The big, bad recession can’t bring Grapevine Communications Int’l Inc. down. In fact, founder and President Angela Massaro-Fain and her husband, co-owner John Fain, have embraced the downturn and learned valuable lessons from it.
“We attacked the recession rather than joined it,” says Fain. “The recession taught us to take a different approach to target clients more effectively. We have been proactive and have learned ways to be different. Our client family is more diverse now than ever.
“The economy forced us to look at how to run the business on a daily basis and we found many ways to reduce overhead,” says Fain. “We reduced costs by $7,000 a month and kept 100% of our staff, while adding new employees. An example where we saved is printing. (One of our staff members) initiated a review of our printing practices and realized Grapevine was spending $1,000 a month on printer cartridges. Once we came up with a better system, we went to spending $400 a month.”
Being connected to the community and helping non-profit organizations is an opportunity that Massaro-Fain and Fain don’t take lightly. In fact, Grapevine donated more than $207,000 in pro-bono services in 2009 to groups, such as The Wellness Community, Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, We Care Manatee, ALS of Florida and Asolo Repertory Theatre, to name a few.
“We started out offering free services for at-risk youth programs, but, over time, as we’ve grown and understood the community more, we’ve seen more opportunities in which we can help,” Fain says. “The more you get involved in the community, the more you recognize all of the caring and good people are doing, which reinforces what a great place Sarasota is to live.”
After being named Small Business of the Year at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s awards ceremony, the couple was met with an office full of flowers and hundreds of e-mails from clients, vendors, long-lost friends and even competitors.
“It is wonderful to be recognized for all the work our staff has achieved,” says Massaro-Fain. “We have great talent and a team effort, which makes Grapevine successful. Always surround yourself with good people.”
AT A GLANCE
Address: 5201 Paylor Lane, Sarasota
Start date: 2002
Number of employees when started: Four
Number of employees now: 12
Advice: “Don’t participate in the recession,” Fain said. “We attacked the recession rather than joined. Grow your market share and be aggressive. Then, as the economy comes back, you’ll be in a stronger and better position. The tough economy made us be smarter and work smarter.”
Biggest challenge: “We’ve had the challenge of making sure our clients pay on time and manage their bad debts, as well as cash management, which is something that can get a small business in trouble.”
Where do you see your business a year from now? “We believe that during the last two years we have developed an ongoing plan of client growth and sound financial management. We learned from the recession and are a better business because of it. I envision that we will continue this plan and hope to add one to two employees as the year progresses.”