Three Strikes You’re In

The road toward entrepreneurship hasn’t always been a smooth one for Scott Tucker, CEO and creative director of the New York-based production design company In Square Circle Design Concepts. After two false starts, the company is finally coming into its own. The firm garnered a 2007 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards nomination for Business Innovator of the Year. Last year, ISC brought in revenues of $250,000–and projects nearly a million dollar increase for 2007 and $2.5 million by the end of 2008.
Tucker launched ISC in 1993, while studying sculpture and furniture design at Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., and designing for some of D.C.’s hottest nightclubs. The first few years proved to be trying: Most of the company’s revenues went toward paying rent for the business.

“I didn’t make any money the first and second years,” he recalls. “By the third year, I made maybe $60,000 in revenue.” Three lean years combined with the swift rise in D.C. real estate prices forced Tucker to halt his efforts.

“I couldn’t afford to keep my first space,” he admits. “My lease was up and my landlord was doubling the rent. I went back to school and started over.” Tucker’s educational pursuits led him to Long Island University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

Tucker returned to New York in 1998 and, shortly before graduating from LIU in 2003, he landed a job as creative director with Hampton Resorts & Hospitality handling all of the hotel’s creative work.

In 2004, Tucker made several bold moves: He quit his job at the hotel and opened up shop again in an effort, he says, to revamp the company’s image and services and to tap into the booming New York market.

Using about $50,000 from his savings and some additional capital from his best friend to relaunch, Tucker transformed ISC. Today, the one-stop shop offers an array of artistic services including commercial interior and scenic design, furniture design and construction, and design production of red carpet events and trade shows.

Tucker’s decisions proved positive for ISC and its four-person staff, with mineral water manufacturer Evian its first high-profile client. Of course, success did not come without additional risk: “I didn’t have enough money to lease our headquarters, renovate it, and start working on jobs,” recalls Tucker. “If I signed the lease on the building and didn’t get the contract, I was in trouble. If we’d gotten the contract, but didn’t lease the building, I was in trouble.” Tucker took a gamble and leased the building. Shortly thereafter, ISC sealed the deal with Evian. With that, Tucker says, “We were back in business.”

Tucker’s clientele includes Chaka Khan, Nike, and the Apollo Theater. ISC has a new furniture line, Raunjiba, which means lounge in Japanese. A handcrafted vanity recently fetched nearly $15,000. However, Tucker stresses, “My business doesn’t totally rely on the furniture aspect. Furniture is more of an art form for me.”