When the opportunity came for Dr. Keith L. Leaphart to make the leap from the medical profession to entrepreneurship, he decided to go for it.
In December 2009, he was presented with the chance to acquire Replica Creative, a Center City-based firm that specializes in producing print, Web and multimedia marketing materials. The firm is also becoming known for doing large graphics and custom wall murals.
Despite the risks in purchasing a business in a down economy, Leaphart was attracted to Replica’s solid business model and the quality of the firm’s work.
“I felt like I needed to be an example and put my money where my mouth is and jump out there. I always said we needed more entrepreneurs, so I wasn’t going to be hesitant and not jump out there and take the risk,” said Leaphart, who is president and CEO of Replica Global, LLC.
“I didn’t look at this as buying a print shop. For me it was about getting into the digital technology sector,” said Leaphart, who acquired the company from the RJSN Corp. with the assistance of an angel investor.
“It was definitely well worth the risk. As an African American, I felt like I had to lead by example,” Leaphart said in regard to investing in the business.
“The reason why I jumped in as an entrepreneur was to show people that you can do it.”
When Leaphart purchased Replica, the design firm had been established for more than 30 years. He encourages other African-American entrepreneurs to consider the possibility of acquiring businesses that are already established.
Earlier this year, Replica moved to a new, contemporary location at 33 S. 18th St.
“It’s a very innovative space that focuses on people in the design community and freelancers,” Leaphart said of the offices.
The site features computers for the use of design clients and is often used for networking events.
“We always bill it as Starbucks for designers but without the coffee. It’s a place where people in from the creative community can come and work from and get positive energy. We are using this as a laboratory for the city. We are building this out as a franchise model,” he said noting that they aspire to launch other locations in the city.
Replica currently employs nine full-time and two part-time workers.
When he first acquired the business, Leaphart juggled running Replica with his duties as a physician at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. He recently gave up his hospital privileges so he could focus solely on the business.
“It got to the point to where I needed to be fully committed to the business and in many ways put my feet to the fire,” he said.
Replica is not Leaphart’s first foray into business ownership. While pursuing a dual DO/MBA program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Saint Joseph’s University, he operated an event planning business.
Leaphart serves as Replica’s brand manager, focusing on the company’s strategic vision, while his design staff focuses on the creative aspects.
He’s proud to own a company that has a 33-year track record of serving clients throughout the region. Replica has built a reputation for producing quality work.
“I got into this business because of the quality. We’ve grown because I can talk to people and they can actually see the quality and they want to do business. This is all about quality,” said Leaphart.
In 2005, the mayor’s office recognized Replica as one of Philadelphia’s best small businesses.
Founded 33 years ago as a small black-and-white copy shop with a client base that was exclusively law firms in the Center City area, Replica has grown to become one of the most respected design and print firms in the region. The company serves a client base of educational institutions, civic and business organizations throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The company has gone through four ownership transitions. The RJSN Corp. brought it in August 2000 and was responsible for its impressive revenue growth from $560, 000 to $1.15 million, and expansion into the digital color-printing sector. In 2009, The Leaphart Group, operating as Replica Global LLC, purchased Replica.