After spending four years in its Springfield warehouse, Creative Audio is expanding to Ozark with a new 25,000-square-foot warehouse early next year.
Owner Don Fleury says the company plans to hire 20 employees over the next five years to cover growth in Creative Audio’s retail stores, new services and its shipping and fulfillment departments. The company currently employs 45.
“We have a good area for hiring, and it’s a centralized location for distribution to all of our stores,” Fleury says.
He says Creative Audio wasn’t after another retail store – it already operates five – but wanted a high-visibility location since the warehouse will be branded under the name.
“This property offered unique north and south traffic,” Fleury says.
Fleury and his team held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 16 for the new warehouse at 2151 Lakeland Drive along U.S. Highway 65 in Ozark. The new warehouse is estimated to cost $1.5 million, with Ozark-based Construction Processing Co. LLC serving as general contractor and Burns Architecture hired for the design work.
With the new location comes a new form of energy: solar.
“We’ve been looking at solar for about five years,” Fleury says. “It’s about a four-year payoff and after that, it generates savings.”
The company recruited current warehouse neighbor Sun Solar LLC for help.
“They had been looking to go solar and had a quote from a competitor,” says Sun Solar CEO Caleb Arthur. “Don came over and built a relationship with my dad, David. We’ve been super thrilled to build a partnership just from him coming over to talk to us.”
Creative Audio contracted with Sun Solar to cover the Ozark warehouse roof with solar panels for roughly $150,000, Fleury says.
Arthur says Sun Solar two months ago performed a solar installation on the Creative Audio store in Joplin.
Fleury estimates the energy savings from the panels in Ozark at about $12,000 per year.
“Between federal tax credits and new depreciation laws from the new tax cut, you can get 50-60 percent of total cost paid back to you,” Arthur says.
A knack for noise
Standing in the overcrowded north Springfield warehouse that will soon be vacant, Fleury recalls how Creative Audio was born.
Growing up in Pittsburg, Kansas, Fleury nurtured a love for mechanics helping his family.
“My parents had a RadioShack and I would install the stereos they sold out in the parking lot,” he says.
Fleury generated a following through his car audio work, even building a sound room in his parents’ store.
“The business wasn’t working out for RadioShack, but I had grown the car audio portion to support taking over their leases,” Fleury says. “So we took out RadioShack and turned it into Creative Audio.”
The company began in Pittsburg, then expanded in 1994 to downtown Joplin and again in 1997 to Sedalia. In 2001, he bought a building from Auto Air & Audio at 717 W. Sunshine St., which remains Creative Audio’s central store.
The most recent store was added in 2012 in Columbia, but it came with complications.
In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, and on the same day his twins were being born, Fleury says funding fell through.
“The bank pulled out of the deal,” he says, noting he already had property contracts and construction estimates in hand. “It took two years of persistence going from bank to bank, then refinancing our existing debt and getting everything worked out to get that project financed.”
Sound your way
The desire of consumers to customize audio systems is the crux of Creative Audio’s business model.
“People aren’t happy with their factory sound,” Fleury says. “If they’re an audio person, they want to enhance the bass on the low end or increase vocals on the high end, or both. We do demonstrations for the customer to see what they want to enhance over what they have.”
Some customers, such as Rick’s Automotive, use Creative Audio for high-end technology replacements, such as TVs and DVD players, often in shuttle buses and limousines.
The business relationship between Creative Audio and Rick’s is nearing two decades, says Tim Fess, fleet manager at Rick’s.
“They’re our go-to for infotainment systems,” he says.
Fess says the most purchased items from Creative Audio are DVD/AM/FM units, along with monitors.
“I’ve been dealing with him for the last 17 years,” Fess says of working with Fleury. “We use them in a lot of our fleets. His product knowledge is exceptional.”
Creative Audio also offers window tinting, LED installations, vinyl graphics, remote start and subwoofer box fabrication.
Fleury says installation jobs and window tinting make up the largest segment, at about 30 percent of sales.
“It can be anywhere from the $300 to $500 range and then on up,” Fleury says of individual car systems. “A good audio system from soup to nuts runs about $2,000.”
Fleury says 20 percent of business comes from marine, ATV and outdoor patio and pool equipment, a steadily growing segment.
Declining to disclose annual revenues, he says Creative Audio is on track to grow by 20 percent this year.
Local developer plans renovations after investing $5 million in foreclosed property acquisitions.
As employees are more mobile and have a desire to work from home, Haden Long owner of Ellecor, explains office spaces are trending towards a more home-like feel. Things like shared work spaces, office pets, and cozy furnishings allow employees to be selective about where they work and become more effective as a result.
Every industry has to navigate trend shifts, but Scott Shotts of Missouri Spirits describes the changes in beverage industry as anarchy. Tried-and-true spirits rules are being ignored. Learn how the local distillery balances following the trends for product development with taking risks.
Kevin Wyas, founder of ECRI, started his first business at the age of 19, ran the business for 16 years before selling it. He recognizes the benefits of starting a business so young when he had relatively little to lose. "The stress and the uncertainty of this would be crippling," he says for somebody accustomed to a regular paycheck.
ighty percent of questions are common across industries, so you don't need industry-specific experience to do effective market research according to Debra Kassarjian, independent consultant and owner of DKInsights. As a matter of fact, she thinks there is a great deal to be gained from exchanging ideas outside of your industry.
Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, says the biggest leap they took in the first year was to purchase a vehicle. That major financial investment, however, allowed them to provide their outdoor guide services at a price point they felt was more appropriate.
Springfield Diner owner Ömer Önder sits down with a restaurant consultant who starts challenging the menu offerings."No bashful food." The blunt conversation is the launching off point to determine how the Mediterranean influence will affect the young restaurant's offerings in the future. Made to Order is an ongoing sbjLive documentary series in collaboration with Springfield Business Journal tracking the rebranding of a local restaurant.
Haden Long, owner of Ellecor, opened a retail home decor business five years ago in a traditional retail space. When the interior design side of the business took off, she decided to renovate a 100-year old bungalow to better show off product samples and installations.
Scott Shotts, partner with Missouri Spirits, says when they started in 2011 there were approximately 300 distilleries in the U.S. and now there are more than 3,000 so competition has grown significantly. Diversification of their business model has helped them succeed.
Matthew Blystone of Theta Float Spa had the financial means to start the unique business, but used crowdsourcing for pre-orders to determine market interest in addition to gathering a nice cash reserve before opening.
Avery Parrish with the Springfield Regional Arts Council explains how businesses can display local art in their spaces for a fraction of the price of investing in a permanent collection. The corporate partnership program allows a business to select from a customized portfolio of local artists' work curated based on the company's mission and aesthetic that can be switched out every six or 12 months.