Life & Work with Tami Phillippi
I was fortunate to be interviewed recently by Voyage Minnesota about my work here at Frame Minnesota. When I am not in the shop, I love nothing more than exploring all the roads and lakes and woods of our great state, so I am honored to be featured here along with so many people who are doing creative work all over Minnesota. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been over 25 years since I started this business—but it’s thanks to the amazing customers we have in our community. This article gives you a behind-the-scenes peek of Frame Minnesota and I would love for you to take a read.
Read the original article in Voyage Minnesota or continue reading below. View our work from our galleries.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Tami Phillippi.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am at heart, a creative. I love to make and fix things and that dates back to childhood. So in a way, it makes sense that I have been the owner of a custom picture framing shop–Frame Minnesota in Eagan–for over 25 years now. I love the variety of art and personal items that people bring us to frame and I love hearing the stories that go along with the things they frame.
I started my career as a photographer and reporter at a small town newspaper and then moved into the corporate world for 8 or so years, first in communications and then in sales. But something was missing. I needed to be out on my own, self employed. A franchise gave me the confidence to strike out into something I did not really know– custom picture framing which turned out to be a great fit for me. I’m one of those rare people who are a bit of both left and right brained. I can work well with customers to create cool designs and then also build them.
After many years of fighting with a franchise that no longer worked for me, I broke away in late 2017 and became fully independent. Business took off than with a lot of work and a little luck. Turns out that a lot of people wanted to support locally owned, creative small businesses and we have benefited from that immensely. We fell under the governor’s order to close for 7 or 8 weeks in the second quarter of 2020 and I was afraid of both Covid and what I thought might be the impending loss of a business I worked so hard to build. Boy, was I wrong. We’ve been blessed to be very, very busy since the day we reopened in early May 2020.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A smooth road? Oh gosh no. I was undercapitalized in the beginning and had to learn to sell and produce in a totally new business. With a 3-year-old and a husband who struck out on his own the year before me, I struggled to get to a profitable place for several years and then did pretty well for several years. But there was definitely some blood, sweat and tears.
We struggled after 9-11 a bit but when people were not traveling they spent money on their homes. We managed to survive through the Great Recession. That was rough. Real rough. Somehow we managed. I drove a crummy car for a long time and I covered a lot of store hours, did production, ran the marketing, paid the bill. My franchise told me I did not need my own website (they told me the internet was a fad!) but I built my first one on an old Apple product, getting up early to go visit the Genius bar at the Mall of America weekly until it was done. I no more than finished and Apple killed the product I used. But I learned a lot and it gave me a starting point to hire it out to get it done right.
That website launched me into social media, Google My Business, a better website and the rest is history. Most of my new business comes in via the internet today and we spend very little on direct advertising which had basically quit working anyhow.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I think was sets me apart as a picture framer is that I listen to customers and try to interpret and make their vision a reality. We are limited only by our ideas and our ability to think of a way to create. We invest in tools, like a state of the art computerized mat cutter, to produce designs that not everyone can do. It really is a fun, challenging business.
In my free time (yes, there is a little), I am a landscape photographer. I enjoy getting outside in all types of weather and times of day and I really feel at peace in nature. It helps me decompress from the stress of running business and that is a benefit. I had been exhibiting my work and I enter a contest from time to time but the past couple of years have been so busy at the shop I’ve scaled back a bit.
What makes you happy?
Lots of things make me happy but nothing pleases me more than the look on the face of happy customers when they pick up a cherished piece of art or memorabilia. It really makes my day.
To share your thoughts:
- Send us a comment or question in the section below.
- Share this show on Facebook.