Five years ago, Corporate Art LLC got word that a bigger, better suite inside their West Caldwell office building had come on the market.
Things had gotten pretty cramped inside the existing home of the company, which sells artwork to hospitals, hotels, real estate developers and corporations. With room for only one small conference table, the company's founders — Jill Jacobs and Sonny Lewis — were often forced to sprawl artwork out on the floor or in the building's hallway.
Still, they hadn't planned to take on a new lease with a substantially higher monthly rent at that point in time, either.
So they sat down with their landlord and asked if they could graduate their rental payments in the new space, starting small and then slowly working their way up to asking price.
He agreed, and Corporate Art LLC moved a few office doors down, to take up nearly 2,000 square feet instead of 1,200.
The move has been a boon for business.
“It allows us to have designers come in, architects, and really use the space to work in,” Lewis said.
“There's no doubt that it was a step up, but we really needed to take the leap,” Jacobs said. “There was no room to grow.”
And the company has grown. Lewis said annual revenues have increased 35 percent in the past five years. Not all of that can be attributed to the new space, but the founders agree that the move has laid the foundation for continued growth and success.
Three years ago, the company began adding consultants to start selling their artwork to a wider array of clients. Corporate Art has two consultants in the Pittsburgh area and one in New Jersey, with one more open position in the Garden State they are looking to fill.
Those consultants are not employees of Corporate Art — they are paid on commission, not salary — so the cost is relatively low for the company. And the potential for business growth is high.
“We didn't need to (add consultants); we wanted to because that's how the business grows,” Jacobs said. “There is definitely a lot of business out there that we don't even know about.”
Of course, those big expansion decisions don't come around very often, Jacobs said. And smaller tactical decisions can have a big impact on a company's success, too.
For example, Corporate Art recently secured its GSA certification, which allows the company to bid for government contracts. That was an investment of time and money, since the company contracted with an outside entity to help them navigate the government system, Jacobs said.
Jacobs also recently became certified to offer appraisal services to Corporate Art's clients, as well, which came at a cost.
And come November, Jacobs and Lewis will head to Arizona to fill out their inventory with a new batch of artwork — which may actually be more important that some of the larger investments they've made, Jacobs said.
“We don't advertise,” she said. “So our work is our marketing strategy.”
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