Framebridge is one of those companies that truly disrupted an industry. As the world changed and we started taking photos on our phone, Framebridge has made it incredibly easy and affordable to upload pictures, get them framed, and shipped off. We sat down with Susan Tynan, their founder, to talk about the big picture.
Name, Age, where do you live? Susan Tynan, 45, Washington DC
Give us an overview of your career.
For the past eight years, I’ve been building Framebridge. Earlier in my career, I worked in management consulting and for several start-ups in product management and business development. I also had the privilege of working in the budget office during President Obama’s first term.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I am the founder and CEO of Framebridge. We make it easy for people to custom frame the things they love — online or in store.
What was your aha moment when it came to founding Framebridge?
I took four National Parks posters to a local frame store. The posters were quite meaningful to me — I had collected them one by one on annual trips with my sister. The framing experience, however, was terrible! It was expensive and intimidating and after spending $400 each to frame the posters, I decided I would never frame anything again. Later, on a trip to Morocco, I found wonderful souvenirs that I would need to frame. And so I started Framebridge!
You had a long career before this working at places like Accenture, the White House, and Living Social. How did those jobs prepare you for creating Framebridge?
I feel very fortunate to have had experiences in big organizations and start-ups. I know how great start-ups can be, but I also know what real processes should look like. The best part of starting Framebridge a little later in my career is that I had an existing network of friends and colleagues and supporters. In the early days of the company, so many former colleagues helped me with ideas and resources.
You worked in the Obama White House – what was that experience like? And what was the art like (framing, too)?
It was a tremendous privilege to work at the White House during that time. Every time I walked through security in the executive office buildings (I was not in the West Wing!), I truly felt the weight and the honor of it. I had a new baby at the time, but it almost made work / life easier to be working at such a challenging job. I felt like my work mattered and so I felt like I was using my time wisely. My boss when I there, Jeff Zients, is now the White House Covid Response Coordinator and I am in awe and gratitude for his work leading the vaccine rollout. He is the man for the job. I learned a lot about data and management from him.
You live in Washington, DC, which is not necessarily a place people think of as a super creative or tech-y place. Have you found a community of female founders?
I love Washington. Interesting people come here for interesting jobs. But, you’re right, it is not a tech or ecommerce town. I have certainly formed friendships with other entrepreneurs in town – it’s a tight and supportive group. And, I’ve worked to build relationships with other female founders across the country.
What are some of your favorite spots in DC?
Obviously, the Smithsonian. We are so lucky. Those museums are free! That means you can walk in, get inspired, and walk out. You don’t have to think through a full day of tourism. I love the National Portrait Gallery. There’s a small museum near my home, the Kreeger Museum, that is lovely too if you need a quick jolt of inspiration!
I love the Capital Crescent Trail. It is a terrific biking, running or walking trail that can take you from Georgetown to Bethesda.
As for restaurants, Maydan and the Dabney are favorites. In my neighborhood, we often go to Millie’s which is a family-friendly restaurant known for cocktails, fish tacos, and guacamole. I have lived in DC for 25 years now and I went to the University of Virginia, so I have a 100% chance of running into someone I know at Millie’s.
Our Framebridge office has a ridiculous panoramic view of DC from the roof.
Ok, maybe you can tell us, why is custom-framing so expensive? Except for you guys, of course.
Indeed! The problem we had to solve. Local frame shops buy the materials to make your frame from a distributor after you place your order. That’s why it costs so much AND why it takes so long. We centralized manufacturing and we hold inventory of our frame styles, so we can build it to order and ship it to you on demand.
What’s the design process like when it comes to creating frames every season?
We take input from our customers, from home decor trends in general, but really we’re moved by WHAT people are framing. We think a lot about the types of art and photos and artifacts people are framing and what styles would flatter. We believe we have the power to enhance the beauty of art and artifacts, but we never want to distract. Your piece is the feature!
We did have a wild launch this year, The Travel Collection, which is a bright assortment of frames. I love them. Our merchandising team magically created lacquer colored frames that have enough depth to them to be really sophisticated and welcome in any home. They are stunning.
COVID has been so brutal for manufacturing and supply chains. How has it affected that part of your business? What did you have to adjust to?
It’s been extremely challenging to operate over the past year and a half. We run our own manufacturing facilities, so keeping the team safe is always job number one. Then, of course, lots of other supply chain disruptions. But, as an entrepreneur, you are used to surprises. So, I’m already somewhat conditioned to an ever changing environment. My dad used to tell me that running an operating business is like sitting on a mechanical bull. Indeed.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen framed at Framebridge? One of our editors has a giant framed picture of Princess Diana in the Revenge Dress over her desk from you guys, and she’s obsessed with it.
I love that! One of my all time favorite framed pieces was a big piece of cardboard with “Rules of the Fort” on them. A mom framed them for her grown kids for Christmas. She had found it from their childhood years earlier. The rules were silly — no lying down in the fort (which was hard on the baby sibling), but there were also rules about kindness and sibling love that were timeless.
What are some of the most meaningful pieces you’ve had framed? I remember a framed piece of metro cards that a woman gave her husband who had commuted an hour each way after work to complete his law degree at night. I get choked up thinking about it!
And I’m such a sucker for travel memories. I remember seeing a frame of scarves from the running of the bulls and thinking — that is EXACTLY why I started Framebridge.
In May 2019, Framebridge was acquired by Graham Holdings. What was that like for you? I know when we sold One Kings Lane, it was super emotional.
I feel very fortunate that Graham was already an investor so I knew them very well. And I knew we shared the same dreams for the business — to be a beloved household brand. To make it easy for people to frame what they love. To GROW the category for framing. And, to be a terrific place to work whether you’re on our corporate team or a retail associate or a manufacturing team member.
You guys have beautiful brick-and-mortar stores in different cities, your online business is thriving, so what comes next for Framebridge?
More of all of it! We have so much left to frame. You’ll see a lot more stores popping up. We’ll be in Boston and Chicago later this year. We really want to make it easy — and beautiful to frame whatever matters to you.
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Tedrow Gray
It’s a captivating story that has you alternately rooting for the protagonist and growing terrified of her as the plot evolves. And it’s a fun peek into the art world.
What’s your go-to hostess gift? Aesop soap or What’s Gaby Cooking spices
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Reese Witherspoon, I hope!
What’s the last thing you bought online? Everlane’s new maryjanes
What would you put on your menopause registry? Ha! I don’t know, you tell me. Skincare, I guess. My sister bought me Augustinus Bader and it’s worth the hype.
If you could have one superpower what would it be? Teleportation. This has always been the case. I want to go everywhere and do everything and transportation time is my only challenge. Also, my husband’s family is in Sydney so it would be a real game changer to get there for dinner.
If you had a warning label what would it say? High voltage! Both my husband and Framebridge’s awesome head of human resources have both warned me that my energy level can be a lot to take.
Shop our favorite Framebridge pieces below.
Original Artist Prints:
All of our recommendations are curated by Susan & the In The Groove editorial team. In some, but not all cases, we receive a small commission for leading you to what, how and where to buy all this wonderful stuff.