Every executive has read about small start-up companies attempting to break into an intimidating, money-driven world. It seems that for every one that succeeds, a dozen more are driven out, whether it’s Wal-Mart outselling the local stores or McDonald’s beating out the family burger shop.

However, right under our noses, a Cincinnati-based art auction house has risen from the perils of a start-up company to become a major player on the national fine art scene in just a short amount of time.

In 1995, Wes Cowan founded Cowan’s Auctions, hoping to satisfy the largely unfulfilled need for art auction houses in the Midwest. For the first few years, Cowan’s operated with only two employees and produced only $150,000 in sales per year. By 2006, the company had grown to include 28 employees and to produce more than $15 million in annual sales.

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