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The inventory fit in a cloakroom when Progressive Image launched back in 1987.

Brad Vogl and Sue Ayers rented a 600-square-foot office on Oklahoma Avenue in West Allis, Wisconsin to launch Progressive Image after having been colleagues at another component distributor for seven years.

“Sue and I were in the business before, so we learned by working for someone else what we felt was missing,” Vogl said. “You try to fill in those shortcomings with the right solution. We’re good at what we do. “

They combined their expertise in electromechanical components with a lot of hustle and versatility in the early years. Working without employees, one would be on the road calling on customers while the other stayed in the office, packing boxes and working phones, fortified by cheeseburgers carried out from a nearby Bakers Square restaurant.

Progressive Image distributed for just three manufacturers in that first year, and Brad and Sue realized they would have to branch out into value-added assembly to achieve success.

“I remember doing assemblies on a Sunday at that same office on Oklahoma and I had to deliver them on Monday, so my wife and children brought me Chinese food because it was taking so long,” Vogl said.

The work paid off, however. The company’s first expansion came in 1992; by 1997 Progressive Image had relocated to New Berlin in a 3,600-square-foot space.

Top manufacturers such as Hirschmann and Wago presented Progressive Image with Distributor of the Year awards, and that 3,600-square-foot space got larger and larger. Today, Progressive Image’s New Berlin home is almost 40 times the size of the original, humble West Allis office space.

The company is an authorized distributor for more than three dozen manufacturers, employs 28 people and performs value-added assembly for clients throughout Wisconsin and the United States.