INKED doesn’t have office doors per se, but rather blackboards affixed to those doors where the occupants write their names in cursive in large letters with chalk or sketch curly-cues.
Many of the INKED meeting rooms also contain blackboards on which to scrawl ideas during skull sessions. There’s a whole lot of thinking going on at INKED and many of the thinkers are millennials or just a bit older who appreciate the high energy and challenges packed into each workday.
INKED works with people with large social media followings, called influencers, providing them with a web platform, product design and marketing. It also provides customer service for products made for the influencers, shipping to over 130 countries right out of Bowling Green and its warehouse to around the world.
The Bowling Green company is growing, and a national publication has noticed that fact for the fourth year in a row.
The seventh-fastest growing Kentucky business is right here in Bowling Green, according to national business publication Inc. Magazine.
INKED of Bowling Green, located in the Bowling Green Business Park, is ranked at 1,902 out of 5,000 on the 35th annual Inc. 5000 List. INKED made the Inc. list for the fourth year in a row. Annual revenue for INKED in 2015 was $9.2 million. The Inc. 5000 List measures revenue growth from 2012 to 2015. The minimum required 2012 revenue is $100,000 and the minimum for 2015 is $2 million.
The company has grown from two employees in 2007 to 91 at the end of last year. More expansion is foreseen, company officials said.
“We try to find out what product we can make for them (the influencer) that would be meaningful to their audience,” said INKED chief executive officer April Foster, who started the ball rolling with Studio Calico, a subscription-based scrapbooking products company she ran out of her garage. “We help influencers monetize their brand,” she said.
Foster is a graduate of North Bullitt High School near Louisville and Western Kentucky University. The 36-year-old CEO said most of the company’s growth has occurred in the last three years. “We hire smart, talented, creative people and put high expectations on our brands.”
Brands include A Beautiful Mess, Ali Edwards Design, Baby Boy Bakery and the TomKat Studio.
“Our plan next year is to launch 10 to 13 influencers. We currently serve eight brands,” Foster said. “We are incredibly blessed to be able to work with some of the most amazing people around the world,” she said. “Our audience is the world and 30 percent of our shipping is international.”
The influencers launch will also mean more jobs in Bowling Green. The INKED website shows several posted positions.
“We could have 180 workers by the end of 2017,” said Sterling Borders, vice president of operations. Borders, 33, is a 2001 Greenwood High School graduate and a 2006 WKU graduate. He worked at Camping World in Bowling Green and later in Atlanta with a large company in a fast-paced environment.
Borders said he couldn’t envision coming back home, but when a job opening occurred at the company, he made the move back.
“No one was more excited than my parents,” Borders said. “I never thought coming back to Bowling Green was an option.”
Borders said the business model is something new. It’s also fast. “We are writing new rules on e-commerce. We design a new product every 20 minutes. That’s 3,000 new products in six months,” he said.
Catherine Davis, 43, came to INKED from the District of Columbia area and serves as director of product design.
“We’re changing so quickly,” said Davis, who previously worked in design at newspapers in Virginia and California. “We are developing technology to streamline communications. There’s no ceiling to what we can do. It is nice to work with people to help them share their story and help their business grow.”
— For more information on INKED, visit inkedbrands.com.
— Follow business reporter Charles A. Mason on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.