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Creative firm will expand locally but also has bigger plans

Chop & Hue aims to draw larger firms here through creative collective.

March 4, 2016
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Chop & Hue
Dan Wiltshire, left, and Dustin Foster will be moving Chop & Hue into a larger space in the Ledyard Building after opening the business two years ago. Photo by Matt Radick

A creative firm wants Grand Rapids to be the next creative hub, and it’s doing its best to bring large-market clients to the city in an effort to achieve that goal.

Chop & Hue, which launched two years ago and provides video post-production services, said as a result of its business taking off “faster than anticipated,” it will begin build-out of a new office space this month.

By May, the company expects to move down the hall from its current space in the Ledyard Building,125 Ottawa Ave. NW, to its new digs just down the hall, which at 1,900 square feet is more than double its original footprint in the building.

The new space will incorporate earthy textures with the bright colors of Mid-Century Modern furniture, and provide a welcoming atmosphere that supports employees beyond the 9-to 5 workday.

Chop & Hue founders Dustin Foster and Dan Wiltshire said the move is the result of growth in both staff and client work.

While Foster puts the current number of employees at eight, he said the team fluctuates because several of the firm’s employees operate under a creative collective arrangement.

“We have artists we are representing, and they are signing with us under our brand into the collective,” Foster said. “So we actually have two people in Chicago, two in Grand Rapids and one coming on in London.”

“It’s a benefit because we can expand the team based on each individual project,” Wiltshire added.

Chop & Hue didn’t set out to operate as a creative collective, but through collaborations it undertook in its initial months of operation, it became clear it was a good model for the firm.

“Our first year we had a good opportunity finding people we worked well with and who were good with specific fields,” Wiltshire said.  “It was through our exposure to them that we reached out and offered the collective idea.”

A collective arrangement is different than a freelance system, Foster explained.

“It’s different from a freelancer in that there is a collective agreement they sign and represent themselves under the brand,” he said. “We take care of the business end of everything. Our portfolio is open and shared between us across the board.”

The arrangement helps Chop & Hue achieve the original vision of the founders: to put Grand Rapids on the map as a creative hub.

“Right now we are trying to put Grand Rapids in the spotlight by drawing outside resources and agencies from bigger markets like Detroit, Chicago, New York and Toronto,” Wiltshire said. “We’ve had a lot of interesting opportunities and growth over the past year and a half.

“We’ve worked with Leo Burnett in Detroit and the General Motors fleet campaign. We worked with The Onion out of Chicago, and we worked on a large campaign for Intel. That was with the Intel team from China, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.”

Creative collective members located outside Grand Rapids often support the production phase of a project.

“We are primarily not a production house, but because of our market and our background in rooting everything in high-end, post-production work — visual effects work, color grading, creative editorial — people have asked us to facilitate these larger productions,” Foster said. “That is one reason we’ve grown our creative collective, so we have a number of people in the collective who are directors of photography or producers.”

Chop & Hue also has a vibrant business in Grand Rapids. Wiltshire said the firm has worked with Rockford Construction and Hush Puppies on recent projects.

Overall, about 80 percent of Chop & Hue’s clients are located out of the area, and 20 percent are local.

Foster and Wiltshire say that’s all part of their original vision and they hope to continue to attract clients from larger markets, and then connect those clients with other West Michigan creative firms.

“We’ve been invited to large agencies to talk about projects and we are hoping to pull in some of the local resources to go on this journey with us,” Wiltshire said.

With all signs pointing toward continued growth, Foster and Wiltshire said they are also considering opening an office location in a larger market, although they said they couldn’t share a timeframe for that or which markets might be in the running.

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