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Awards and Articles 2017

 

Local Mosaic Artist Teams With JCC Children to Beautify Binghamton

 Published in The Reporter

 June 2-8, 2017

 By Kate Murray

            In downtown Binghamton, the mother and daughter team of Susan and Emily Jablon have united to make art a business. From an early age, Emily was creative and explored her own passions. Susan felt that the best thing she could do for her children, including Emily’s younger brother Sam, an artist in New York City, was to allow them to “always be free to be creative.”

            As children, Emily and Sam attended the Jewish Community Center preschool and Hillel Academy. Sheryl Brumer, executive director of the JCC, recalled having Emily in one of her children’s classes, which she taught as the Center’s youth director. “I had Emily in my Eat and Art class when she was a student at the JCC preschool. Then, after not seeing her for more than 14 years, one day I came across an ad for an art class at Club Bling. I couldn’t believe when I got there that it was little Emily, who had grown into an incredibly talented young woman,” said Brumer.

            Emily has her own arts business that creates mosaics. Her creations have been said to add “a bright and colorful oasis of art to the Broome County are.” By creating public mosaics, Emily has earned a reputation of being one of the best known mosaic artists in the country. She shares her passion with students of all ages at her Binghamton studio.

            Along with teaching classes at her studio, Emily takes young people and shows them how to create the large public art pieces that have made her famous. The JCC has one of its playground walls decorated by a Jablon creation 

            This summer, Emily will work with Camp JCCchildrenn to help create a 400-square foot mosaic that will become part of the retaining wall at Columbus Park in downtown Binghamton. Emily can often be found working with underprivileged youth, helping to expand their horizons through art. 

 

  

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Published in Southern Tier Business Journal

Vol. 10 | No. 4 | June 19,2017

By Norman Poltenson

npoltenson@cnybj.com

 

BINGHAMTON—On Sept. 9, 2011, Susan Jablon went underwater, not once but twice. That morning, she signed a mortgage contract with M&T Bank for the purchase of a building in Binghamton, which would serve as the new manufacturing plant for her business – Susan Jablon Mosaics, Inc. 

            Between Sept. 6 and 8, the region was pummeled with rainfall totaling 10-12 inches. The deluge from tropical storm Lee followed closely on the rainfall already deposited by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. The Susquehanna River rose to record levels and overflowed the city’s retaining walls, flooding downtown Binghamton. Broome County initiated a mass evacuation. That day, Jablon’s manufacturing building, as well as 25,000 square feet she leased in Vestal for inventory storage, was submerged in several feet of water. The loss totaled $400,000. While she had just secured flood insurance for her business, the contract didn’t take effect until 30 days after the signing. In addition to her inventory, machinery, and equipment the flood also put her balance sheet under water.

            “I was stunned” Jablon recalls. “I had been in business for 10 years prior to the flood, and I knew that my creative designs in glass tile were popular. I had loved mosaics since my grandmother gave me a mosaic to assemble when I was five. Mosaics are always beautiful and bring joy [both] to the artist and to the consumer… Flood or no flood, I was determined to pursue my life’s dream and rebuild the business despite the fact that I lost everything.” 

            While she still has debt to pay off from the duet of the Irene and Lee deluge, today the business is thriving. Susan Jablon Mosaics, LLC was just awarded the “2017 New York State Small-Business Exporter of the Year” award by the U.S. Small Business Administration, one sign of her growing success.

            “We have residential and commercial clients in a number of countries,” says Jablon, the company president, “including England, France, Canada, Russia, Japan, the Caribbean, China, and the UAE. I am currently working with a client in Sweden who wants glass tiles that glow in the dark in his swimming pool. The residential side of business is our bread-and-butter: Glass tiles are popular in kitchens, on floors, in bathrooms, and yes, even in swimming pools … our tile designs are also popular with commercial customers, such as casinos, schools, spas, hotels, restaurants, and airports. While our commercial commissions are far fewer in number than our residential sales, it’s not uncommon to receive a commercial order for $100,000. We are an internationally recognized design studio: The potential for growth both domestically and internationally is huge.

            Today, Susan Jablon Mosaics owns and occupies a 37,000-square-foot building located in Binghamton and also leases 200,000 square feet in New Jersey to store inventory. The company occupies most of the space for it’s manufacturing operations, and Jablon’s daughter utilizes some space for a separate business where she teaches a variety of students how to create mosaics. Jablon’s staff includes 11 full-time employees, of whom Jablon and her daughter are the company’s designers. Founded in 2000 in a spare bedroom of Jablon’s house, the mosaics manufacturer generated $40,000 in revenue at the start. The company currently produces $1.5 million in annual sales. Jablon is the sole LLC member (owner) and recently received certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise.

