No Wo/man is an Island
by Jennifer Lapka / photo courtesy of Porter Teleo
Porter Teleo co-founders Kelly Porter and Bridgett Cochran have created a flourishing, international business. Wallcoverings, chairs, rugs, and window shades adorned with their patterns have been incorporated into interior design projects by Middle Eastern sheiks, celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Cameron Diaz, and high-profile interior designers like Kelly Wearstler and Robert Couturier.
Their new headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri’s East Crossroads neighborhood is airy, organized, and bustling with activity. Kelly and Bridgett greet me at the door with smiles and whisk me to their board table. I had previously known Kelly and her paintings through her gallery representation at Blue Gallery. It was exciting to learn about this side of her life and meet her business partner, interior designer Bridgett Cochran. Together, they have developed an art-focused company that has at least doubled in revenue nearly every year and outgrown two leased spaces before commanding this 10,000-square-foot building they purchased and renovated. It now employs 10 full-time staff members and is represented by showrooms in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Toronto.
What has contributed to this growth? At the core of the business is the very tight bond between the two founders. They are equals; they are team players. In fact, in coming to the business, they identified each of their natural skill sets and consciously worked to improve their weaknesses; that way, each leader is fully capable of being the umbrella over the whole operation if the other is called away for periods of time due to life events. Additionally, they compound their strengths by methodically surrounding themselves with excellent, loyal employees. Their employees generally start with Porter Teleo as interns – mostly identified through the Kansas City Art Institute – and they all have a fine art background.
Aside from the people of Porter Teleo, Kelly and Bridgett have made smart decisions about whom they partner with, which has allowed their business to grow exponentially in the last four years. They started their business by providing their clientele with bespoke wallcoverings that they hand paint. They have added to their business model by licensing their artwork to much bigger companies working with mills and factories to put Porter Teleo onto rugs, window shades, outdoor fabric, interior fabric, hospitality fabric, and more. In particular, they are in licensing deals with Perennials Fabrics, F. Schumacher, Valley Forge Fabrics, and Élitis Luxury Wallpaper. “We choose our partners based on their quality of craft and diversity of uses,” said Cochran. “They can harness other mediums we can’t explore here, which complement our core line,” added Porter.
Throughout our interview, I exclaimed, “Congratulations!” often as they humbly described the milestones they have achieved. Their goals for the next 12 months include putting the finishing touches on their new headquarters at 1706 Holmes and start leasing out their new photo studio to others in the community who need it. They will hire at least two executive-level staff to oversee day-to-day operations and national sales. They will be adding to their F. Schumacher line, revisiting a list of six other companies that have approached them about licensing, and developing a tile line. Come January 2020, they will be represented at the heralded Parisian MAISON&OBJET, a professional trade fair dedicated to lifestyle, decoration, and design. For more information about Porter Teleo, please visit their website, porterteleo.com.