Passionate Curiosity – Theron Kabrich of San Francisco Art Exchange

Theron Kabrich, CEO and co-Founder of San Francisco Art Exchange

Theron Kabrich, the CEO and co-Founder of San Francisco Art Exchange, grew his company’s revenue from $1.9m in 2014 to $4.2m in 2017, a 121% increase, and now they are on track to hit around $3.2m this year.  

San Francisco Art Exchange sells and displays iconographic art and photography.  

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Theron shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by having:  

  • Passion that is focused on what they are building.  
  • Curiosity to muse over what hasn’t been done before and envision what that might be.  
  • The need to do something new even if it’s never been done before.  

San Francisco Art Exchange - (computer generated transcript) (transcribed by Sonix)

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Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today we're speaking with Theron Kabrich, the CEO of San Francisco Art Exchange, a business the sells and displays iconographic art and photography. Welcome to the call Theron.

Theron Kabrich: Thanks for having me.

Malcolm Lui: Theron, you grew your company's revenue from $1.9m million in 2014 to $4.2 in 2017 a 121% increase and now you're on track to hit around $3.2 million in 2018. What were the three biggest drivers that grew your business from $1.9 million in 2014 to $4.2 million in 2017?

The three factors that drove their sales

Theron Kabrich: Passion, curiosity and the need to do something that has not been done before.

Malcolm Lui: Can you share how those factors drove your sales and increased your sales?

Theron Kabrich: Sales come from from strong relationships I think sales the relationships with sources the relationships with customers who buy from you. And so the passion that we have is focused on what we've been building here and those people have built it with us our customers our artists our photographers our relationships and in Hollywood and the music industry me innovates invigorates our passion to want to do what we do as an adventure I guess you could say curiosity is something that sort of causes one to muse over what hasn't been done before and envision what that might be and doing something that no one has done before is not an arbitrary concept but something that simply because nobody has done it before does not mean that we can't do it if it fits. If it sort of did the dictates of curiosity and passion tell us to do so. So it's the idea of doing something that no one has done before as a way to honor the muse of those other two items and try to make something out of that. That new opportunity

Malcolm Lui: There. Can you share what marketing and sales efforts you did over the past few years it. Was there any sort of advertising where you cold calling or were you networking how did you actually find the people to do the transactions.

Theron Kabrich: Well we we've been for a long time but we have several different ways to reach out to people obviously advertising is one of those things that that is something we employ we've come to almost a science down to what works and what doesn't. So after doing this for years you sort of make decisions about what's the proper channel for advertising and what's a waste time or waste of money. So we've been pretty surgical about how we advertise the marketplace. A lot of people find as I mentioned you know a lot of things we do or what we represent are in effect search terms and so we get a lot of people hit our website and contact us based on who we represent. Third we do a lot of events PR a lot of PR we had a publicist our publicist is Jensen communications they represent Carlos Santana and Crosby Stills and Nash and so long standing friendship with with Jenson communications over the past 20 years in recent times the sales successes we've had we had some large transactions that occurred as a result of inbound from press we did a do you if you're familiar with Pink Floyd's The Wall Are you familiar with that film.

Malcolm Lui: I never watched the film but Pink Floyd in the wall yet heard

Theron Kabrich: Ok

Malcolm Lui: That

Theron Kabrich: So there's a film that came out when when the album was was recorded called the wall and it relied at times on animation in the artwork for that animation was produced by an artist by the name of Gerald scarf and Gerald had never sold his work before and had approached us. We had become into contact with him and discussed his work intensity it never sold any of the artwork from the wall. We did an exhibition we did a press release it ran around the world there was a big time square image and within a probably a 48 hour period we had about 2000 enquiries about the wall artwork and within another 48 hours we had consummated about two and a half million dollars in artwork from the wall based people that had never known we existed let alone we're clients. So that's one of the things we did because we have a lot of high profile things that we do when we do press releases on certain things. It gets a great deal of attention. So PR is very important especially with high profile things we do

Malcolm Lui: To share with us what you've been doing on online marketing front. Have you done advertising online to showcase your pieces and generate traffic.

