With Venture Capital, Guild.com Gears Up for Growth

On the heels of a profitable 2005, Madison, WI-based Guild.com has 7 million reasons to start off the new year 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. Guild.com plans to use the money to further increase catalog sales, expand its online initiatives, and launch a spin-off catalog this spring.

An outgrowth of The Guild, an art publishing company founded in 1985 that represents more than 1,000 artists, Guild.com 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. “We rebranded our [consumer catalog] to The Artful Home in October 2004. [See ”Art Catalog Revamped As a Home Book.”] We’re not just selling to collectors but also beautiful home items to owners of beautiful homes. Now we’re ready to take it to a much higher level.”

Guild.com has been growing nicely even without the infusion of capital. Overall 2005 sales increased more than 40%, Baum says.. “Our December sales were up close to 90%. We had the best fourth quarter the company ever had. Our catalog circulation doubled for the fourth quarter. One of the key ways to drive more business is to mail more catalogs and match that with an appropriate effort on Website.”

Baum plans to triple catalog circulation this year from 2.3 million last year. He also expects to boost the page count, 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.