Building a company is an experience that’s been a constant for Kevin Kennedy, who was raised in North Providence and started his professional work in the family consulting firm.
Kennedy discovered early on he had a knack for working with clients and could establish a high level of confidence so valuable in building long-term relationships, particularly in the financial-industry niche that was the foundation of the family business.
Combining customer-relationship building with the skills he developed in technology, Kennedy built his career in sales, marketing and business management.
As with many Rhode Islanders, Kennedy’s work pulled him beyond Rhode Island borders, and he worked with three startups in California.
“I spent a few years in San Jose learning the dot-com and startup ropes,” said Kennedy.
Also, like many Rhode Islanders, he came back.
As CEO of Precision Design Studios, Kennedy has nurtured the company from a home studio to an e-commerce platform whose client roster includes leading companies in the fashion industry, among them Kate Spade, Lucky Brand and Fila.
The story of Precision Design Studios is a classic startup tale.
“I literally started in my spare bedroom and my business partner was working from his house in Michigan,” said Kennedy. “We’re self-funded and we were virtual for the first couple of years.”
The structure of Precision Design Studios grew out of a couple of years of work Kennedy did at Demandware, a Burlington, Mass.-based company that develops e-commerce software technology for online retailers around the world. That work evolved into a partnership that’s the foundation of Precision Design Studios.
“Demandware technology is one of the four big e-commerce platforms,” said Kennedy.
Initially, Demandware implemented customer projects, and then evolved to having partner companies do the implementation.
“I saw that they were moving to a partner-centered model,” said Kennedy. Precision Design Studios works with Demandware clientele.
“Demandware runs the servers and the software and we work with the clients,” said Kennedy. “We’re in it from support, to technology to creative to business strategy for our customers,” he said.
In working with Kate Spade, for instance, Precision Design Studios assisted the company in making the critical transition from decades of distributing its products through department stores to creating an online shopping experience. In creating the e-commerce site, the company’s three brands - Kate Spade New York, Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade – each required a unique online experience.
Precision Design Studios describes its work for the Kate Spade lines as “… an organized back-end system that effortlessly manages its multiple sites, designs, product and pricing catalogs and content assets.”
Even though Kennedy describes Precision Design Studios as mostly “under the radar,” at least locally, during its five years of company development, the business is obviously on the radar of the fashion industry. That recognition has resulted in dramatic growth.
From the two founders, Kennedy and Chief Operating Officer Kurt Daehnert, working in their spare rooms in 2009, the company initially grew to five employees in a small office in Smithfield in 2012.
“We were growing so fast that within four months we needed another office, so we went to 2,500 square feet and we grew to 15 employees,” he said.
“Then we really decided to set up for growth and success,” said Kennedy. The company is now located in 20,000 square feet of custom-built space in downtown Providence.
“We have five conference rooms and all of our conference rooms have tablets,” he said.
The company now has 50 employees in Providence, with others located in a few strategic sites across the U.S., including the head of business development in New York City, one employee in Florida, the chief operating officer in Michigan and two employees in California.
Precision Design Studios is one of many examples of companies thriving in Rhode Island, defying on-the-ground complaints and surveys that rate the state as unfriendly to business.
“I’m a born and raised Rhode Islander and I’m stubborn – I want to keep my business here,” said Kennedy.
“I love our location and there’s great talent here,” he said.”We hire from the universities and [New England Institute of Technology] and being right next to the train station, we’ve pulled talent from the Boston area. We brought in one person from Ohio and another from southern California, so we are relocating people to Rhode Island.
“We’re always doing research and development and we’re looking to innovate some new technology,” said Kennedy. “We’re dedicated to building an amazing culture here, with the quality of life that’s expected in the tech industry.”
Precision Design Studios
OWNERS: Kevin L. Kennedy and Kurt Daehnert
TYPE OF BUSINESS: E-commerce services
LOCATION: Gateway Center, 15 Park Row West, Providence