How 2-Man Shop Landed Six-Figure ‘Cake Boss’ Job
Small integrators parlay small subcontract into landing the project of a lifetime for a celebrity client.
It’s common when starting a business to have visions of grandeur. All too often, eager entrepreneurs dive into their new endeavors expecting a rush of clientele to stampede their storefronts.
In the custom electronics installation industry, these visions of greatness typically include working in huge, custom-built houses; installing elaborate, bells-and-whistles systems; and catering to customers who willingly give them carte blanche on the project.
In reality, it usually takes years to achieve this sort of business nirvana. To expect it to happen overnight is a big, fat pipe dream. Even CE pros who have been fortunate enough to reach the big leagues have recently had to scale down their grand business plans to weather the finicky economy.
Sweating the Small Stuff
Chima and Abiose Gale, brothers and co-owners of 360 Media Innovations, Maplewood, N.J., entered the wild and wily world of custom electronics design and installation in 2008, when the market was at one of its lowest points.
“New builds were way down in our area and everyone was scrambling for business,” says Chima. Still, the intrepid duo thought they could make a name for themselves … eventually.
Company: 360 Media Innovations
Location: Maplewood, N.J.
Principals: Chima Gale, president and Abiose Gale, managing partner
Revenues (2010): $280,000 (As of June 2011, the Gales have already surpassed their 2010 revenue total)
Years in Business: 3
Number of Employees: 2
Specialty: A/V, but quickly becoming home control
Top 5 Brands: Elan, Onkyo, Samsung, Triad and Epson
FYI (advice to other dealers): Decide early on where you will focus your energy: retrofit, control, commercial. Once you focus on a path you can build your brand around it.
“We fully expected to have a tough road ahead of us,” says Abiose. He was right. While the jobs were rolling in, thanks to subcontract work from Zip Express Installation and online sites like Service Magic and Install It Today, the projects weren’t exactly the type that most CE pros would drool over.
Together, the duo logged in a slew of little, moderately profitable jobs, mostly hanging flat-panel TVs for $250 a pop (it’s a far cry from the six-figure system they installed recently into the home of Buddy Valastro, who stars as the Cake Boss on TLC). Occasionally, they would set up a surround-sound system or a basic whole-house audio system.
Paying their Dues
In its first year of business, 360 Media Innovations completed 200 jobs, most of which was generated by a contract with servicemagic.com. “It was expensive to join, but it got our feet in the door,” Chima says.
As “small” as that door was, the Gale brothers were happy to be inside. “Those little jobs were invaluable to the success of our business. As a former regional sales manager for Nevo by Universal Electronics, I had seen many large installation jobs, and I knew we simply [weren’t at that level of expertise] yet. We needed lots of practice, and those smaller sales gave us the experience and confidence we would need to move on to bigger and better things. We put ourselves through boot camp so we’d be ready when the big jobs did eventually come our way.”
Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at email@example.com
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