How a Master Framer Grew a Thriving Kansas City Business from a GarageDavid Cawthon
Quality Framing & Art started out like many successful ventures: in a garage.
“That time in the garage was crucial for us,” says Pedro Morales, owner of the Mission, Kansas, based business. It was that time in the garage when Pedro and his wife, Carolina, connected with the Kansas City-area organizations that helped their business get off on the right foot — and thrive.
The isolation of entrepreneurship
Pedro worked for a local company for 17 years, doing framing and learning all he could to hone his craft. But the relationship soured, and he decided to go out on his own. Or, rather, he headed for his garage. That was in 2016.
While Pedro had years of experience creating beautiful frames, he didn’t have experience getting a business up and running. Carolina was working with him, but also maintaining her full-time job.
“Working by yourself is hard because you don’t know where to go, what department, what office or who to contact — especially when we have the wall of language,” says Pedro, a native Spanish speaker. “That’s really hard. My English isn’t 100%. And if you go to the government offices, they use different kinds of words. It’s frustrating.”
Fortunately, Pedro and Carolina weren’t alone for long.
Spanish-speaking entrepreneurial help in Kansas City
Carolina read about the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Greater Kansas City. Soon, she was on the phone with the organization.
“That’s how we learned how to start a business,” Pedro says. “They helped us get our licenses. They really supported us and helped with translating so we could get permits. Without them, I don’t know where we’d be right now.”
Guidance from the HEDC extended beyond the initial business paperwork. Pedro took advantage of one-on-one mentoring and took computing classes. He also participated in the First Step FastTrac/Primer Paso FastTrac training program. This course helps entrepreneurs create a business plan designed to start a new business and position it for success.
Soon, Pedro was taking classes at the Kansas Small Business Development Center at Johnson County Community College. He became active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. And he reached out to The Toolbox: Small Business Resource Center.
Gabe Muñoz has worked with Pedro at The Toolbox.
“What stood out was that Pedro showed up,” Gabe says. “He went looking for help. He was readily available to meet and work on his business. He was willing to learn and signed up right away for workshops, and that helped him immediately.”
The building blocks of a successful business
Pedro’s tenacity and thirst for entrepreneurial know-how helped him build his business and his network. He worked with The Toolbox to establish a solid online presence for Quality Framing & Art, including a Google listing, reviews and a website. When he wasn’t working, he was out meeting people.
“That first year, Pedro was showing up at every event he could, even if it didn’t apply to him,” Gabe says. “It was about who he could connect with, and that strengthened his network. He was participating in the community and always looking for what he could learn.”
Like so many successful entrepreneurs, Pedro also wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
“He’d get emails about grant opportunities, and he’d actually read them,” Gabe says. “Then he’d call me and say, ‘There’s this grant, but I don’t understand what it said.’ The terminology can be confusing, but he’d say, ‘How can I understand?’ Or if he didn’t know how to complete the form, we’d sit down and do it together.”
These efforts paid off. Pedro received two grants for his business. Where other entrepreneurs might be intimidated, he moved forward to learn.
The ups and downs of entrepreneurship
Quality Framing & Art outgrew its garage. Pedro was excited to open a storefront on Johnson Drive in Mission, Kansas, in January 2020.
“Everything was fine, especially when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl,” he says. “I had so many customers coming in to frame collectibles. But when the pandemic locked down all business, I was very frustrated.”
He was frustrated, but he didn’t give up.
“Someone could have said, ‘This is too hard,’ and quit, but he didn’t,” Gabe says. “Pedro believed in his product. Some entrepreneurs don’t always know that it’s going to be up and down, that owning a business is a bumpy road. But if you stick with it, people eventually find you and your quality shines through. It’s a journey for sure.”
Enjoying success — and encouraging other entrepreneurs
All of the hard work is paying off. Carolina is now working full time with Pedro, and they have hired employees.
“My wife and I are so happy — we can’t say that enough,” Pedro says. “We have our own schedule, and we’re our own bosses.”
And these bosses are expanding their business. Through word of mouth, they welcome new customers each week. And they’ve started doing framing for corporate customers and senior living facilities. They just completed their largest order ever: 100 framed works of art for a senior community in Illinois. The word is definitely getting out.
Pedro also wants to spread the word about entrepreneurship and the resources available in Kansas City.
“If you’re interested in starting your own business, go to these organizations,” he says. “Without them, I don’t know where we would be. But now I can see our future growth. This is the American dream. If you don’t look for help, you don’t realize it. You have to find someone to help you, to push you, to tell you where to go and how to do it.”
Help for building your KC business
Whether you’re looking for mentoring, a makerspace or multilingual guidance, make the KCSourceLink Resource Navigator your first stop. This go-to database lists more than 230 Kansas City-area Resource Partners that are ready to guide your entrepreneurial journey.
And if you’re not even sure where to start? Start with us. KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators can create a free Personal Action Plan just for you. Answer a few questions, and they’ll tailor a free individualized checklist of what to do and the experts to meet to start making your business dreams a reality.