 

KEYS TO SUCCESS

Internet

            Jablon says she was an early adopter of the Web and has used it to grown her business. “From the beginning, I have focused on creating brand recognition through unique ideas that can’t be duplicated. Most mosaics sold today are a commodity item, with standard shapes and muted colors. We offer a variety of shapes and vivid colors, which are incorporated into an online software tool – the ‘mosaic tile designer’ – that lets the consumer create what he or she wants. It was a major investment, but it’s a key to customizing the design process.”

Social Media

            “Susan Jablon Mosaics also leverages the Internet through social media,” adds the company president. “We promote photo images od our products and blog about glass-tile design. The company advertises on Google and converts 30 percent of the Google clicks. Contrary to what the experts keep telling me, we don’t advertise glass tiles, but rather the Susan Jablon name, which tells me there is strong brand recognition. 

Promotion

            Jablon is no shrinking violet. Back in 2002, a year after launching business, she promoted her unique designs to national publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Designer Dream Homes, Goodlife, and New Old House. She also appeared on the HGTV, TLC, and DIY networks and on several television shows, including “Rachel Ray,” “Kim’s Closet,” “Extreme Home Makeover,” and every season of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

            “My efforts in promoting the brand didn’t cost me anything, and the exposure gave me the opportunity to meet a number of designers who were happy to specify my designs to clients.” 

Business Experience

            Running the mosaics company wasn’t Jablon’s first rodeo. “I worked in and ran businesses for others for 30 years before I stated my own business,” states Jablon. “I worked at the Cornell [University] graduate library; then worked at Lourdes Hospital in human resources hiring staff. I … [garnered] experience in sales, marketing, and public relations at Security Mutal, and was the assistant manager at the local Barnes & Noble. On my 5th birthday, I decided it was time to strike out on my own and gave myself a present by forming Susan Jablon Mosaics. I began by teaching how to assemble mosaics and immediately had 300 students.”

New Products

            “I can’t help myself,” says Jablon. “I’m always thinking of new ideas. In our tile-designing software, we already have thousands of tiles and more than 50 layout… [templates] to choose from. Recently, I was inspired by Tiffany glass to create a new, upscale tile collection with colors ranging from ‘Victorian Velvet,’ ‘Periwinkle Opal,’ ‘Butterscotch Honey,” to ‘Periwinkle Opal’ … We buy container loads of manufactured glass tile, but I wanted to also work in hand- made glass. So I commuted to Corning [Glassworks] and studied the process. We now buy some handmade glass from Oregon, but we also manufacture handmade glass on site … I guess that makes me the research-and-development are of the company.” Jablon’s creations have produced more than 3,000 stock-keeping units, and the number is growing. 

Employees

            Jablon reserves high praise for her employees as the real key to her success. “It’s hard to find good employees,” stresses Jablon, “who are mature at a young age and willing to work hard. Fortunately, over the years the company has hired and retained a great staff. They have learned the product process, and our employee longevity ensures our quality and consistency.

Growth Plans

            “This is a very competitive business,” contends Jablon. “Despite that, I plan to grow the company from it’s current sales to $2.5 million to $3.0 million. We have the talent, a facility with room to expand, and the option of adding another shift. My job is raise awareness of the brand, so we stand out from those who offer a commodity item. What I need now is more time to work on expansion and to spend less time involved in daily operations.  For me, the answer is to hire an assistant. I know we can build up our residential and commercial sales, both domestically and internationally, and I’m not worried about running out of new ideas.

            Despite the pressure of running her business, Jablon finds time to indulge her hobbies – soap-making and glass beads. “At age 66, I enjoy my quite time,” quips Jablon. “I have always wanted to make soap, so off I went to the community college to learn how. Now, I come into the plant every Saturday and create handmade soaps which I sell locally. On Sunday, I come to the plant to make glass beads. Both of my hobbies are therapeutic. What started as hobbies, how-ever, are turning into businesses. That’s the problem with being an entrepreneur.”  

