Spirit Galleries of America Inc.
A Fine-Art Franchise Concept for the 21st Century
John W. Brown
10 Prince Place – Unit 101
Spirit Galleries of America Inc. is a franchised art studio/retail gallery concept consisting of cityscape renditions based on the digital impressionism panoramic design techniques developed by Newburyport artist/photographer Jon Brown. The Spirit Galleries of America Inc (S.G.A. Inc.) concept incorporates the scenic, historical landmark, and artistic elements of the specified city or town with that of the contemporary ‘state of the art’ digital photograph and design applications creating a unique line of fine art prints and gift products. S.G.A. Inc. trademark-name is designed to be infused with the specified city or town franchise operations that are geared to produce a line of fine art print designs and gift products for that particular city or town i.e. Spirit Gallery of Newburyport. Each franchise operation would be independently owned and operated to produce its own localized line of custom designs, prints, framing, and gift products within a studio/retail gallery setting.
The design process behind the S.G.A. Inc. concept incorporates a fusion of digital photography, fine art design, and state of the art digital giclee printing process consisting of high end ink jet dyes and watercolor papers such as Somerset Velvet specifically developed for fine art. The master images of each design are then stored as an electronic file capable of being edited to produce any proportionate size print from a 5x8 greeting card to a 24”x72” or larger mural. Each print produced is a signed and numbered limited edition print and able to be custom matted and framed by the in-house frame shop. Each design can then be applied to a line of custom designed gift products consisting of greeting cards, calendars, clothing, coaster tile gift box sets, mugs and various other paper and ceramic gift products that incorporate fine art images.
The S.G.A. Inc. franchise concept fulfills a two-fold market niche. First and foremost, the ‘visual and print’ connects an emotional affiliation between the consumer and their particular city and local surroundings, especially those that are quaint with historical significance. Secondly, the concept is geared to the traditional tourist market. Both avenues fulfill a specific need in a specialized market.
There has been a remarkable transformation in the digital photographic industry and Jon Brown has been involved from the beginning! Jon was a contributor in the early 90’s as a conventional photographic technician witnessing first hand the transformation from within the custom photo labs. At the same time, the engineering team of Iris Graphics, Inc., Bedford, MA developed and introduced its first color digital printer, introducing the ‘Iris Print’ (or later known as the Giclee Print). Iris was truly a pioneer in the industry and it improved upon and made marketable the research into the basic analog and digital work that had preceded it at MIT and at other Route 128 companies including Polaroid.
Over the past 25 years refinements in printing equipment, inks and papers have led to dramatically improved results, while at the same time investment costs, particularly for digital printers, have plummeted. Today’s digital printing systems have now reached the point where the quality of the finished photographic image has never been higher, can be accurately reproduced in ways that were only previously dreamed of, and accomplished at a cost far lower than ever before. It has opened a huge, new market for people seeking high quality, reasonably priced limited edition artwork.
As a first step toward entering the marketplace, Jon personally photographed and created a large portfolio of remarkably beautiful, digitally processed cityscapes, scenery, architecture, etc. containing emotionally connective scenes in the Newburyport area. His products have been offered at his retail location in the historic Market Square section of Newburyport. In addition, he has also provided special, commissioned works to high profile clients such as the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and for use on the cover of a new book “Life in Newburyport: 1950-1985” by Jean Foley Doyle. Two of Jon’s most popular products have been fabricated into highly detailed framed and mounted panoramic landscapes of Newburyport Harbor and the centuries old Market Square area. Other products include a large variety of relatively low cost “gift items” such as tiles, shirts, tote bags, greeting cards, etc. Jon is a patient and gifted photographer, often taking hundreds of shots before settling on those that are used in the final master design. He then applies a technique of combining creative digital imaging, painting, and detailed photography, then used in conjunction with a printing process that produces subtle variations due to the interaction of specially developed ink and fine art watercolor paper. Jon has serendipitously had the irreplaceable opportunity to personally sell his works on a face to face basis. In doing so he has listened carefully and has responded appropriately to their inputs of both tourists and local collectors. His work has been enthusiastically received by a rapidly growing list of customers. Careful records have been kept, profit margins analyzed, pricing established, and new products developed as a direct result of Jon’s personal interaction with people on a day to day basis. Jon has learned important lessons about the emotional impact of his work as well as the need to clearly plan his next business moves. The time for tweaking his initial “beta” site in Newburyport has been completed. Solid and reliable sources of raw materials have been found, manufacturing strategies have been determined, and the proper specifications for the printing equipment, inks and the specialized papers have been tuned to perfection.
It is within this sphere that Spirit Galleries of America Inc.. now intends to successfully expand, increase its sales, hire additional people and to more fully reach its aggressive sales goals.
In addition to the existing retail and manufacturing operation in Newburyport two distinct areas for future sales will be exploited. What follows is a brief description of the two specific areas that will be pursued over the next year.
