Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
Growing up, my father was a millwright by trade and a woodworker at home. I used to spend countless hours alongside him out in the shop. I picked up a lot of tips and tricks by watching him and learned a few choice words as well. I really enjoyed and cherish all the time we spent together. Fast forward to the fall of 2015. We lost my father after a long battle with an incredibly rare form of neuropathy with an acronym of P.O.E.M.S. The emotional strain this put on me of losing not only my father but my best friend, I began to develop severe anxiety and panic. Over time the anxiety and panic grew into agoraphobia, and before I knew it, I was a 25-year-old father of 3 who was no longer employed because my mental health hindered me from leaving my home. I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life- providing for my family while dealing with this life-changing condition. With the tools my father had left behind and the knowledge he passed onto me, I decided to start making some sawdust and trying my hand at building with wood, instead of steel like I had been for nearly 8 years as a welder. To my surprise, I really felt dad’s presence when I had been working with wood, and began to develop a strong passion for woodworking. After a few years of honing my skills, as well as figuring out what people were interested in, Mainely Wood was born.
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
We sell a wide variety of products from simple picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, all the way to rustic hand-carved American flags. We have done coffee tables, end tables, napkin holders, stovetop noodle boards, and gear racks for law enforcement officers. We really enjoy being able to provide people with the crafts they’ve been “eyeballing” for some time.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
The most challenging aspect of our business right now would definitely be the fact that we do 90% of our building outside in our yard as we do not have a garage. Being located in Maine, the weather largely dictates when and how long we are able to work. We do plan to build a shop in the very near future.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy working for myself for a few different reasons. The biggest, of course, is the fact that mental disabilities aren’t always as accepted as physical disabilities, thus making it difficult to explain why I may have been late for work or absent for a shift. Working for myself I don’t have that pressure, which in turn proves to be less stressful. Another large reason I love being an entrepreneur is that I get to spend more time with my family while my children are young. Touching on the last paragraph, one of the challenged my family and I have faced since working for myself at home is me being able to decipher “family time” from “work time”. Many weekends, in the beginning, were spent with me working in the yard while my kids and girlfriend were spending time. I used to think that because I was home, I was spending time with them, but quickly realized I needed to create a schedule as if I were punching a clock.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
I’m not sure of the exact quote, but it goes something like “no headstone ever read ‘I wish I had worked more’.”. That puts it perfectly- take the time to spend with your family. Pass along the knowledge and wisdom that was passed along to you.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
A couple of years ago I read an article about the Rough Country Rustic Furniture Company that caught my attention. While the article was not in favor of the company, it included a photograph of a beautiful bedroom set, and let’s face it, no publicity is bad publicity, right? I researched the company further and I fell in love with their designs as well as their execution on most products. I credit them with many of my products design/creations.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I received a lot of knowledge from my father growing up. He worked shift work at a local fiber extrusion plant and I believe he had a “3 on, 3 off” rotation. On his three days off you didn’t find me too far from him. He taught me so much about work and life.
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What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
I have found that accessibility is a key factor and a lot of repetitive advertising. I will advertise as much as I can in as many places as I can. I want you to be so sick of seeing my ads that you eventually click on one just to see what all the hype is about. If your eyes on our pictures were as effective as your rear end in one of our chairs, we would be ten times as busy as we are now.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Just get something online. Even if it’s not your best selling product or a product you aren’t most proud of. Getting something online as quickly as you can is the key to beginning your success. Every journey, no matter how long, begins with a single step. Once you are online, stick with it. There will be days, even weeks you make no sales. That happens, and it’s not the end of the world. Advertise, advertise, advertise. Do not be afraid to spend money advertising your product(s). Do giveaways, have sales, donate to a local fundraiser. The more people see or hear your name, the better things are going to be for you.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
I define business success as being able to get up in the morning, and not feel like you are going to work while being able to provide an acceptable income.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
My day-to-day operation varies, of course. Most days after I get the kids on the bus to school I get all my tools out that I need for the day, turn on some music and get going on whatever project I’m working on. I try to at least stop and have a quick lunch somewhere between noon and one o’clock, and then continue what I’m working on until my girlfriend and kids get home in the evening.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
As I mentioned above we do not have a “brick and mortar” shop right now so that will be a large improvement and will help our business grow immensely. I would love to have space for some storefront for locals, as well as a decent studio for photos of our projects. Building a shop will also allow us to begin filming some projects as we would love to begin our YouTube channel.