By Kevin Collison
Porter Teleo, an international wallpaper and fabric design firm, got its start 15 years ago when two dynamic women met for coffee at the former “Andrew Drips” on the Westside.
“We had common interests in art and design, and we were both willing to work like dogs,” Kelly Porter recalled.
“We weren’t scared,” added her partner Bridgett Cochran.
So, starting from a West Bottoms warehouse, the pair built their firm based on their “painterly” and “out there” wallpaper and fabric designs.
By staying nimble and plowing profits back into building the business, Porter Teleo has grown to the point its products are sold throughout the U.S., Canada and dozen other countries.
The firm has now has showrooms in major cities including New York, LA, Chicago and Toronto, and a distributor based in Paris.
“When we’re in New York, they’re flabbergasted to know it’s coming from Kansas City,” Porter said.
Two weeks ago, the women took their next big step.
After leasing space for years, they bought a building in the East Crossroads at 1706 Holmes and relocated their now 11-employee operation from Merriam where they’d been since leaving the Bottoms in 2013.
“We like the east part of the Crossroads because of its feel,” Porter said. “It’s not congested and it still has a raw edginess.”
Porter has a degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from SUNY Buffalo. Cochran attended Rockhurst University and received her degree from Park University.
“We had really unique and innovative patterns and designs,” Porter said. “It’s very painterly and cutting edge to a certain degree.”
Cochran said, “I don’t know if there’s an all-encompassing word.”
However their products are described, the firm has been featured on covers and articles in their field’s most high profile publications including Vogue, Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home, Interiors and Town & Country.
And while they’ve been wooed to relocate to bigger places, both women enjoy the convenient, affordable lifestyle and central location of Kansas City.
“It’s great to be in the middle of the country because a lot of our business is shipping,” Porter said. “All our products are designed and made right here.”
Their business occupies 6,000 square feet in the new building. Another 3,000 square feet has been reserved for a photography studio that can be rented daily, and photographer Ron Berg has leased a 1,000 square-foot studio.
The firm is eligible for job creation tax incentives from the State of Missouri and Porter Teleo does have plans for more hiring.
“This year, we’re ready to take on another manger,” Cochran said.
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