 

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2017 Region II Small Business Exporter of the Year

 

 

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2017 SBA Small Business Exporter of the Year 

U.S. SBA Syracuse District

 

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SBA Syracuse July Newsletter | Binghamton Artist Takes Entrepreneurial Idea Global

 

Artist Susan Jablon fell in love with glass as a young girl, intrigued by her mother’s vivid blue glass bowl and the way the color interacted with sunlight. After raising her own children and returning to the corporate world, Jablon looked for a creative outlet outside of the office. She started out purchasing small amounts of glass tile to run art classes in Binghamton, NY for adults and children, eventually ordering in bulk. With so much tile on hand, she used the internet to help sell the extra supply. On her 50th birthday, Susan Jablon gave herself the best present of all: focusing full-time on her glass tile startup, Susan Jablon Mosaics, LLC.

Creativity and innovation are more than her company product features- they are the hallmark of Jablon’s leadership. To create simple sheets of mosaics that can be easily installed, Jablon worked with an architect to engineer a prototype resin tray for the individual glass tiles to be placed into face down. The tray mold offered a systematic way to manufacture a replicable pattern of tile. Jablon quickly discovered that the Chinese factory where she first placed her order was sharing her unique designs; she invested in a 3D printer to protect her intellectual property and now can manufacture new trays on-site and on demand.  When Jablon imported a meshing machine from Spain, it arrived unexpectedly wired for European Union electrical systems. She transformed the business challenge into a learning opportunity for Binghamton University electrical engineering students.

Jablon’s game-changing moment came in 2007 when her company was chosen to create glass tile mosaics for the kitchens used on the reality television show “HELL’S KITCHEN” with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay on FOX. The exposure was incredible, and for the past 10 years Jablon’s stunning mosaics have been seen by millions of viewers. Her designs were such a success that the producers asked for a design for the dining room as well. Jablon’s blend of color and tile for the yellow room used 10,000-square-feet of elegant Shimmerfly tiles.

To accommodate her growing business, in 2011 Jablon purchased a vacant 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the industrial heart of Binghamton. Just as she was preparing to move from rented space in nearby Vestal into her new building, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee devastated the Southern Tier with unprecedented flooding. The damage at her rented location was overwhelming: hydraulic fluid from a forklift on the first floor swirled in the six-foot high floodwaters, contaminating over $400,000 of tile inventory. The basement flooding at the new property was tremendous as well.

“After the inventory all flooded, we were going to try to recover all that we could. Unfortunately, along with the inventory flooding the forklift also flooded, and by doing so, released a toxic fluid throughout the entire flooded area. As the water lowered, it left all of the inventory with a toxic sludge on it. At that point all that we could do was dig out the paid for inventory with a bobcat and send all of over 88,000 pounds of it to the dump.”  said Jablon.

 Jablon turned to Jocelyn Thornton, business advisor at the Binghamton Small Business Development Center, a project of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Binghamton University. Thornton guided her company through applying for a New York Rising grant of $50,000 and an SBA disaster loan for non-insured business losses. The additional funds helped carry the business through the recovery stage and, combined with Jablon’s perseverance, Susan Jablon Mosaics was able to weather the storm successfully.

Today, Susan Jablon Mosaics employs nearly a dozen expert designers who can help clients achieve the perfect result for any project, whether it’s a custom mirror cut bathroom backsplash or coordinating a mosaic with kitchen countertops. Jablon’s company uses materials sourced all over the world, including tiles made from recycled automotive glass in Spain and Tiffany-inspired stained glass created in West Virginia. Jablon invested over $100,000 to develop the company’s online design tool; the intuitive Custom Mosaic Designer allows clients to view how the mosaic will blend their choice of tile shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and materials.  In addition to commercial and residential clients, Jablon works with her daughter Emily to create public mosaic installations as part of the Binghamton Restoration project as well as to create any unique mosaic art for anywhere from residences to parks.  

Susan Jablon Mosaics has been featured in high level home and design magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens, on HGTV, TLC and DIY networks, and in the movie “Men in Black 3”. Her distinctive work appears in homes, restaurants, hotels, schools, spas, airports, and community spaces around the world. Jablon’s company ships custom mosaic tiles to clients in dozens of foreign countries, including the Caribbean, Canada, China, France, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates. The company’s growth in international sales was recently recognized with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New York State Small Business Exporter of the Year Award in 2017.

“Our product is unique worldwide and desirable in upscale markets. We have a strong brand for high-end custom tile work and international customers see our work online. This has allowed for steady growth in our employment veering towards growth in our manufacturing areas,” said Jablon.

Company Name: 
Susan Jablon Mosaics, LLC
Location: 
Binghamton, NY