Theron Kabrich: They did keywords for a period of time and pay per click and that sort of thing we did that for a while. I wasn't as convinced of the activity that we are getting a lot of activity through social media. However Facebook has been a good friend of ours. Instagram is very good for us and and so as far as online marketing is concerned we've got initiatives scheduled for next year but we haven't done a lot of that this year. We're in a rut at the moment we're in the design brand new Web site. When that site goes up it's a new platform e-commerce platform that's much better than where we've been before then we will be more aggressive on marketing because we'll have a better place to bring people to when we when we have that new site launch

Malcolm Lui: Right. Any plans any. What are your initiatives to bring more traffic to the site once it's completed

Theron Kabrich: Well I'm looking at several different initiatives where we're talking about certainly more more aggressive online marketing but even more so develop a broader group of affiliate relationships with people who have an affinity for what we do you know clients of

Malcolm Lui: Is

Theron Kabrich: Ours fans other people that we know sort of bring it broaden the broaden the market by reaching out to people that are influencers in their own space and further advertising with relationships we have in the publishing business. We may end up doing a number of different things that related to publishers with whom we have liaison

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. Now in terms of being more aggressive on online marketing. Any thoughts on how you're going to do that. Is it going to be you're going to dip your toes again in the paper market. Are you going to

Theron Kabrich: I will I will I my I've got several different entities that are you know it's been the past 10 years of it's been so much evolution in that space advertising online. And I'm thinking that what I may want to do is I'd like to explore I'm not a big believer in paper clicks only because maybe I'm a typical. But when I when I am searching for something the last links I hit are actually the ads because I'm more interested in the organic. So that's you spay FCO space is much more interesting to me because the CEO has an organic component where more people come on their terms rather than me pitching them. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't do a paper click but only if I could get a visual to go with that quick space. In other words text doesn't work for me as far as I'm concerned I'm more likely to have a paper click if I can put one of my images in connection with that click mechanism then a search return that is just text SEO

Malcolm Lui: Write

Theron Kabrich: Is my big driver SEO for 29 20 19 is is where it's at as far as I'm concerned when our new site launches

Malcolm Lui: Right. When will your new cycle life

Theron Kabrich: That's the 64 million dollar question. But I would have to say probably February just as every project sort of has its you blow past the deadline and we blow past deadlines like crazy and but now we're we're pretty solid that I think February is going to be when we launch at SFA dot com

Malcolm Lui: Right now. You said it would be e-commerce site. So what sort of things will you be selling and people your your low ticket price items as well as your super expensive items or

Theron Kabrich: And we have

Malcolm Lui: Or

Theron Kabrich: Everything

Malcolm Lui: Be it

Theron Kabrich: Anything

Malcolm Lui: Different

Their website revamp

Theron Kabrich: That could be put in the shopping cart and anything you can purchase in my gallery downtown San Francisco would be purchasable online with the exception of certain extremely high ticket things that require more personal service to somebody that might want to say do a hundred thousand other transaction five hundred thousand other transaction typically you're not going to get a a cart that's going to take that and then not maybe not now maybe not in 2018 maybe in 2025 that's going to be pretty consistent in the art space but at the moment I'm looking at anything from a few hundred bucks to 5000 10000 20000 our median price the price range we generally operate in our product sell between 2000 to 5000 but it's not unusual to do fifteen to twenty five thousand other transactions in any given month. So I think talking to our audience in a an e-commerce platform I view be very comfortable with that and we have done 10000 other transactions on our current e-commerce platform so it's that's what we're gonna do we're gonna basically sell everything we sell in this gallery online

Malcolm Lui: Right. It would be cool. The day when you find out who does a lot of transaction through your platform

Theron Kabrich: That's going to be one of those things I look forward to we have done transactions up to 100000 on eBay just as an experiment but I think I think the the ideas coming and I think it's going to come much more quickly than a lot of people think

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. What were your takeaways from your EDI experiment.

Theron Kabrich: Is one of the takeaways is that you don't get it if you don't try it and

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Theron Kabrich: You

Malcolm Lui: For sure

Theron Kabrich: Know that's really the big one. You don't You don't prejudge something just because again you've never done it before you basically get you know you don't have anything to lose why not try it.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Theron Kabrich: So I mean I'm not a big believer in eBay for high ticket things. It's just. But that was an interesting experiment and it was hard to believe at first when it hit we just said somebody made a mistake here. They put an extra

Malcolm Lui: But that

Theron Kabrich: Two

Malcolm Lui: At auction.

