The historic Starrett-Lehigh building in the heart of New York City is home to some of the most iconic names in design like Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger.
There’s another company headquartered there that you might not have heard of – yet. Blueprint Lighting, founded by Josh and Kelly Aaron, is poised for big growth in 2019. Here’s how the innovative design team is scaling their small business with low-cost funds from an SBA loan.
When the Aarons met, Josh was working in the music business and Kelly sold vintage furnishings and guest-curated museum exhibitions.
“Our segue into our current business was a little weird,” she laughs. “Our courtship was opening a nightclub in North Carolina. When we decided to start having babies, we sold that and looked for another adventure.”
The next business they launched was Kelly’s idea. She says, “I talked Josh into helping me sell mid-century modern furniture. He was a quick study and really good at it.”
The couple was successful, but a big purchase changed the direction of their business.
“We bought a massive mid-century Italian chandelier at an auction and placed a hefty $15K price tag on it,” Kelly says. “Other dealers were making fun of us for the cost, but we quickly had two major designers put it on hold for upcoming projects. One of those designers was world-renowned tastemaker Jonathan Adler. The price tag was no issue.”
Necessity being the mother of invention, the couple quickly figured out how to fabricate the chandelier in-house and were able to sell to both designers, netting a tidy profit. They realized they were onto something and started creating other designs that would appeal to their existing client base.
Blueprint Lighting was born.
“Josh is amazing,” Kelly says of her husband. “He’s a figure-it-out kind of guy who can make anything work. I let him do his thing and I tackled marketing and sales.”
The business designs and fabricates handmade modern lighting. Kelly says, “All of our designs are fully customizable. We can take our standard product and tweak them with over 36 colors and 6 metal finishes. We don’t have a warehouse filled with stock, we make each to order with our team outside of upstate NY.”
The Aarons didn’t rely on outside funds to start their business and hadn’t considered an SBA loan in the past. “We’ve always had a business credit card that we pay off each month. It’s more of a tool, it didn’t really get us ahead, but we’d use the points for travel. We’ve also taken out small working capital loans through our credit card processor that we pay off quickly. It helped us take on one or two things, but we needed more cash to tackle the large initiatives.”
The couple did pursue a $50,000 business loan with their business bank last year. “It was an intimidating process and ultimately we were rejected,” Kelly says.
Kelly started researching low-cost financing online and came across SmartBizLoans.com.
“We had our financial house in order and knew we’d be a strong contender for a loan. We just needed a bit of assistance. The reviews for SmartBiz were phenomenal, focused mostly on customer service and that’s what we were looking for,” Kelly reports. “SmartBiz made the process so easy and clear, I never felt lost. I knew just what I needed to tackle since it was all mapped out.”
SmartBiz Relationship Manager Pamela Lopez worked closely with both Josh and Kelly during the application process. She says, “They're two great entrepreneurs that were able to strategically change their business operations when they saw a window of opportunity to do so. Their strategic move from furniture to custom lighting fixtures has a better return on investment and I'm excited to see the growth that is yet to come for them with this SBA loan.”
“Pamela was just always available, and we felt like we had a dedicated hand-holder,” says Kelly. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of SmartBiz. It was worth every penny.”
The Aarons immediately started using proceeds from the loan. “Our business is already growing. We’ve always wanted to work with a Public Relations firm, but monthly retainers are expensive. With the cash infusion from the SBA loan, we hired a PR company and that will go a long way to elevate our business.” The Aarons have also hired 2 additional employees, bringing Blueprint Lighting’s staff to 5.
The funds will allow Kelly to travel more, expanding into the wholesale business. “I’ll be able to go to key cities for Q&As and meet and greets,” she says. “It’s important to get facetime and strike when the iron is hot. The money is giving us the freedom to make solid decisions in a timely way. It’s a big difference for us.”
Blueprint Lighting plans to establish a strong wholesale presence in key cities like Dallas and Palm Springs along with showrooms across the U.S.
When asked about the biggest challenges of being a business owner, Kelly names the thing that plagues all hardworking entrepreneurs – work/life balance.
“I’m a mother of 3 and a business owner. It’s hard to switch gears. I want to be a good mom and a focused entrepreneur. There are days when I don’t meet that goal but I’m always working towards the balance. Thankfully, my husband and I work really, really well together. It’s hard for us to shut it down at night – we stay up way too late brainstorming new directions. We love to talk about where our business is going but honestly, I need more sleep,” she laughs.
Check out more of Blueprint Lighting’s gorgeous designs on their website.
Are you a small business owner seeking low-cost funds for expansion? Visit SmartBizLoans.com to read rave reviews about our service and learn more about SBA and bank term loans. We’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs just like you.
Photography by Tim Lenz, Interior Design by Amy Kalikow