Sometimes solutions make more sense when they come straight from the source-entrepreneur to entrepreneur. That’s why we’re introducing a new column to Enterprise, “In Your Own Words,” an entrepreneur’s first-person account of how they solved a business problem or took advantage of an opportunity.
In our first installment, Walter Shannon Jr., founder and co-owner of E&S Gallery/Doll Graphics in Louisville, Kentucky, details his company’s strategy for promoting a cost-effective grand re-opening. You’ll learn how to get publicity through the media and organize promotional events.
In 1997, E&S Gallery moved from its eight-year-old suburban strip mall location to the heart of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, to be closer to the city’s growing tourism and convention business and to be easily accessible to E&S’s out-of-town customers.
West Main Street, home of an arts and science center and sports museum, was our No. 1 choice.
Shortly after completion of a $175,000 renovation of the building, my wife Cathy, who is director of sales and marketing, and I scheduled grand re-opening activities during the last week of April, which coincides with the Kentucky Derby, the most exciting time of the year in Louisville. We started planning the event three months prior and spent approximately $7,000.
We needed a name to “hook” business leaders and government officials to our kick-off ribbon-cutting designed to attract the downtown business customer. Fortunately, the renovation of our building was partially funded by Louisville Community Development Bank, which was created as part of a community Empowerment Zone initiative and heavily supported by the former mayor (Jerry Abramson). He was more than happy to give key remarks along with the bank’s CEO, Kim Burse, and other elected officials.
We hosted daily “sports art” exhibits to attract sports enthusiasts in town for the Derby or visiting the sports museum. A reception and artist signing for existing and new customers featured works from two Kentucky artists. A second reception, designed to attract new customers, out-of-town visitors and local customers with their Derby guests, featured renowned African American artist Charles Bibbs. Total cost: $2,000.
A mailer went out containing a formal invitation to the ribbon-cutting, a schedule of events and work from the three artists. Total cost: $1,500.
We purchased spots on three local radio stations and stations in Cincinnati and Nashville, Tennessee. Total cost: $3,300.
We sent press kits and made personal calls to local TV, radio and print media. Some provided “free” coverage of our events.
Sales were up 65% to $6,270 from an average of $3,800 per week.
More than 100 people attended the ribbon-cutting-triple our projections-and nearly 700 people came through the gallery from Nashville, Cincinnati and other cities.
Our staff appeared on a local TV program that highlighted Derby events to promote the grand opening week activities and Charles Bibbs’ work.
Charles Bibbs did live remote and on-air phone interviews on radio stations in Nashville and Louisville promoting his upcoming visit.
An article appeared in the local newspaper and a local television program featured the gallery in a special small business segment and also covered the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
AT A GLANCE
E&S Gallery/Doll Graphics