over, he has primarily focused on overhauling the 59-year-old business’s image, creating a new logo and website, and spending a lot of time reworking its sales space to make it more inviting to customers.
“The previous owner saw the entirety of the shop more in terms of it being a workspace, and did very little in merchandising and display,” he says. “There is still much to be done. I would like to have more finished pieces available for sale −right now we are solely a custom framing business− and I would like to start showing more work by local artists. I think we are starting to develop a gallery feel to the shop and I would like to continue in this direction.”
To learn what DeLapp did as soon as he took the reigns, which aspect of the business he likes most, and who he considers “great resources” for small business owners, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: You’ve said the business has grown since you took over about a year-and-a-half ago. Why do you think it’s grown?
Ryan DeLapp: When I took over ownership at Gregg Frame Studio I first did two things. I marked the prices down on everything and threw away all of the low-cost, low-quality product samples we had for sale. I decided that we were going to put all our energy into offering the highest quality framing we could, both in terms of design and in the construction and longevity of our products.
What I lost in profit margin by marking down prices, I have more than made up for by selling a higher end product. There is an enormous range of framing materials available for a shop such as ours, much more than we could ever hope to display, even if our shop was twice as large as it is now.
I decided we needed to create a distinctive house style, where we would be very critical of the products our suppliers provide us, displaying only those of the highest quality and most distinctive look. We are constantly reevaluating what framing materials we should offer, always looking to improve, always looking for new and interesting designs that excite us and our customers.
I think our efforts at rebranding have helped. We’ve received many compliments from customers as to the appearance of the shop. With our new website, we’ve finally begun to promote the business online− something the previous owner had little interest in.
[M]: Tell us a bit about your clientele.
RD: It can be broken down into three general categories: commercial, gallery and museum, and walk in. It seems that when sales are lagging in one area, they will pick up in another. We seem to do better commercial and gallery business early in the year when our walk-in is a bit slow.
I enjoy the gallery and museum business the most, as I feel it utilizes our strengths as framers in terms of the handling and preservation of fine art, and we get to work up close with some beautiful pieces. Most of our walk-in business is local Bexley residents, although we have many customers from the New Albany and German Village areas. We are very fortunate in that the majority of our customers know what they like, and are willing to spend what it takes to see these projects through.
[M]: How many employees do you have?
RD: It’s myself, a full-time employee, a part-time employee, and a woodworker who I hire by the job. I will be looking to add another part-time employee within the next month or two.
[M]: You worked with SCORE and the Economic and Community Development Institute when taking over the business, right? How did each of those organizations help you?
RD: Without SCORE and ECDI I would have never been able to buy the business. SCORE immediately set me up with an adviser who walked me through the entire process. She helped me put together a business plan, prepped me for my meetings with banks, and even sat in on the negotiations to establish a purchase price for the business. Once we had come to an agreement and secured funding, she helped me file the proper paperwork with the state and federal governments to set up the LLC and get our tax documents in order.
For a nine-month period we met regularly, usually every other week or so, with many email exchanges in between. Her help was enormous and I feel a great debt of gratitude towards her. It was an exciting time for me.
The ECDI was able to step up with financing at a time when the banks didn’t want to have anything to do with me− an experience I’m sure I share with many people seeking funding for a small business. They were able to package together loans from several sources− some private, but mostly public, a good portion of which −about forty percent− came from the federal stimulus package.
I feel that these two organizations are great resources for our community and would encourage anyone looking to start a small business to seek them out.
To learn more about Gregg Frame Studio, visit GreggFrameStudio.com.