Carving Out a Niche in the Furniture Business

Carving Out a Niche in the Furniture Business

datachannel.orgCarving Out a Niche in the Furniture Business. Sometimes all it takes to form a great small business idea is for someone to notice your talents. So it was for Lauren Russell, co-founder and creative director of American-made furniture company Russell & Mackenna.

Russell’s husband Kevin, a skilled carpenter, was renovating their Maryland home while Russell worked as a freelance design artist and marketing consultant. During a home office meeting with a client, Russell showed a bathroom cabinet she had designed that Kevin had built. The client was impressed with her work and immediately asked to hire Kevin to build one for her. That dresser led to an order of $ 18,000 for another 30 pieces for the client’s home. And so, from some sketches and homemade power tools in a small garage, Russell & Mackenna was born in 2003.

“We didn’t decide to start a business, let alone a furniture company,” Russell said. “He found us by chance.”

The money from their first order from a customer would have put the Russells on track for their new business. However, they couldn’t do it alone. Russell called her father, Larry Strassner, a former CEO of a nuclear power plant maintenance company, to help her come up with a business plan.

“He thought we might be involved in something and offered to get out of retirement, which he had enjoyed for two weeks, to help us,” Russell said.

Starting a business with family members would be daunting for some of her, but Russell told BusinessNewsDaily that she had a completely positive experience working with those closest to her. In fact, she attributes part of her company’s success to her to the fact that she involves a parent / child team.

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“Our skills complement each other without overlapping,” she said. “We have the added advantage of always evaluating situations from different generational points of view. Synergy and chemistry are essential to any successful partnership, and it’s facilitated by our genetic link.

“None of us can imagine that we would have gotten this far that quickly by working with someone else.”

In the seven years since Russell, her husband and their father founded Russell & Mackenna (“Mackenna” comes from the middle name of one of Russell’s children), a lot has changed. In its first year, the company moved from the Russell garage to a small warehouse where Kevin made handcrafted furniture sets for subcontractors to assemble. The “Made in USA” operation quickly cleared the warehouse and moved to a larger facility with manufacturing equipment. In its fifth year, Russell & Mackenna partnered with another family-owned furniture company to outsource all of its pieces. The Russell & Mackenna flagship store opened in the Russell & Mackenna hometown of Severna Park, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay north of Annapolis.

Currently, the company’s sales are approaching $ 5 million.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that all of their products are handmade in the United States. As the company struggles to compete on price and scalability with companies that manufacture their products overseas, Russell says, there is pride and satisfaction in creating a domestic product, and this through rigorous material cost management. fixed labor and sales costs at a high level. market, Russell & Mackenna is making a substantial profit. A key benefit of Russell & Mackenna’s US manufacturing is the ability to work closely with their customers. Made-to-order items sold directly to consumers account for 60% of the company’s sales (the other 40% is split equally between wholesale and trade).

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The customizable features of its bespoke products allow the company to charge more, which significantly impacted its bottom line.

For now, Russell & Mackenna is not looking to move to mass retail. The company is content to sell to a niche market of customers who own a first or second home in coastal tourist areas. Time and time again, the company found repeat business.

“Twenty percent of our customers are returning,” Russell said. “Once a client realizes we can make a smaller desk to fit in the corner under his steps, he gets hooked.”

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