Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
Making things started at a young age, growing up on a dairy farm. The desire to create and build things continued through college. A few years after college, I started my own custom furniture business in Berea, Ky. During my next 25 years, I developed clients from coast to coast. In 2014, with changes in the economy and marketing, I decided to go a different direction, designing and building a brand of smaller wooden products for the home such as wine caddies, kitchenware and utensils, various types of wall racks, and computer stands.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
The small wood products we make are always functional, sometimes multifunctional, and equally as important, they most always have a strong eye appeal, different than anything already on the market. Some of my product designs have happened in a flash, others receiving care thought, and experimentation. Once I know what it is going to look like, I never make one of something. Being creative in the production part is very important too if you want to make money. I’ve always been a jig and fixture king of guy, searching for the most efficient and fastest way to make the product, always being careful not to sacrifice quality. I’ve always believed that ” Craftsmanship goes far beyond the manipulation of one’s hands and tools….it’s a state of mind that is satisfied with nothing less than excellence.”
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
Some of the challenging aspects of my business actually energize me. I seem to thrive on the whole process of design, working out the kinks, the production process. playing and tweaking with marketing. My wife Tuya would say, my mind never shuts down. The one thing that does wear on me is all the many backs and forth conversations with the customer. I think 99.5% of my customers are nice people and a joy to work with but having to remember all their requests and changes can be tiring and worrisome. But I roll with them and they give me really nice reviews and I make more money.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
In my particular field, I enjoy designing and building immensely. In some ways, it’s like the air I breathe. It’s my design, my way of making it, don’t have to ask anyone to make changes. No boss so I’m just running wild in my profession. And I think that if you enjoy all aspects of a profession/business, it’s hard to find something about it that would be considered difficult by some.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
Most of my mistakes were made years ago when I was a custom furniture maker. There was a time when I thought I had to have every job that walked through the door. And at that time I was shy about charging the amount the piece was actually was worth. I always felt I had the best customer base in the world. In 25 years, never had one piece returned or have a customer tell me they didn’t like what I made for them. And when I look back, they would still have bought and been happy with a little higher price. My struggles during those years would have been less.
If it is the highest quality with strong eye appeal, folks will appreciate and pay for it. And you will develop a lasting following.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
I think my inspiration making things eat a very young age. When I was small, before making anything, i tore a lot of things up and yes I was always in trouble. I always wanted to see inside things, why does it work the way it does? Then I gradually discovered tools, crude at the beginning, with which I could make things with. Fast forward to today, I have the best tools and I’m always wanting to make it different than anything out there on the market. And to compliment all of that, I love beautiful wood. Wood selection in everything I make is very important to me. I always feel that if like it, my customers will love it.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
My background and skills necessary to run my business, well, I always thought I was born with it, had a natural knack for it. I honed my skills over the many years I have been woodworking. And equally as important, I’m not afraid to work, got that characteristic from my father on the farm.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
On the Etsy sales platform, I’m not afraid to spend money on promoted adds but that’s just the beginning. High quality, functional, strong eye appeal, being different than what is already out there, all of these is my best marketing tool. And my product selection keeps expanding and when it does, its a product that requires a different search words and terms other than what I already have for my other products. The broader my product selection, the more people that visit my shop.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Think I covered this in previous answers.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Success to me is a journey that never ends. If it ends, the creative expression dies with it. It’s not only ones work that creates the money, the joy with it balances out the journey, ones success.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I have the freedom that has no sense of time. Some would call me a workaholic. Should I apologize for loving what I do? Yes there is other things in life I enjoy but I still don’t ever want to retire. The more I create, the more excited I get about creating things.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Growth in my business comes from constantly adding new and different products to my line. I hope my sales platform can level off their desire to squeeze more money from the sellers. I dropped all my wholesale accounts a while back. If a sales platform ever approches the 50/50, I’m done. I want to make money for my hard work. After the dust settles, a sales platform that takes 15-20% of sales is enough. I also sell on Amazon. I don’t want Etsy to become hard and cold like Amazon or Ebay. If it does, I’m done.