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How Did We Start Deco TV Frames?

février 23, 2024 6 lecture min.

Flying High

 

Deco TV Frames started almost by accident. It was just something that came about because I wanted my TV to look nice and also thanks to an idea by a friend of mine.

I had just bought my first condo in 2002, and it was a fixer-upper. I had spent a lot of time helping my dad, who was a builder when I was a kid. So I knew what to do, but my dad was also helping me out.  

We put up my new flatscreen TV on the wall, and it looked really plain and boring. At the time, flatscreens were still pretty new, and you could easily spend $10 – $15,000 for a TV. (Thank you no-interest financing!)

I was house-poor and had no furniture since I had just gotten out of college.

As an electrical engineer, I thought, "I can be an electrician for a day." Maybe not the best idea, but I'm still here, so I didn't do too badly. I installed an outlet higher up on the wall and mounted the TV.

Except there's a reason I'm not an electrician: You could still see the outlet peeking out just an inch above the TV. So I did what any rational person would do. Instead of moving the TV up an inch, I went to Home Depot, bought some crown molding, and made a frame to hide the outlets.

I also got a rattle can of gold spray paint and problem solved! I had a nice museum-style picture frame to hide the outlet. 

Except I had a picture frame around a big black rectangle.

I also had a photography business on the side, so I started playing some of my photos on my TV so it looked like I had some real artwork hanging in my living room. 

Everything was going well, until all of a sudden, I lost my engineering job. The company had a single client, the client changed direction, and I was kicked to the curb.

I was in a real mess.

I had just bought a new car and a house, so I needed to come up with car payments and a mortgage that I could no longer afford. I was facing bankruptcy and trying to figure out what I could do.

I had a friend over one afternoon, and we were talking about it when she said, "I really love that frame on your TV."

And I said, "Denise, focus! I've got a real problem here."

Then I thought about what she said for a moment and said, "You know, everyone always comments on that stupid frame." 

Then I thought for another moment and said, "Maybe there's something here."

So I started Googling and saw that nobody made frames for TVs. A little more research showed me that the domain name, FrameMyTV.com, was available. A little more research showed me some basic analytics on what people were searching for when it came to TV frames. 

I found that more than 600 people were searching for the term "TV frame," but there was nothing there for them. Nobody was making anything that the average person could afford. There was Eli Wilner, but he was making these really high-end $50,000 antique replica frames.

He's the guy you call if you own an original Monet or Rembrandt. He also made TV frames for some of his richer clients, which were going for $30,000 and more. 

I realized there was clearly a market for affordable TV frames. So I went to my one-car garage and started making some samples. 

Except I didn't know how to finish the wood or anything. When I was a kid, my mom stained all the baseboards in our house, so I had my mom fly up to Boston and teach me how to do finish woodworking. I got a little chop saw and started making frames in my garage.

I launched a little eBay pro store website, got a toll-free number, and waited.

And waited.

I didn't get a call for the first eight days.

I figured I would just hit launch and the money would start flowing in, but it didn't work that way. I started getting calls for frames, and I was in business. We were getting small orders and small money, but the money was coming.

Them's The Breakers

About six months into my new venture, I got a deal with the Breakers, a five-star resort in Palm Beach, Florida. They wanted TV frames for all of the guest rooms in that hotel. 

This was our first really big win — our first big break, so to speak* — and it happened about six months out of the gate.

*Pun totally intended!

By that point, I had moved into an old mill building that was built as part of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. It was an old five-story brick building along the river. The guy who owned it was a mentor to me. 

One day he asked me if I had outgrown my garage yet, and I said that I had been assembling frames in my driveway and dining room, so yes, I had.

He said he had a small space on the fifth floor if I wanted to use it. Best of all was the price: free. 

So I took him up on his offer, and the Breakers job came soon thereafter, and the rest is history.

Fast Forward 14 Years

We'd had a lot of small steps along the way, rather more giant wins like the Breakers job. A lot of wins, and a few losses, but we managed to keep growing a bit each year. 

We also started adding a lot more high-end consumer stuff, like TV mirrors and motorized canvas paintings that rolled up in front of the TV. The price points averaged around $4,000 – $5,000 for a long time. 

These were higher market items, and there was a market for them, but they were so small, rather limited. We realized there is only a small number of people who are going to spend that kind of money on an accessory for a TV, especially as the prices of TVs continued to fall.

So when 2019 rolled around, I was ready to call it quits. I had been at it for more than 14 years, and it was getting harder to sell products.

A few years earlier, Samsung released its Frame TVs, and they became very popular because you could disguise your TV as a work of art. Naturally, people were calling for better frames for the TV, and we started getting many more calls specifically for the Frame TVs.

Our guys in the shop came up with a great new design that we all thought was very clever — the frames were put together with magnets.

I said, "Guys, this is genius. We need to take this to the home theater trade show."

So I called our rep and asked if any booths were available at the show. The problem was, it was a month before the show, and you usually have to book out a year in advance. 

She said that as luck would have it, there was a 10- by 20-foot booth that had just canceled, and we could take it.

By an even bigger stroke of luck, it was across the aisle from Samsung.

We didn't know how Samsung would respond or whether they would like it or hate it. They made their own bezels for their TVs, but nothing arty like ours. Would they appreciate what we did? Would we be seen as a threat?

We showed up, had their logo on our signage, and crossed our fingers.

They loved it. Absolutely loved it.

All the people from Samsung's booth flooded into our booth during the first morning of the show.

One gentleman came into our booth about an hour into the first morning and said he wanted to talk with me.

It turns out he was the president of Samsung North America. He said, "I want to shake your hand. You're about to make a lot of money." We've been working with them in an unofficial collaboration, and we are more than happy with the relationship we have with them. There's no written agreement; we just make a good product for them and make them look good, and they allow us to operate in their space. They've continued embracing what we're doing and now call us a partner.

They have many big public announcements about their TVs at every one of their major trade shows, and they feature our frames in their booth. They have even pitched our frames in their booth at the Consumer Electronic Show when they have new TVs.  

We're very pleased that Samsung has embraced us as their partners and we're very proud of the work we've been able to do for them. And we've loved the work we've been doing in TV framing.

It all started because I wasn't a good electrician and an offhand comment by a friend who happened to like what I did. Thanks to many great relationships over the years, combined with some pretty good luck, we've been able to do something that many people love.

 


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