Manatee Small Business of the Year Award for more than $3 million: Grapevine Communications International

mjohnson@bradenton.comMay 23, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- An advertising, marketing and public relations firm that started 12 years ago with just a handful of clients has turned itself into a regional player in the market.

Grapevine Communications International got its start in 2002 when owners Angela Massaro-Fain and John Fain turned a list of two dozen clients into a growing business. Massaro-Fain was previously an advertising and marketing business in Montreal. She came to the Manatee-Sarasota area in 1998 when one of her clients, Intertape Polymer Group, purchased her business. Her husband, John Fain, was corporate vice president of marketing at IPG at the time.

Since she and Fain went out on their own in the Florida market, Grapevine has more than tripled the size of its client base. Eighty-six percent of the company's business comes from repeat clients.

Now employing 18 full- and part-time employees at its 5201 Paylor Lane offices, the company is being recognized as the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year for businesses earning more than $3 million annually.

Much of Grapevine's growth over the past few years came out of necessity. During the Great Recession, profits dropped, prompting employees to take a 10 percent pay cut. Company directors invested $370,000 of their equity cash back into the business between 2008 and 2010.

To break out of the downturn, the company initiated its 2009 "Get 50" campaign to bring 50 new clients on board. Grapevine staffers researched hundreds of southwest Florida businesses, made cold calls and lined up 42 sales pitches with the top 50 potential clients on the list. By the end of the campaign, Grapevine had 35 new clients.

The company added 37 new clients in 2010, and 25 more in 2011. It now has its largest staff in company history.

To guard against future downturns, Grapevine works to have no more than 20 percent of its business concentrated in a single industry, and no more than 10 percent in a single client.

Its portfolio spans print advertising, website design, radio, television, social media and trade shows. Clients have included John Cannon Homes, the Women's Resource Center of Sarasota County, attorneys Blalock Walters and Siesta Key Rum.

The company's future goals include more growth and continuing involvement in community causes. Grapevine is targeting at least 50 potential new clients annually in industries including healthcare, manufacturing and industrial packaging. Customer service is key to acquiring and keeping clients: Grapevine completes 97 percent of its projects on time, and guarantees clients that they can reach a member of the creative team any time of day or night.

With its growth, Grapevine has shared its talents, donating $1.6 million in advertising, public relations and marketing services to non-profit organizations. One recent project was creating a logo, invitations, signage and programs for the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund's 2014 gala.

Central to Grapevine's success is its employees. It stresses collaboration among its artists, writers, designers and public relations and media experts on client projects.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.

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