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LEADING QUESTIONS: Startup a study in quick growth

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Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

This week, longtime local public relations professional Vicki Bohlsen provides an example of a startup firm that braved the weak economy and experienced strong growth.

With $25,000 in seed money loaned from her in-laws, Bohlsen founded the eponymous public relations firm BohlsenPR on Feb. 12, 2010, with herself as the sole staff member and plans to hire a couple independent contractors for support. Today, the firm counts 13 full-time employees (including Bohlsen, who draws a salary), one part-timer, and three interns. In its first full year of operation, the company posted about $780,000 in revenue, Bohlsen said.



“It’s been a really crazy year,” said Bohlsen, 45. “I had a business plan, but I really took it day by day, and it just took off.”

BohlsenPR was able to vault out of the gate with a considerable spring in its step. Bohlsen brought with her a stable of clients from TrendyMinds PR, a firm she co-founded in 2008 with Trevor Yager, CEO and founder of the separate marketing firm TrendyMinds. Yager left the PR firm in early 2010 (TrendyMinds went on to develop its own PR services), and Bohlsen renamed it BohlsenPR as she essentially was starting over.

“Some of those existing client relationships grew, and there was more work, and of course I took it,” Bohlsen said. “That meant I had to react to that and hire more people. …  It just morphed.”

In May, the three-person firm moved into 2,000 square feet of office space on the fourth floor of the Morrison Opera Place building at 47 S. Meridian St., setting up card tables as desks.  The seed money from Bohlsen’s in-laws helped the firm cover initial costs. As revenue began rolling in, Bohlsen started fleshing out the staff and refurbishing the space (which eventually grew to 4,000 square feet).

Taking stock of the major startup costs from the first year, Bohlsen listed $30,000 for computers, $35,000 for software and $35,000 for a custom buildout that finally wrapped up in January. Other pricey items included $18,500 for development of the company’s website. Bohlsen estimated total startup-related costs (excluding ongoing expenses) since February 2010 at $172,000.

“Personally, it’s just a great feeling to know that other than the small investment from my in-laws, everything is paid for,” Bohlsen said.

In the video at top, Bohlsen provides a peek inside the firm’s rapid evolution and discusses issues such as avoiding debt, outsourcing some vital functions, and initially embracing the firm’s card-table aesthetic as a kind of corporate identity.
 

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  • Exectuive Chef
    My "start up" catering given was given the opportunity to assist with their anniversary party a few weeks ago. Everyone involved with the company was gracious and obviously thrilled at their the success. We wish them the best and look forward to cooking for them in the future!
  • Start Up Requirements
    While you might debate that a true start up does not have clients on hand at launch, I counsel clients not to quit their day job and start out until they either have clients or are close enough they can truly count on the money. Way too many businesses start up with way too little cash and no source of quick clients, and the result is a disaster. Good job Vicki for having the right foresight.
  • Congrats
    Awesome story. I want to start my own firm one day. Your store gives me encouragement and some direction to follow.
  • Excellent!
    Congrats on the success, but this is not a true start up. Having clients in hand when you start is fantastic, but how many real start ups can count on having clients in waiting?

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  1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  2. If you only knew....

  3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

  4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

  5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.

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