Picture 7When I started writing this blog, I did so under the premise that there is a scarcity of entrepreneurial activity among designers and creative professionals. Well, in fact, I still think that—but I’ve also been consistently surprised and impressed by the new ventures I see popping up from our industry. This was the case when I got the announcement a couple months ago that Grant Design Collaborative—the fantastic Canton, Georgia-based firm, founded and led by Bill Grant—would be opening something called The Store at Grant Design Collaborative.

I’ve known Bill since we were both involved in AIGA chapter leadership a decade ago, after which we served together on the AIGA national board when Bill was the organizations national president. The main thrust of the Grant Design Collaborative business has focused on the commercial interiors industry—developing brand strategy, marketing, collateral, and trade show and showroom materials for clients like Herman Miller, Steelcase, and Geiger.

Picture 11A few years ago GDC began to make a shift from communication design toward product design by seizing the opportunity to create rug designs for a floor-covering client. This experience led to a gradual transformation of the firm, which culminated in the launch of the award-winning commercial wall covering line, Set.

So, the seeds of entrepreneurship were sprouting at Grant Design Collaborative long before the economy tanked. While GDC’s business has remained relatively stable through the downturn, there has certainly been an increase in idle hours in the studio. Coincidentally, a small street-level space had become available in the historic office building owned by GDC on the main drag of small town Canton. Rather than seeking a new tenant to fill this space, the concept for The Store began to take hold as a venue to sell GDC-designed area rugs, wall coverings, and furniture, as well as gift items designed by the GDC team and created from recycled and remnant materials.

Picture 10Bill humbly describes The Store as a “retail stream-of-consciousness for cockeyed optimists,” but I see it as a savvy business move in a time of extraordinary challenging and change. In addition to the obvious potential presented by The Store of adding a new revenue stream to the GDC business, I see a number of other upsides to this concept. At a time when the overall industry is sluggish and staff morale could easily sag, the GDC team have been put to work on a wildly creative and adventurous project—not only designing the retail experience, but creating the merchandise too. The PR angle is also pretty juicy; the retail space is obviously exquisitely designed and the opening comes just as the Canton main street area is experiencing a resurgence. Additionally, The Store has become a laboratory providing real-time data on sales activity and customer tendencies that can then feed back into the product design projects GDC is working on.

Thus far, all indications are that The Store at Grant Design Collaborative is fulfilling it’s promise. 100 people filled the tiny space on opening night in late June and the comments on the Facebook group page have been glowing. Best of luck to Bill and his team for continued success on this exciting project!

Here’s a podcast of a chat I recently had with Bill Grant about the design biz and The Store.