Creative Conners has a positive effect on live shows

WIRED: Creative Conners Inc. software developer Christian Basse works on a project at his computer. / PBN FILE PHOTO/

WIRED: Creative Conners Inc. software developer Christian Basse works on a project at his computer. / PBN FILE PHOTO/

CEO (or equivalent): Gareth Conner, founder and president
2019 Revenue: $5.2 million
2017 Revenue: $2.1 million
Revenue growth: 146.6%

AS CREATIVE CONNERS INC. continues to grow in its chosen field of creating special effects for live entertainment, the Warren-based company stays mindful of its past and where it built its customer base.

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“If you go to a show like a Broadway show or a concert or even a corporate event where something is sliding around on stage or raising up over the audience, we make the machinery and the software and the electronic control that choreographs all that motion,” founder and president Gareth Conner said of his company that has created equipment and software for 16 years.

Looking back at the sales reports, Conner said Creative Conners’ success is formulated in creating a customer base. “We spent a lot of time creating a large following in specifically the university market,” he said. “In our little niche of the industry, most of our competitors focus on huge spectacles on Broadway or in [Las] Vegas and we took a slightly different approach from the beginning of trying to shoot for the smaller guys.”

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That includes marketing and community engagement at universities, as well as cultivating a following in students. Regional theaters are also an area of focus.

“What we found is that some of our largest customers are basically people who we first worked with [about] a decade ago when they first started their careers in college and are now making large decisions at large companies,” Conner said. “And so, as our customers have increased their reputation and are doing bigger and bolder things, we’ve been their preferred vendor … and [we’ve] kind of grown up with them.”

While Creative Conners still has its “bread and butter” base, Conner also said the company expanded into higher-end, corporate effects, television work and touring shows. The company has broadened out, and the cultivation of its customer base has paid off.

“Making your scenery move on stage was such a paramount task that having access to equipment to do that was unheard of for the educational and regional theater market,” Director of Tech Services Mike Wade said.

One of the exciting parts of the company, Wade said, is that Creative Conners has not stopped developing its products to fill the needs of its customers. “Since we create the machinery, the controls and the software in-house, we have absolute control over what features we want to add and when we want to add them, or when is the best time to add and release those features,” he said.

Its control software, Spikemark, has had major feature updates in reaction to where the industry is going and requests from customers.

“We’ve been continuing to evolve our controllers to support those more intricate and complex shows,” Wade said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been “crushing” to Creative Conners’ output and has been a challenge, Conner said they’re attempting to find other avenues and products. One aspect that has helped is upgrading venues that are looking to have long-term renovations that would have caused them to be closed anyways.

“If they have money in the bank, then they can use this time to improve their facilities, which is always a tricky business in normal times because they can’t close down the theaters long enough to do extensive work,” he said.

Beyond that, Creative Conners has also been applying its know-how in machinery and software to other markets. With its laser-cutting equipment and stitchers, Creative Conners has made masks, including a clear-paneled mask that makes it easier for people who are hard of hearing to see the mouth and lip read. It’s also been engaged in creating software for inventory management and purchasing, which it has always used in-house and has recently launched for other small manufacturing companies.

“So, we’re kind of shucking and jiving right now, trying to find how else can we piece this together,” Conner said. “We’re trying to fill in those gaps with everything that we can.”

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