Over 30 years in rural Michigan, Craig Frames grew from a one-room artisan picture frame woodshop into a leading eCommerce picture frame manufacturer and distributor. Operating out of a 70,000 square foot manufacturing facility, the company is now one of the nation’s largest producers of custom picture frames.

The owner and founder of Craig Frames approached Cascade Partners about selling his business in 2019 with a goal we’ve heard many times before: find an investment partner that would allow him to enjoy retirement with family and friends, enabling a transition without sacrificing the brand legacy and team built over decades. With management already in place, including family ties, the owner wanted an investor that would seek to partner in, rather than overhaul, the prospering firm.

As an investment opportunity, Craig Frames offers a unique value proposition, custom-building thousands of beautiful frames of all shapes and sizes each day, while meeting the delivery timelines and customer service demands of eCommerce’s biggest platforms. Like many businesses in the home goods sector, the company saw significant growth amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, benefitting from continual growth and reinvestment over the previous decade to seize upon the demand shift. In 2021, the company continues to build upon its capability and capacity.

The Cascade Difference When Selling Your Company

The selling process is incredibly personal for entrepreneurs. Before embarking on the work of finding a strategic partner for any business, Cascade Partners first takes time to deeply understand both the business and the goals of its ownership group.

In the case of Craig Frames, the initial timeline aimed to complete a sale no later than Q3 2019. However, as the company was implementing new tactics and technologies, the timeline was extended to build a stronger track record of performance, enabling us to pursue a more compelling set of potential investors. While a typical investment bank would pursue a sale as quickly as possible, our diligence process, market assessment and the patience of both parties resulted in a final sales valuation 30% higher than the owner’s original expectations.

Key in our search for an investor was consideration of who would best understand the resources needed to accomplish short- and long-term business goals.

Hitching Up With a Market Leader

As Cascade Partners began to evaluate potential buyers with Craig Frames, one option stood out: Permanent Equity (“Permanent”). Permanent specializes in investing in family-owned businesses with no intention of selling, and lives by the rule of “do no harm.”

Permanent Equity proved to be an ideal match with Craig Frames. With relevant operating experience and a partnership-first approach to coming alongside the team, their style resonated with both the owner and operators of the company. The operators especially appreciated the intent to hold onto the investment long-term, preventing frequent transaction cycle dynamics in the future. Structurally, the firm’s offer did not employ debt, reducing risk, better ensuring likelihood of closing the transaction, and enhancing the owner’s ability to generate additional returns on rolled equity for years to come.

The best option for an owner may not always be the one that offers the most money at close. Experience has taught us, not just as investment bankers, but also as owners, operators, and investors, how to vet structures on behalf of our clients and identify ideal partners with a shared vision.

The Result

Craig Frames is now strategically partnered with Permanent Equity, an investor that is aligned with the organization’s growth strategy. The owner’s vision of personal flexibility, while supporting his management team, was achieved by finding a partner with a shared vision of success. He is now able to enjoy retirement, trust that his company is in good hands, all while still maintaining a reasonable degree of involvement in the company he worked so diligently to grow.

ECommerce is a rapidly growing industry, with growth in the last year that wasn’t expected until 2025. Download our 2021 eCommerce industry report to learn more.