Jared Patchin is the owner of J. Alexander Fine Woodworking, a custom furniture and cabinetry firm in Boise, Idaho.
A noted speaker as well as a woodworker, Jared was a panelist at Woodworking Network’s recent full-day symposium—Woodworking Inventors: Creating New Products and Business Approaches—that explored how a new breed of woodworker is approaching the market of the future.
Timber Products Company caught up with Jared for his thoughts on innovation, trends and advice for the next generation of woodworkers.
Timber Products: What are the current trends you are seeing in custom woodworking?
Patchin: Let’s look at custom furniture. In the Northwest, where I’m located, rustic and reclaimed styles are popular, but more often we’re seeing Contemporary design. Contemporary styling and clean lines are becoming predominant in requests for custom furniture. With cabinetry, it’s also trending away from the traditional raised panel, distressed, stained look and toward the clean line of a simple shaker door and fewer ornamentations.
TP: Tell me about how you innovate as a company and create products for the market.
Patchin: One of the ways we innovate in our market focuses less on creating physical items or a unique piece of furniture, but more in creating a business process to leverage ourselves and gain new clients. Those innovations happen in our marketing and in our sales tactics. For branding, we look back at our marketing material and identify the feeling that we’re trying to convey for our brand. So we’re innovating different, unique ways that we haven’t seen in our competition.
TP: What are key challenges you face as a small company and how do you overcome them?
Patchin: What keeps me up at night is thinking about how I can take my company to the next level. Some challenges that we run into are the resources we have available, both in terms of labor and machinery. For labor, I have three employees and myself. When you only have four people, many people wear different hats. That is constraining when I need somebody in two places at once. Financing new machines that our company needs to automate production is another constraint. Currently, that means software and a CNC machine. Both of those assets are key to take my company into the future, but funding is a challenge.
TP: How much do you lean on your suppliers for advice and guidance?
Patchin: Working with suppliers is a long-term relationship. When it comes to hardwood and plywood suppliers, the most beneficial thing they’ve done for me is educate me about what’s available in the marketplace and when to use one grade of ply over another. There are times you can use B or C grades to save some money. It’s not detrimental to the project, but your bottom line will prosper as a result. As that supplier educates me, there’s less chance of me looking for a new supplier because I’ve seen that they’re bringing value to my company and my product.
TP: As a small business owner, what advice would you give to young woodworkers?
Patchin: I think one of the best things to keep in mind early in the business process is that success is not going to happen overnight. It takes years of acquiring clientele before there’s momentum for sales to carry themselves. For my company, that took almost five years. Realistically, you have to be everything all the time, especially if you are a one-man operation. I think with a love of the craft and a realistic outlook on what to expect, most of us have a pretty good shot.
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