LOMBARD – A giant globe of the world rotates on its axis while Parisian stilt-walkers move through the crowd.
Bubbles float through the air and confetti falls while spectators watch industry-leading hairstylists perform their wizardry live on stage.
That mystical scene was created 18 years ago by Katherine Frank Creative Inc. – a small company now based in Lombard – for an international trade show in Washington, D.C.
Building that giant globe to spin on a single steel rod was ambitious. Frank Cacciato and a fellow designer had to be lowered into the globe by a crane as they built it from the inside. When the globe was nearly finished, they had to cut out Iceland so Frank could be lifted back out.
Getting it to rotate on its axis required a little luck. Frank and his team watched petrified as the weight of the globe slowly bent the steel rod, which originally was intended to hold the spinning globe upright. They finally exhaled when it settled into a favorable position and they were able to apply support.
Spectators marveled at the feat of creative engineering.
“It made us very famous,” Frank said with a laugh.
Maybe not famous in terms of earning household name status, but that was a big moment for a business that began in the spare bedroom of Kathy and Frank Cacciato’s Wheaton home.
Married for 25 years, Kathy and Frank recently celebrated the company’s 20th anniversary.
“It’s pretty wild,” said Frank, the quick-with-a-joke creative force behind the company. “For us to say 20 years is a big deal. When Katherine Frank started, who’d ever think we’d have what we do. We’re very fortunate.”
Business of beauty
The business quickly grew from Frank’s graphic-design roots to a full-service exhibit design company. The need for more space led Katherine Frank Creative to Lombard about 16 years ago. Most of its clients are beauty industry manufacturers that produce high-end products for hair, nail, skin and makeup specialists.
Katherine Frank designs and builds elaborate stages to market those products at professional trade shows. When the show is over, they store the sets in warehouses in Lombard and West Chicago.
McCormick Place in Chicago was the destination last weekend, when Katherine Frank represented about 25 clients at America’s Beauty Show. The business, which opened a California office a year ago, also makes its mark at trade shows both across the country and internationally.
Beauty is Katherine Frank’s specialty, but the marketing company, which boasts 14 employees, also has clients in the fashion, restaurant, interior design and home furnishing industries.
Fun and family
After staying home to raise their children, Kathy stepped in full time about eight years ago, and serves as president.
“Kathy is the brains behind the whole operation,” Frank said.
They at one point tried bringing in a general manager to handle the business side. Kathy said that style didn’t fit the company’s personality.
“It was being run like a corporation, which is clearly not what we had in mind,” said Kathy, whose marketing background and business sense allowed her to assume the general manager duties. “This is our life. We wanted it to be fun.”
Humor seems to foster an atmosphere of creativity and family at the unassuming business-park office near North Avenue on Lombard Road, where Cacciato’s son, Frankie, 34, worked for years, and Matthew, 22, plans to start his post-college career.
Even their youngest, Gina, a 16-year-old at Glenbard South High School, shows the right mix of business savvy and sarcasm needed to one day follow in her mom’s footsteps.
Frank asked Gina if she’d consider being president of the company one day.
“She said, ‘Yes, I would. But Dad, you’d be the first one I’d fire,’ ” Frank said, as he and Kathy laughed together.
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About the business
What: Katherine Frank Creative Inc., an exhibit design company for the professional beauty industry
Founders: Kathy (president) and Frank (CEO) Cacciato of Wheaton
Location: 1025 N. Lombard Road, Lombard
How it started: Frank Cacciato worked as an electrician after high school before a chance meeting with three hairdressers convinced him to follow his passion for creativity. After 15 years of developing skills as a graphic designer and learning the beauty industry, Cacciato got the OK from Kathy, his wife of about five years, to start Katherine Frank Creative Inc. in 1993, in their Wheaton home.
Cacciato children: Frankie, 34; Sarah, 24; Matthew, 22; and Gina, 16