1. Sales to individual decision-makers that seek to emotionally connect themselves with their clients through the use of artwork depicting their common surroundings. Our experience is that in addition to Newburyport’s tourists and gift buyers there has also been very strong interest shown by local attorneys, banks, CPAs, boat owners, manufacturing operations, hotels, etc. These people have introduced us to an unusually profitable market. Average selling prices and gross margins are significantly higher than lower priced gift items. In general this wealthier demographic seeks to display artwork in their home, or at their place of business, their lobby, etc. in order to connect with their peers and clients at a deep and emotional level. Hanging a digitally created local “cityscape” increases the perceived connection between their business interests and their clients. A large panoramic shot of Newburyport’s historic harbor, for example, creates a strong statement. It says that the attorney, car dealer or accountant is a “local” person. It projects the owner as a member of the community, not an impersonal outsider. It says that they “belong”, are connected to the heart of the city or town, and that they care for their community and their local customers. It is our intention to focus on direct sales to this clientele through the use of the Internet, direct marketing, telemarketing, personal sales calls, and a trial ownership process among other strategies. It is expected that these sales will be undertaken at a potential client’s location on a face to face basis. No longer will future sales result strictly from the original retail location. Sales activity at this level and to this demographic requires trained and motivated salespeople who are confident and capable of working with individual business owners as well as within the confines of corporate bureaucracy.
2. Sales to entrepreneurs who wish to own their own business will be the second target market. “Spirit Galleries of America Inc.” franchises will be offered in specific, non-competing locations on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley, where entrepreneurs can run their own galleries own galleries, production facilities, and gift shops. A special production team run by Jon Brown will supply all designs while offering training to franchise entrepreneurs. There are obvious choices for photographic portfolios to be developed in New England areas such as Rockport, Gloucester, Salem, and Andover, etc. Each town has its own claim to fame. Each town has customers who wish to hang fine quality artwork on their walls at home and at their businesses. It is through this strategy that Spirit Galleries Inc. intends to easily meet its goal of creating a management and production team at least five full time employees within two years. Each franchisee will be provided with full training, a multi-tabbed “Operations Manual” and robust technical and sales support. Each franchise will benefit from the proven concept of the original, time-tested Newburyport prototype. Each franchisee will be provided with a secure geographical area and will receive on an ongoing basis training and mentoring. Included in the franchise package will be location selection support, a detailed analysis of their particular market based on factors such as population, income, disposable income, etc. Complete information on the specifications and sources of supply for printing equipment, paper (key ingredient), inks, will be provided along with marketing pieces, proven sales strategies, industry news, etc.
“In 1996 I purchased my first computer and began to learn everything I could about digital imaging and writing computer language. A year later I published my first virtual gallery web site, SunSpirit Gallery.Com and created several collections while perfecting the photo/digital/art technique utilizing the latest materials and printing applications. In 2002 I began to apply these techniques to the Spirit of Newburyport collection, (see; www.spiritofnewburyport.com). Originally from the north shore of Massachusetts, Jon spent the best part of fifteen years developing a certain technique that fused digital photography with painting, digital imaging, and printmaking. His motto is, “I'm an artist by nature and a photographer by trade.” He produced and worked on several projects incorporating this technique before moving to Newburyport in April of 2002. He then spent three years applying the technique to his first extensive cityscape editions which became the 'Spirit of Newburyport' print collection.
The technique of combining creative digital imaging, painting, and detailed photography, used in conjunction with the printing process that produces subtle variations due to the interaction of specially developed ink and fine art watercolor paper, is what Jon refers to as 'Digital Impressionism'. “What is most important to me is not the media, techniques, or methods used, but the VISION. It’s the same vision that exists for me today with using a computer, as it did thirty years ago without it. Today, the digital revolution has changed the rules. For me, technology is used for creative purposes. The computer is as unlimited as the imagination itself. Combined with the internet and web site development, an artist, for the first time in history, whether or not they are a painter, a writer, a musician or whatever, has the capability to produce themselves in all phases of production, including MARKETING. This is a very significant step towards dismissing the 'starving artist' mentality adopted by traditional society, and paving the way for any creative individual to empower themselves at making a living at what they do best. Create.”
Bob Rand brings over 60 years of selling experience to Spirit Galleries of America Inc.. He is an entrepreneur that has sold products and services all his life and understands how to sell and how people often make their personal purchasing decisions. He has personally started four companies, one of which was sold to General Mills. He sold seeds door to door when he was 7 years old and later started a sales company that helped him earn his way through college. For four summers he sold consumer products directly to customers at state and county fairs around the US and Canada. For the past 30 years Bob has been a “manufacturers’ representative”, selling to original equipment manufacturers in New England. Some of his clients have included rocket scientists at Raytheon, design engineers at Bose, IBM, Digital Equipment, etc., as well as with individuals such Ralph Baer. the “founder of video games”, and hundreds of accounts both large and small. Bob is very enthused about his role at Spirit Galleries Inc. because it offers him the challenge to continue the pioneering work done by Jon and to help be a part of an exciting future. Bob is a seasoned salesman and an entrepreneur who firmly believes that “Nothing happens until someone sell’s something!”
Andrew de Bernardo is the owner of State Street Mobil, a thriving gas and service station in the heart of Newburyport. In his six years of ownership, he has built lasting and lucrative relationships with local business leaders and a loyal following of customers. In his previous position, he successfully ran a 10 million dollar company for 19 years, with 110 employees and independent contractors, 28 permanent locations throughout New England, and over 50 temporary locations (displays were erected at town fairs and home shows). He has shown his ability to succeed by working his way up through the company ranks to eventually become a 40% partner in the organization and director of several departments concurrently. As an experienced business owner and current lease-holder with a major corporation, and as a visible member of the Newburyport community, Andrew is well equipped to advise Jon Brown in the many stages of growing and expanding his business. Andrew has Jon Brown's artwork prominently displayed in the business, and has used his fine art images for holiday promotions.