Wall Street experience helps custom woodworker grow business
August 14, 2011 | 9:36 pm CDT

Ed Rode’s three decades as a Wall Street trader have helped in his new career as a custom furniture maker.

Former Wall Street trader Ed Rode is happy in his new role as custom furniture maker.

In 2005, Ed Rode was ready to risk leaving a three-decade-long career as a trader on Wall Street so that he could give his full attention to his passion — designing and making high-end art furniture. He says his background helped him in his new career, but in unexpected ways.

For instance, he says he got one of his early promotions because his boss learned of his reputation as a problem-solver. That skill — being able to identify and solve problems — is an essential character trait for a successful entrepreneur, Rode says. Working on Wall Street also taught him to relate effectively to other people, he adds, noting that having good inter-personal skills has been far more important to him in establishing a customer base and a team of colleagues than being able to understand balance sheets.

Working on Wall Street also forced Rode to learn to cultivate coping mechanisms for dealing with a highly-charged and chaotic environment. “There were times during the day when all of the commotion of trading would become a bit much,” he says. “I would take off my headphones and ask my clerks to time me out. I would step back, close my eyes and take about three deep breaths. Then I would be ready to go back at it again. This ability to re-establish a sense of calmness during stressful times has been very helpful to me as I have been setting up my new business.”

Re-Branding, with Professional Help
About six months ago, Rode decided that his business was ready for a new look. The name that he originally had selected for his company, “Mustardseed Woodworking,” had personal meaning for him. But he felt that he needed something different if he was going to catch the attention and confidence of professional interior designers. Changing the name to Rode Furniture accompanied a total re-branding for his company. His target date for completing this project was prior to the 2009 Annual Architectural Digest Home Design Show, held this spring, where he exhibits his work.

At the show, Rode debuted his new brand, plus new furniture created for the residential and corporate environment, including conference tables, coffee and cocktail tables, desks and lighting. The collection offers one-of-a-kind statement pieces inspired by the wood from which they are created.

Rode engaged the services of a graphic designer to implement the re-branding of his company and in the process established a relationship with him that he values highly.

“The graphic designer is a member of my team, and I expect to work with him for a long time,” he says. “For one thing, he is able to seamlessly develop and maintain all of the collateral materials that I need, freeing me to focus on furniture design.”

Rode also cultivated a relationship with an independent print professional who has been able to steer him in the right direction, helping him avoid costly mistakes.

Advertising Pays Off
Exhibiting at the Architectural Digest show turned out to be the beginning of a relationship with the magazine, as well. Because Rode was an exhibitor, he was able to buy an ad at a discounted rate, which proved to be a beneficial investment. He says he has received inquiries from all over the country, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Palm Beach. He even has been exchanging e-mails with a potential client in India.

“I feel as though the ad opened up a whole new market for me. This experience has driven home for me the importance of advertising,” he says.

Even though Rode succeeded in reaching beyond the New York market, he realizes that New York remains his base. For his next marketing strategy, he is thinking about a cross-marketing approach, collaborating with art galleries in the New York area. His vision is to place some of his furniture as accent pieces in the galleries in order to get examples of his furniture collection in front of people who collect original art. He feels they are likely to have an interest in high-end custom furniture as well — and could be another “avenue” for his work.

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