Richmond company builds a better easel

RICHMOND – One day, Cindy Larsen ran out of wall space.

Soon after, she had an idea. A simple one, really.

Using corrugated cardboard, Larsen created a way to display her artwork without sacrificing precious real estate on her walls.

What she made was a lightweight cardboard easel, sturdy enough to hold her works of art.

Soon, she took her business idea – called EASE-Ls – to Dave Kielpinski. With him at the helm as CEO, the two have since expanded their enterprise, Lar-Cyn Designs, and now market to businesses outside the art world.

“The areas where this can be used are practically endless,” Kielpinski said from Lar-Cyn Designs’ Richmond headquarters. “Trade shows, business displays for presentations, the food and beverage industry.”

Larsen is a graphic designer and Kielpinski a photographer. They have worked together in the past.

These easels are made in America and hailed as environmentally friendly, made out of 50 percent recycled material. In the shape of an equilateral triangle, the lightweight easels can hold up to 45 pounds and come in sizes, from 28 inches tall to 48 inches.

Prices vary depending on how many are bought.

It takes about three simple folds and a few tucks here and there to assemble the EASE-L. No tape or glue is needed.

The product comes in white or black, but can be branded with a company logo, or as young art students in Crystal Lake discovered, painted as an extension of an art project.

Business had been slow moving for the first two years, Kielpinski said. It’s difficult to make a living selling small orders one at a time, and even harder to get face time with large companies.

“With an inexpensive item, you need a bigger arena to play. But it’s way harder than I thought,” Kielpinski said.

Lar-Cyn Designs started marketing EASE-Ls to funeral homes who gravitated to the product as a way for their clients to display photo boards.

Next up were restaurants to showcase daily food and drink specials. Then came businesses for their presentations.

But it’s the art world that gave Larsen her start and it’s there that EASE-Ls are headed.

Dick Blick Art Materials, a leading art supplier for teachers, students and professional artists, rejected the product three times. But after hearing positive reviews from customers at a recent trade show, a Blick representative offered the company a mea culpa and bought a truckload to sell in their stores.

“That very same person [who previously turned us down] was listening to people rave about our product,” Kielpinski said. “ … She said she made a mistake and she wanted to carry them. That was huge.”

Lar-Cyn designs also is inking a deal with Amazon.com, but the agreement has not been finalized.

Information on EASE-Ls can be found at www.ease-l.com.