gears up for growth

On the heels of a profitable 2005, Madison, WI-based has 7 million reasons to start off 2006 with a bang. Two venture capital firms, New York-based Dolphin Equity Partners and San Francisco-based Equity Partners, have partnered to provide the purveyor of artworks and artisan decor and jewelry with $7 million in funding. plans to use the money to further increase catalog sales, expand its online initiatives, and launch a spin-off title this spring.

An outgrowth of The Guild, an art publishing company founded in 1985 that represents more than 1,000 artists, debuted its print catalog and Website in 1999. “It’s a priority for us to grow and capitalize on the success we’ve had with the new brand,” says The Guild president Michael Baum, referring to its print catalog, which it repositioned in October 2004 as The Artful Home. With the rebranding, “we’re not just selling to collectors but also beautiful home items to owners of beautiful homes,” Baum explains. “Now we’re ready to take it to a much higher level.”

It didn’t take too long for Guild to strike a deal with the investors. “We’ve been talking with the two partners only since about October,” Baum says. “Once we started talking, it moved very quickly. They are very perceptive about branding and the connection between online and print catalogs and the idea of expansion.”

Granted, has been growing nicely even without the infusion of capital. Last year the company’s sales increased more than 40%, Baum says. “One of the key ways to drive more business is to mail more catalogs and match that with an appropriate effort on the Website.”

Baum plans to triple catalog circulation this year from 2.3 million last year. He also expects to boost the page count of The Artful Home, from 60 pages to 68 or 70. And while there are “fairly detailed” plans for the spin-off catalog, “we’re not prepared to talk about details yet,” Baum says.