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Entrepreneurial Street Smarts, with Jay Goltz

Jay Goltz

Jay Goltz received an accounting degree from Northern Illinois University in 1978. He came to realize that he didn’t really enjoy accounting, and contrary to conventional wisdom of the time, he decided to start his own business upon graduation. This was before entrepreneurship was celebrated and glorified, so he was regularly asked, “You’re going to waste your degree?” by his classmates. He didn’t think so. Jay had put himself through school by working in a picture frame shop, and later by selling frames to artists. He believed that he could offer much better quality, design and service than what was currently available, so he started Artists Frame Service in a loft on Clybourn Ave. in Chicago. At the time, it was an abandoned factory district on the edge of Lincoln Park, and it was about two blocks around the corner from his father’s dime store where he had been weaned on taking care of customers since he was seven years old. This experience would prove to be his “secret of success” as he entered an industry filled with hobbyists and artists. His business took off, doubling in size for the first few years. By the fifth year, his business crossed the million-dollar threshold, making it the largest frame shop in the country; about twenty times the average. It continued to grow at a rapid pace.

Fast forward to today. Jay’s business has expanded to include Chicago Art Source, selling art to businesses and individuals, Jayson Home, a home store with a national reputation and thriving web presence, and Bella Moulding, a picture frame importing and distribution business. He now owns two buildings and a parking lot just one block South from his original location on Clybourn Ave., which has since evolved into one of the hottest retail streets in the city. The city of Chicago has named Clybourn “Honorary Jay Goltz Way,” in recognition that he was the first new business that started the vibrant shopping district. In 2010, Jay purchased an 85,000 sq. ft. warehouse/factory building near Chicago Ave. and Sacramento to both warehouse furniture and manufacture for his multi-million dollar framing business and furniture store. He has 110 employees in all, and is proud to say that their average tenure is ten years; many have been with him for over twenty.

Jay’s story is unusual in that he has never had a job, and his businesses span all categories of business; retailing, manufacturing, direct sales, online, and distribution. In 1998 he wrote a book named “The Street Smart Entrepreneur,” 133 hard learned lessons, and in 2008 was included in the book “Small Giants,” Companies that decided to be great instead of big. That same year he was featured on the front cover of Inc. Magazine and went on to be the lead small business blogger for the New York Times for five years, and starting in 2017, Forbes small business blog. Jay has won numerous small business awards and is a popular business speaker who is known for his practical and insightful advice. He has been married for 38 years and has three grown sons, one of who is in the business, now named the Goltz Group. The other two are in what Jay calls his “accidental business,” real estate. Jay believes that the secret of true success in business is to understand that it is not the income that matters, but the outcome.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to grow quickly even when just starting out
  • Entrepreneurial “street smarts” you need to grow your business
  • What entrepreneurs are doing wrong today
  • What to focus on at every stage of your growth
  • The misconceptions many young entrepreneurs have
  • Not being naive when interviewing potential employees
  • Being honest about what you can’t do and outsourcing those tasks
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