Theron Kabrich: Zeros on the deal

Malcolm Lui: Okay so the auctions that people were bidding up for his artwork on eBay

Theron Kabrich: Yeah. And somebody you said I'll take it

Malcolm Lui: Ok so you had a buy it now price at one hundred thousand

Theron Kabrich: Yes correct

Malcolm Lui: Ok. So do you. Yeah every time I sell stuff on even I have a bite now price and someone grabs I always feel that that I underpriced it

Theron Kabrich: Yeah. But you can't look back.

Malcolm Lui: As true to

Theron Kabrich: You've got to

Malcolm Lui: What

Theron Kabrich: Me it's a

Malcolm Lui: They

Theron Kabrich: Matter

Malcolm Lui: Need.

Theron Kabrich: Of priority

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. When they need it you let it go. See how high and mighty got might have ran.

Theron Kabrich: Well the other

Malcolm Lui: It

Theron Kabrich: Thing

Malcolm Lui: Might not

Theron Kabrich: The

Malcolm Lui: Have

Theron Kabrich: Other

Malcolm Lui: Touched a hundred thousand

Theron Kabrich: Is as all auctions work. You put something up there with bidding and if nobody bids high enough to make it worth buying it will place a stigma on that thing that's hard to

Malcolm Lui: Treated

Theron Kabrich: Come back to the market again.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Good point there. So now what's what's your revenue target for 2019.

Theron Kabrich: Five million

Malcolm Lui: Ok so you got roughly 3 3 1/2 million this year to 5 million dollars next year. I know one of your initiatives is your Web site and then driving more traffic to it. Are there other initiatives that you're planning on running to get you to the 5 million

Theron Kabrich: Yeah. There's there are two things that I would say we've got more as we've sold higher and higher ticket items valuable artifacts. We've done three transactions in the past two years that broke a million dollars each and there's more items like that coming to us for representation not just art but artifacts musical artifacts. We have several more of those coming. There's a property we're going to offer I can't say what it is in the Q one that could draw traffic and that'll be a very high ticket item. That'll be. That's not going to make or break the year. Another thing we're aside from the Commerce component which I think will be a good friend of ours once it's launched is that we are looking at putting together a group of investors to help us scale. And by doing that we are going to put more money into marketing when SAC Capital comes in to reach a much broader base. We have 15000 clients we mark to market to and I think by definition if you multiply that by 10 in theory your sales could go up by 10 or at least five. Even so

Malcolm Lui: Right

Theron Kabrich: Aggressive marketing more being able to reach more and more people around the world with what we do we have an international clientele and doing it in a very effective much more effective way and having fulfillment be much more seamless online

Malcolm Lui: Right. So are you planning to reach your S.O. through online means or are you going to get a bit more old school do telephone calls or are you going to be sending in magazines and catalogs in the mail. You know. What's the marketing plan.

Their marketing plan

Theron Kabrich: The marketing plan I think when I think the the the Web site for us we've been online since 96 and we've gone through redevelopment numerous times since then but ever since we launched the first site it has always brought us opportunities that didn't exist because we're in downtown San Francisco as a brick and mortar and you can't reach somebody in Scotland unless they have to walk by the space. So the more and more people find out what we have the more likely they do call in and then they entered our database and we can reach them you know three or four times a week if if if it made sense with what we had to offer. So being able to reach more people is the name of the game. And so when it comes to inquiries inbound inquiries that come in for somebody asking for a thing we have getting on the phone with them and discussing what their goals are. What is it they really want and why. And sometimes those conversations started in 2000 other interest in turning into a twenty five thousand dollar transaction or in some cases over one hundred thousand other transaction because you jump on the phone once you understand your client your customer you can respect their interest in a much more robust way. So I'm a true believer and in personal contact especially if somebody is looking for advice consultation somebody listen to what they really want and and be edifying and in a much more nuanced way. And you can't it's not as. Possible. By email swaps

Malcolm Lui: Right definitely. Now you said you have fifteen thousand clients. How are you marketing past clients. How do you market to them now are you. You market to them on a regular basis. Are you mailing

Theron Kabrich: Well we

Malcolm Lui: Them

Theron Kabrich: Get it the way we approach that database we certainly can reach a lot of people in a few seconds when you do an email blast so we'll do blasts periodically with when we have something to say or something to offer that might be interesting to that base. It is segmented so we're not hitting people with things that they may not be interested in. So you respecting people's interests by communicating with them on for basically on their affinities. We've we've been we've been using Salesforce now probably since well may be four or five years. Salesforce has been a good CRM for us because it allows my my staff to reach out to people when something seems to be appropriate based on the data that exists in Salesforce you wouldn't blindly contact somebody but if you had something it was appropriate to them then the sales staff can reach out to one of those 15000 which is not going to reach 15000 ones. One at a time no matter how you slice it.

