Reenie Feingold, founder of StoreSMART, a global leader in visual management and office organization solutions, clearly practices what she preaches. Red, yellow and green magnetic emoticons visually call out the trafficking stages of ongoing projects at whiteboard work stations throughout StoreSMART’s highly efficient and visually organized 10,000 square foot sales service operation at 180 Metro Park in Rochester, New York.
“Our products are everywhere!” beams Reenie. From schools and hospitals—to homeless shelters—to the offices of Harley Davidson, Toyota, Dupont and Coca Cola—StoreSMART’s magnetic and adhesive vinyl products and colorful magnetic whiteboard accessories, have found their way into organizations across the United States, Canada, and the globe.
StoreSMART’s road to success has at times been a bumpy one, necessitating resilience and creativity in the face of major challenges and unexpected detours.
The nearly 47-year business journey began in 1971, when Reenie and husband Stan, young students at RIT, launched a slide duplicating business, Visual Horizons. The company produced and published printed and multi-media products and developed training materials, instructional books, and visual aids for educational institutions, industry, and the government.
By the late 1980s, business was booming and a staff of 35 churned out over 55,000 slides per day for the likes of Xerox, Smithkline, The Smithsonian, and NASA. They even created presentation graphics and book illustrations for Frank Abagnale, the infamous check forger and impostor (later turned FBI consultant), whose life inspired the Academy-Award winning movie, “Catch Me If You Can.”
But by 2000, the slide duplication business came to a screeching halt, almost overnight, a victim of the digital age. “We serviced the best and the brightest”, says Reenie. “We ran a model lab. They came to us from all over, on private jets and in limos. And then it all just stopped. It’s a story of who moved my cheese.”
So, Visual Horizons turned its focus on slide and media storage accessories, including binders and plastic holders for CDs. They also converted slides to digital images, which gave them some time to strategize and regroup.
“I think of myself as a designer and inventor,” says Reenie, “and I thought about plastic materials and asked myself, how can we give them new purpose?”
With a leap of faith, and a significant financial investment, the Feingolds steered their business in a new direction and spun off StoreSMART, a division of Visual Horizons. Reenie focused her creative energies on inventing new products that would increase office efficiency.
One of StoreSMART’s first satisfied customers was Schott, a leading pharmaceutical firm, who purchased StoreSMART’s magnetic whiteboards and visual production products. “They told us that when they put our boards up they were able to save $1,000 a day,” says Reenie. From there, word of StoreSMART’s products and visual factory boards began to spread. “It’s a very sharing environment,” says Stan. “If one person has success with a product in their factories, they share it at lean production national meetings.”
Today, StoreSMART is a thriving business. They process orders from around the country for businesses, hospitals, schools, government, and craft lovers. “We reach over 300,000 decision makers by email each week from every state, Canada, and around the globe. Lean visual management is our sweet spot. We continue to diversify our products and services for Lean, 5S, Six Sigma, corporate, and manufacturing markets,” says Reenie.
The company’s inroads into the health care industry is also a source of pride. Ten years ago, Reenie learned that as a standard practice, at-risk individuals were putting their medical histories into pill boxes and placing them the freezer in case an EMT had to come into the home to respond to a medical emergency.
“I said, ‘This is crazy!’ Who is going to look into the freezer during a medical crisis? ” So Reenie invented the Vial of Life, a magnetic pocket that can be applied on a fridge or any magnetic surface and contains all of the papers needed in an emergency in one easy-to-find spot. She also invented a peel and stick removable version for stainless steel refrigerators. “One fellow who had a seizure at work affixed the Vial of Life to his workbench and told us it saved his life,” says Reenie. “And our emergency pockets have been used by churches to place on the backpacks of homeless individuals, so that their health information, including blood type and medications, are available to health workers.”
An artist and crafts hobbyist, Reenie also spun off a second division, ScrapSMART, which creates products for scrapbook, rubberstamp, altered arts, sewing and craft markets. ScrapSMART boasts over 25,000 downloadable images on its website, ScrapSMART.com.
ScrapSMART has garnered some impressive national media attention. Reenie debuted one of her ScrapSMART products on QVC to an audience of over 85 million viewers and made guest appearances with several of ScrapSMART products on the PBS television series “America Sews.”
Giving back to the community is a hallmark of Reenie’s business model. She created a charity called CoordKNIT to gather yarn and knitting supply donations and to teach knitting and crochet. The yarn and supply donations go to the Albion State Prison for a knitting program for female inmates, and to St. John’s Catholic Church for their Prayer Shawl Ministry. CoordKNIT teaches knitting at the Lipson Cancer Center to patients undergoing treatment. The CoordKNIT outreach continues to grow. Reenie donates excess inventory to Pencils and Paper, an organization that provides free school supplies to Rochester underpriveledged area schools.
The Feingolds take great pride in the fact that the majority of their products are made in Rochester and that StoreSMART is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certified woman-owned business.
The business road has been a long and sometimes hard one, but the Feingolds say it’s been personally satisfying to have turned their business around and created another successful niche in the marketplace.
“Our philosophy is simple,” says Reenie. “Be honest. Deliver on time. And listen closely to your customers and they’ll tell you what they want.”