Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Biz Fella, Jeff Martin of Jeff Martin Joinery. Jeff has always gravitated towards the handcrafted world, first apprenticing with a renowned designer in Brooklyn at the start of his career. He eventually launched his own studio in Vancouver while juggling other full-time work, and now he offers an wide range of uniquely handcrafted furniture and home decor. Today he offers a glimpse into his career path and creative journey. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jeff! —Stephanie
Image above via The Dependant
Read the full interview after the jump…
All photos by Tom Nugent Photography
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I recognized an opportunity that allows me to be me. By nature I am a very devoted, hardworking individual who also happens to fall on the creative end of the spectrum. I have a love for design, materials, engineering, composition and art. And I went through a fairly major injury 11 years ago which forced me to reassess how I want to spend my life. So I am in pursuit of the things which make me feel completely satisfied with my life, and I had to create the business to allow myself that privilege.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
In the formative years of trying to start the business I had to redefine my objectives a couple of times in order to make sure I made enough money to live off. I would take more standard cabinet jobs, for example; at certain points I would be doing renovations as well. And for a year I was working two full-time jobs to support it.
Now that I have developed a fairly significant depth and breadth of work under a single authorship, the business is finally beginning to take shape of how I initially intended it; which is that I am able to make and sell my own designs.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
One of the guys I work with who does all of CNC based stuff is full of knowledge and has guided me a lot through the process. He conveyed a message to me which helps me get through the tough times, and keep a check on my ego when things are going well. He told me, “To be able to design and produce objects for people is a relatively large demand on the world. Not a lot of people get to do exactly what they love to do and make money from it. So, treat it with respect and humility.”
And my mentor Palo encouraged me to fight, every day, to wake up and fight for what you want.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
The mental and emotional rigor required to get up and work on something 10-14 hours a day even if it is failing. I had two “false starts” with my business where I ended up having to go make some quick cash in my previous work and I had to effectively avoid orders and the shop for a few months.
But now that I have been at it more than full-time for two years it is really rewarding mentally and emotionally. But it brings another set of challenges. Providing employees a good job, offering and servicing warranties (luckily there has only been 1 of these so far) and managing cash flow; it’s the hardest thing to analyze, comprehend, and utilize.
Vancouver is not New York, and the client base here is tougher to find than in many major cities. Things are beginning to change now due to the phenomenal wealth of designers migrating here. People like Christian Woo, Brent Comber, Omer Arbel, and Lukas Peet are really bringing attention here.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Patience. Patience in learning a skill, patience in doing something correctly, patience in running something in a responsible manner. I actually learned this from my wife. She has supported me so thoroughly. She has never faltered in her belief that what I’m doing is right; even if it means that I have been absent and not doing well financially. I can’t imagine having gone through the experience of starting a business without her. She is the most patient and encouraging person I know.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I jumped into a business partnership way too quickly a couple of years ago. I had only known my former partner a couple of weeks when we decided to start working together. In the end our sales were fairly good, but I had lost some credibility in my designs because we had compromised to do a couple of commissioned pieces influenced too heavily by other designers.
In the end, the guy sort of disappeared and I was stuck with our entire tax bill for the year which I thought he had been taking care of. All in all it was not a good situation and it took some time to catch up financially and to get back to the place where I want to be with my reputation.
To me it was a good lesson in trust and due diligence, as well as making sure you are designing original work.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
Listening to the rhetoric of my failures, and internalizing them and understanding them to produce work that is cohesive, compelling and new.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
- Consider doing it for fun; if it takes over your life and you are able to sell some of your work then consider that it may be a viable business.
- Consider how much of your life it will take over; I work 7am-9pm 6 or 7 days a week and I know a lot of entrepreneurs who face the same challenge.
- Consider what your life would be like if you don’t take the risk, it’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying pursuits you can do.