Malcolm Lui: Now.

Theron Kabrich: But

Malcolm Lui: No way.

Theron Kabrich: But but

Malcolm Lui: So

Theron Kabrich: You can reach people that are most likely to be interested in a given thing that is unique or special or appropriated to them. I think we're going to get due to a lot more of that marketing as we develop a broader subscriber base and then we will be more likely to reach out more regularly on e blast that could evolve into personal contact.

Malcolm Lui: Right when you do a blast say you do a blast to a thousand clients based on their interests and affinities. What kind of response rate do you get people coming back saying Yeah I like to learn more out of a thousand people

Theron Kabrich: Probably no. 2 or 3 percent maybe something

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Theron Kabrich: Like that.

Malcolm Lui: I had to

Theron Kabrich: That's

Malcolm Lui: Get a

Theron Kabrich: Reasonable.

Malcolm Lui: Response rate.

Theron Kabrich: I think it because what we blast out about is usually a two thousand dollar thing or above. Often it is something that's kind of exciting or compelling. So people like reading it we can tell how many people open. So a lot more people over half usually open our emails which is a high return basically high impact response because what we have and so we know that we're exciting our base I guess keeping them informed on things they want they want to hear about they don't unsubscribe. They want more. So

Malcolm Lui: Yep. Good. Fantastic. A two last questions for you Sarah. Who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to reach you.

Their ideal clients

Theron Kabrich: The ideal our ideal clients are people that have a passion as we do for what we do. There's a certain in the profile of what we do as representatives of popular iconography. It's not a passive thing. People make a connection and there's a that sounds a little corny but there is a little touch of joy when people come in contact with their favorite image of Jimi Hendrix or John Lennon. And so are per the profile of a good client is somebody that just gets excited about this. This work with without hesitation spontaneously and a person that is affected that way has a financial capability to satisfy that excitement by making a purchase. And that goes with any product I suppose is just our product happens to be what it is so excitement plus the capability to satisfy that excitement.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Is there a particular income or wealth demographic that would be your ideal client

Theron Kabrich: There's really no I mean the demographic is pretty broad and it is international it's multi currency and it's multi ethnicity. So I'd say somebody doesn't have to be super wealthy to do what we do or even moderately wealthy simply a reasonable income. And even if they only buy one thing in a given lifetime because it matters to them that's really the criteria. So the demographic we have people in their 20s and 30s and 40s that are working in regular jobs that buy from us. And we have clients that are mega wealthy that well well well over a period of say three or four years spend two million or three million dollars with us. And so the demographic is is pretty broad because everybody bonds with something here no matter what. And even if somebody walks through the front door and doesn't have the money to buy their enthusiasm as sort of reward in itself. I even have homeless

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Theron Kabrich: People that come in here that get as excited about a photograph of of John Lennon as as you know and a CEO of some multi national corporation with the same

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Theron Kabrich: Passion the same enthusiasm. So

Malcolm Lui: And what's the best way for them to contact you

Theron Kabrich: There's a ways that people can reach us. One is by phone of course for 1 5 4 4 1 8 8 4 0. They can go to our Web site at w w w dot S. have a dot com and they can email us at info at SFO AECOM. We have a presence on Facebook Instagram Twitter feed and so they can find us on social media under San Francisco Art exchange and they can walk through our front door at four or five a Geary Street in San Francisco downtown

Malcolm Lui: Yet. I might be the best experience to do

Theron Kabrich: Will

Malcolm Lui: That.

Theron Kabrich: Definitely.

Malcolm Lui: Check it out in person. Yeah. Nothing I do that next I'm in the Bay Area.

Theron Kabrich: Well if you're a flight fan right now we have the original artwork for Dark Side Of The Moon hanging on the wall and the original Beatles Abbey Road photographs also hanging on the other wall. So

Malcolm Lui: Yeah

Theron Kabrich: Come

Malcolm Lui: Very

Theron Kabrich: On down.

Malcolm Lui: Cool. All right. Thanks for joining us today there on and sharing how you accelerated your company's high value sales.

Theron Kabrich: It was fun. Thank you so much for contacting me.

Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Theron Kabrich, the CEO and co-founder of San Francisco Art Exchange, about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit

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