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Great Frame Up owner turns small business success into art form

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Submitted by Jayne Armstrong | Director, Iowa District, U.S. Small Business Administration

This guest submission is the first of several that will be offered by Jayne Armstrong throughout 2018. Armstrong's goal with each submission is to highlight successful female business owners throughout Iowa, and the lessons they learned on their way to success.

Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Angela Jackson always dreamed of owning her own art gallery someday. Today she is a seasoned business owner paying it forward for other women to follow in her footsteps.

She opened a Great Frame Up franchise in West Des Moines’ West Glen Town Center over 12 years ago. Personal savings and a U.S. Small Business Administration loan through Wells Fargo Bank financed the startup costs, including the franchise fee, leasehold improvements and working capital. 

Jackson credits her extensive research on sustainable business models for her small business success. Recognizing that a gallery would be difficult to sustain due to the pricing of high-end products, the former corporate legal counsel then focused her market research on the framing industry and its stronger profit margins. 

The franchising model offers advantages such as coordinated marketing and website promotions. The St. Louis-based Great Frame Up provided key startup assistance with training classes and on-site assistance during her opening.

The framing business allows her to incorporate her love of art and design as she works with clients to showcase their memorabilia and artwork. She also supports local artisans by selling their artwork and hosting monthly art events. 

Personalized customer service and strategic marketing distinguish the Great Frame Up from its larger corporate competition. Customers appreciate that all the work is done on-site using conservation materials. Jackson uses marketing tools to target her customer base through direct mailing and promotional discounts. It also doesn’t hurt that she offers one of Iowa’s most extensive selections of frames.

"Always respect your customers by being nicer than necessary," said Jackson. "The outstanding customer service will drive repeat customers and referrals." 

Jackson also owns a consulting business where she advises other small business owners on how to start and grow their ventures. She offers these top 10 tips for small business success: 

  1. Save enough money before opening the business and double the amount you think you need
  2. Take the time to develop a business plan and use it as your road map or business GPS.
  3. Work with people who will give you the best terms for financing and make sure you have access to capital during the lean periods. 
  4. Use counseling and training resources such as the SBA’s Women’s Business Center, SCORE, Small Business Development Center and the Veterans Business Outreach Center to get started on the right foot. Jackson used the services of the Women’s Business Center now located at the Iowa Center for Entrepreneurial Success in the early days of the business. 
  5. Be savvy about social media and stay updated on current trends by listening and learning from young people. 
  6. Focus on what you do well and enjoy doing.
  7. Maintain a strong support system of family and friends, along with a healthy lifestyle and faith.
  8. Get outside your comfort zone and focus on people who can strategically help you grow your business. 
  9. Get involved in networking organizations to promote your business. Jackson credits her participation in Business Network International for ongoing referrals and a strong return on investment. 
  10. Distinguish yourself from the competition with outstanding customer service and a good product. 

Like many small business owners, Jackson learned these lessons through a lot of hard work and perseverance. After 12 years in business, she is turning a sustainable business model into an art form.