Exhibit Network is turning 30 this year (1989-2019). Keep reading for a short summary of our history or skip down to the bottom for how to enter our 30th Anniversary Prize Drawing.
Exhibit Network became a reality for Lenny and Kathleen Maartens on May 9, 1989 in Houston TX. With $600, 3 kids under the age of six, and a naïve determination to be successful, Lenny worked out of a friend’s warehouse, and Kathleen answered the phone from home. Whenever a prospect called, Kathleen would apologize that Lenny was “on the other line” or “in a meeting” and ask if Lenny could call them back. Kathleen would then page Lenny (remember pagers? beepers?). After checking in with headquarters, ahem, home, Lenny would return the call to the prospect. This went on for several months, and we built up quite a network of prospects and clients during this time.
Besides trade show exhibits, we designed, built, and installed a lot of cabinets for car dealerships and commercial offices. We built some lightboxes for the Astrodome that are still operational and can be seen in NRG Arena today.
Our lucky break came in the early 1990’s when a new company called Enron was looking for their very first trade show exhibit. Because the exhibits we built for Enron were so bold and innovative, we were quickly hired by other companies in the natural gas industry: e.g., El Paso Energy, Coastal, Tenneco, Mitchell Energy, and Northern Border, to name a few. As more and more companies saw our work, we grew and grew and grew.
In the year 2000, we purchased a 65,000 sq ft free-standing building on Lang Road in Houston. Our offices, shop, and warehouse occupied 30,000 sq ft of the building and the rest was leased out. At our peak and the year Enron declared bankruptcy, we had 25 full-time employees. You may remember that year because two other major events happened: 911 in NYC and the SARS epidemic. All three of these events were catastrophic to the trade show industry and to our business, and eventually we scaled down to just two of us and four employees, barely making payroll. But you know what they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
We learned a lot in those lean years and are proud to be survivors. Since then, we expanded into 52,000 sq ft of our building, purchased a CNC machine, added a showroom, and have one of cleanest and most organized warehouses in the city (so clients tell us).
Today, with a team of under 20 employees, we are surpassing our past accomplishments. (Thanks to technology and Six Sigma “Lean Thinking.”) Today we have clients representing the energy, retail, food and beverage, corrosion, technology, chemicals, distribution, manufacturing, and other industries. About half of our clients are located in the Houston area, 15% from Dallas/Fort Worth, 19% are out-of-state and 16% are international. (Data from March 2019)
We are proud to be Houston’s oldest family-owned and operated full-service exhibit house. We definitely appreciate your referrals because that’s where most of our new business has always come from. Our client testimonials and google reviews typically commend us for our excellent customer service. You can find us @exhibitnetwork on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
30th Anniversary Prize Drawing
Please help us celebrate our 30-year anniversary. You can enter our drawing for several great prizes on our website April 1 – 5, 2019. No purchase is necessary. The official rules and regulations will be available when the drawing begins. Follow us on Social Media for the latest announcements.