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Getting in the door

July 23, 2016

Storefront design and fabrication company wins Kansas SBDC Exporting Business of Year.

The Kansas Small Business Development Center recognized Jon and Camille Roberts, co-founders of Custom Storefronts Inc., with its very first Exporting Business of the Year.

Elisa Waldman, director of the Kansas SBDC, explained that the organization has presented Emerging Business and Existing Business awards, but yet another category – the third “E” in the bunch – was created to honor a Kansas business that has opened doors in the global marketplace.

How the business works

Custom Storefronts provides storefront designs, fixtures and components for national and international retail companies, including Janie and Jack, Charming Charlie, Tory Burch and True Religion.

They craft their designs in wood, metal and glass from a new manufacturing facility in Olathe and have customers across the United States and abroad, including Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Guam, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Panama, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

International brands and franchises turn to Custom Storefronts for consistent quality, delivered on time and on budget.

“Retailers come to us for their international projects because they are looking to provide their international partners with the same quality and products they are currently using for their domestic stores,” said Custom Storefronts President Jon Roberts. “It makes sense for them to utilize the same vendors from a time and cost standpoint.”

How it got started

Roberts and his wife, Camille, originally started Custom Storefronts due to the desire to provide a higher level of service than the corporate world offered and to gain the satisfaction of having customers who appreciated that high level.

Jon’s father taught him to do the best that he could, and Roberts developed a passion for hard work and doing things right. Ultimately, Roberts credits his employees with making Custom Storefronts the company that it is. “We are blessed with a company full of great employees who share our vision for quality,” he said.

Roberts has credited Johnson County Community College for helping him to find excellent employees. In 2002, Roberts took a computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) class at JCCC. He met Tom Hughes, professor and CADD chair.

“I have hired several people from JCCC,” said Roberts. “When I need a position filled, I contact Tom, and he is able to post the job openings for his students.  It is a win-win relationship.”

How Kansas SBDC helped

More recently, the Kansas Department of Commerce referred Custom Storefronts to Kansas SBDC, also on the campus of Johnson County Community College.

John Addessi, Kansas SBDC Consultant, initially visited with Roberts on-site to discuss various ways that the Kansas SBDC program could help Custom Storefronts grow.

Ultimately, Addessi suggested the business enroll in the Economic Gardening program offered through NetWork Kansas. The Economic Gardening team provided information in many areas including:

  • Website analysis
  • Market and competitor assessment
  • Social media/newsletters
  • General growth strategies
  • Employee hiring and retention
“The greatest attribute that John and his team brought to us was the insight to consider and review each of these key business elements for a long-term growth strategy. We now have an annual review of each of these key business elements to determine what the goals are for each,” Roberts said. “We have a much longer outlook than we did when we first started the business.”