Outsider downsizes and prevails

Not unlike many companies affected by the economy, Michael LaBellarte’s Outsider, Inc. design and production company has drastically cut its overhead and moved to new and smaller space off Michigan Avenue.

Outsider moved Wednesday, less than a week after it had let its staff go, and announced it had ended its two year occupancy of the penthouse at 230 E. Ohio St.

Outsider had occupied 11,000-sq. ft. of uniquely design and decorated space when it moved into the top floor of the Ohio St. building in September, 2006.

The company had substantially expanded from previous 3,00-sq. ft. facilities to accommodate steady business growth and a staff of 20, which at the time included eight editors, five assistants and three producers.

“It was beautiful space but we couldn’t afford to keep it. It made a lot more sense to downsize and become virtual while we actively pursue new clients,” said Outsider executive producer Michael Rafayko, a veteran agency producer who has been successfully freelancing for the past 10 years.

LaBellarte will continue to direct and Outsider will continue as a full-fledged production and company, he said.

The present scaled-down Outsider iteration consists of Outsider founder director/editor LaBellarte; production head Gwen Barker and business manager Jorie Sexton.

Rafayko, serving as a consultant, said they’d like to bring all the staff back ? “not on a daily basis but to work with them as freelancers” – but did not specify the number of editors and designers who had been released.

Rafayko said he would reveal Outsider’s new location once a number of details have been worked out. Once Outsider’s space is determined, LaBellarte plans to reinstall many of the unique sculptures and artwork that had distinguished the Ohio St. facility.

Now, without the worry of meeting overhead expenses, the minimized operation “is a positive move all around that will allow us to serve our clients better,” Rayfayko said.

“We can put our heads together and focus on moving the company forward creatively in this new world we live in. Michael and I are looking at it as an opportunity rather than a speed bump.”

Outsider’s phone number remains the same: 312/397-9799. The company is represented by Hilly Reps, phone, 312/944-1100.