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As a woman who appreciates not only the beauty in clothing and accessories but one who admires a stylish, put-together home, I've always been interested in interior décor. And when I heard about WeMontage, an innovative adhesive product that allows customers to create large-scale personal photo collages and hang them in their home like wallpaper (and the fact its founder and CEO James Oliver lives in Neenah and works out of Madison), I had to learn more.
The New York native and business plan consultant has a diverse background in accounting, finance, sales, marketing and entrepreneurship. It was a chance viewing of a popular HGTV show that sparked his idea into a full-blown business. Read on for six interesting facts about this Neenah-based entrepreneur (technical co-founder is Chris Schmitz) and his super-stylish product.
It's instant wall décor—for less.
WeMontage is essentially fabric wallpaper that you can customize into a collage of your personal photos. It's all done online through their website (wemontage.com). Sizes range from six by four feet to unlimited square footage. The adhesive is also removable and doesn't damage your walls or paint. It can even stick to textured surfaces! The collage prices start out at $10 per square foot. "When you compare that to a frame that would be that large, it's incredibly affordable!" notes Oliver. (Shown in the photo below is Oliver's own children in a WeMontage that's up in his nursery).
It all started with HGTV.
"I was watching an episode of Home by Novogratz and they were covering this family that had these black and white collages [in their home]. At the time I was looking for work, and decided to work on WeMontage while also owning a business plan consulting company. So I was doing that to bring some money in while I was working on WeMontage. Then I pivoted and decided to focus one hundred percent on WeMontage.
"I did a bunch of research on companies who do printing. From there I settled on a really amazing company that does my printing and fulfillment for me. They're based in Michigan. Your order usually goes to print the same day; sometimes within one to two days. We have free FedEx ground shipping, and it takes about five days to get your order. We have a money back guarantee as well."
He got a big break.
Oliver was chosen for gener8tor, a startup accelerator/entrepreneurial bootcamp based in Milwaukee and Madison. Sessions are three months long and it's competitive to get in. Oliver's business was chosen based off of his presentation during the Wisconsin Tech Council's Early Stage Symposium Elevator Olympics. "gener8tor helps validate your business model, and helps with product development and customer acquisition. I'm still pinching myself! I always believed it could happen. I had an epiphany that I could actually raise money for this project, and started putting together my financial projections."
His other big break was at the BlogHer conference (a large annual blogging conference for women) that took place in Chicago July 25-27. Not only did Tiffany Brooks, who just won HGTV's Design Star, design WeMontage's booth, but serial entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki stopped by the booth and took a picture and ended up tweeting with Oliver afterward. "It was great—our business is new and no one knows us—but people would walk by our booth, glance and their mouth would just fall open," says Oliver.
Being an entrepreneur can be tough.
"On January 2, my kids were born prematurely and unexpectedly at twenty-eight weeks. The next day I was supposed to leave for gener8tor and be gone every weekday for three months and only back on weekends. But the only way I was going to get [WeMontage] off the ground was to go to gener8tor. I was like, ‘I can't leave,' but my wife insisted I go because she thought it was so important to WeMontage and the success of the family. So the next two and half months were difficult, and I cried almost every day. It was really, really hard."
He's on to the company's next step.
"We're working on a next stage development which will provide users more flexibility in terms of where they can put their images. Right now in our current design, we took math equations and turned them into code to optimally arrange them on a canvas based on size and resolution. In our current design though, people can't just put pictures wherever they want [in the collage]. We're currently designing software to give people more flexibility and freedom because we've gotten a lot of questions about that."
WeMontage really is about family and friends.
When asked how he came up with the name WeMontage, Oliver says he gathered a bunch of friends, broke out some wine "and we sat around and came up with some awesome names. That's how we came up with WeMontage!
"It's been amazing [so far]! The one thing I've learned about our business is that it's about the feeling that people get when they see their loved ones in the moments that matter most to them in a large unique format."
FOR WINDOW SHOPPING READERS: WeMontage is offering a discount code valid from 8/5-8/11 on any WeMontage paper ordered through wemontage.com! Use MADMAG at checkout for twenty percent off!