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blue tomato design firm: Salene’s Business of the Month- December, 2009

December 14, 2009

I try to meet as many business owners as possible on a weekly basis.  From time to time, I meet someone who really impresses me for one reason or another.  I recognize the blue tomato graphic design firm as the Business of the Month for the month of December, 2009.

Located in Pittsburgh, PA’s South Side neighborhood, the blue tomato is a graphic design company specializing in high-end graphics for print and the web.  blue tomato is the brain child of Kim Collins,  a former graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and blue tomato’s creative director and owner.

blue tomato’s portfolio boasts a wide range of vibrant work that is known both for its sophisticated creativity and functionality, creating concepts and designs that get results.  Some of the stunning websites,  market brands, and logos that blue tomato has created can be viewed on its website.

I chose the blue tomato for many reasons but two primary ones are as follows:

  • blue tomato has made the renovation of its office space a PR opportunity.
  • blue tomato launched the South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project, thereby improving the South Side community while raising awareness of the firm and demonstrating the firm’s quality, creative work.

Renovation of Space as PR Opportunity

1.  blue tomato has made the renovation of its office space a PR opportunity. I love what Kim Collins has created as space for her company.  As her website states, “The firm blue tomato has turned PR exposure into an art form…literally.”

Instead of renting out a space in a high-rise office building downtown, Kim turned a condemned row house in the South Side of Pittsburgh into a sleek, modern and sophisticated space that has garnered more attention from the national and local media than ever anticipated.   Kim and her space were on HGTV’s “My House Is Worth What?” television show.  She has been featured in a Pittsburgh Business Times news article and has been profiled on one of KDKA’s business stories.   I believe these articles and videos  can be viewed under her “News” tab on her website.

With a little help from her dad, most if not all of the work in the home, Kim did herself from cutting and placing mosaic tiles in the shower, to building a deck and landscaping a courtyard, to laying the hardwood floor, to displaying some of her client’s designs as wall decor.  Every detail in the home is sleek, polished and artsy.  Artsy in a stunning, clean way, just like her work as a graphic artist.

She uses her space wisely, further solidifying her company’s brand image.   The building actually is a home as well with living space on one of the upper floors.  The firm states on its website, “We offer our clients the same dedication and attention to detail that went into turning this space and company into what it is today.”  Brilliant.  Also, Kim has hosted various parties or “mingles” in the space.  As you could have guessed, the invitations to the events are always spectacular- very wowsy-like, again promoting Kim’s graphic design work.

TAKEAWAY: What can your firm do to create PR opportunities for your business, while at the same time solidifying your brand image?

Cross-Promotion Through Community Work

2.  blue tomato launched the South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project. thereby improving the South Side community while raising awareness of the firm and demonstrating the firm’s quality, creative work.  The South Side Tree Project is an initiative of blue tomato® design and riverset® credit union who have partnered with Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and TreeVitalize to help grow the South Side’s green space. So far, on October 24, 2009, 45 volunteers planted 21 trees in front of homes on Wharton Street with 320 tulips around the trees.  Their next planting will be in the Spring of 2010; currently, they hope to plant 25-40 trees.

For those of you not from Pittsburgh,  the “South Side” is a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, less than 2 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh (just a 20 minute walk across the 10th Street bridge over the Monongahela River).  The business district stretches along the South Side’s East Carson Street, which is home to many small shops, restaurants and bars.   The entire length of East Carson Street is designated as a historic district and is one of the largest Victorian main streets in the United States.  See .

The residential areas have an urban fabric with rowhouses [Full disclosure: when I moved back from Philadelphia 5 years ago, I bought a South Side house and renovated it too].  One of the famous steel mills of Pittsburgh, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company was located on the South Side but closed in the 1980s.  Today, the land also is home to the SouthSide Works shopping and entertainment complex.  To quote the community’s website, “[The South Side] it’s urban, ethnic, hip, funky, feisty, and historic.”

By becoming one of the catalysts for the Southside Tree Project, Kim has raised even more of an awareness and respect for her firm.  Check out the Southside Tree project’s website, which incidentally Kim’s firm designed.  The project also has draped an enormous (20′ X 25′), striking banner over one of the commercial buildings in the heart of the South Side that says “Wanna Free Tree?” This is a sign that Kim’s firm designed and that has her firm’s  name at the bottom of it as a community sponsor.  The project has been profiled in the City Paper, the South Side Reporter, etc.; the PR list goes on and on.

Many companies donate to charities (which is great, albeit passive).  blue tomato’s involvement in this project was a fine opportunity for the firm to give back to the Southside community in an active, meaningful, concrete, real way, and at the same time to increase recognition of the firm and demonstrate the firm’s website and print work.  Again, from a business perspective, brilliant.

TAKEAWAY: What can your company do to give back while at the same time cross-promoting your product or service?

I am also highlighting the blue tomato firm because Kim is a charismatic person, very likeable, yet always commanding a professionalism and seriousness about her work.  Design obviously is a passion of hers that permeates every facet of her life.   At only 30, Kim demonstrates remarkable business savvy and a mover-shaker type of personality (which I always like).  She serves as President of Rainmakers, a local chapter of Business Networking International.   Congratulations, Kim Collins and the blue tomato.  I look forward to seeing what you and your business will become.

Community leaders and developers chatter continually about how to attract young professionals to the city of Pittsburgh.  As recognized in that KDKA clip on Kim’s website, Kim’s business story is a great one and should inspire other young entrepreneurs to do the same, not only in Pittsburgh, but in any part of the country.

For more information on blue tomato, check out its website:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Ilkin permalink
    January 19, 2010 6:00 pm

    Salene – great to see this! Thanks for sharing the info about Blue Tomato especially. After seeing your posts, my first question (of course) was who had done your graphic work. Wondered about BT in passing….thanks for the insights!

    • January 19, 2010 6:49 pm

      I cannot wait to see the website she finishes. I hope all is well. We thought of you at Mia’s party.

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