Ethan Abramson operates the New York-based furniture company, Ethan Abramson. As head designer and owner, Ethan manages each stage of production from design concepts to finishing and marketing. Prior to launching his company and his own line of American made, environmentally conscious, handcrafted furniture in 2008, Ethan worked in advertising and commercial interior design.
We spoke with Ethan in honor of Young Woodworking Professionals week, and asked what it takes to start a company and keep it growing in today's market:
What is your background in Woodworking?
My background in woodworking was all learned on the job. After working in the corporate world for a number of years I decided I needed a change. I began apprenticing at a shop, moved on to working full time at other shops and eventually became a shop foreman. I then started my own company.
When did you start your company? What challenges did you face?
I stared my own company in 2008. The biggest challenge I faced was finding and equipping a space that was in my price range. At first I divided my time and continued working as the foreman of the shop I was in from 8am-5pm and then rented that same shop and equipment to work on my own pieces afterhours 5pm-10pm (most nights later). Once I became more established I moved to my own shop, but I am very appreciative for having the opportunity to rent afterhours space in that shop before I was financially able to go out on my own.
Space, especially in bigger cities, is always at a premium and is usually priced too high for someone starting out. If you can’t work out a deal like I did, I suggest looking to partner up with a few like minded people, that way you can share the rent and tools, making the burden smaller for everyone.
How has your business developed since then? Any major differences from your initial vision?
I started out only building custom pieces, but I always had the vision to move into building my own collection of furniture. Initially I didn’t feel that I had found my own voice in the industry yet enough to put something out branded with my name. When I finally put out my own collection it was incredibly rewarding. I am in the prototype stage of putting out my 2nd collection of new work. My vision is to keep moving in this direction and eventually become a shop fully devoted to a branded collection.
Is there an aspect of woodworking that has been especially important in your career?
My work focuses mostly on building handmade pieces. That said, I don’t close myself off to any style of woodworking. I’ve found that inspiration comes from all places and by fully immersing myself into every aspect of the industry I have become a better woodworker overall.
What advice do you have for younger woodworkers who are either starting out, or are getting ready to start their own businesses? What do you wish someone had told you?
The thing that most often gets overlooked is that a woodworking business is just that, a business. And sometimes the business part is even more important than the woodworking part. If you are planning on starting a woodworking business it would be safe to assume that you have some aptitude for building. Your butterfly joints and your finishing practices will improve by spending hours in your shop, your grasp on the business end will not. Reach out to people on that side of the industry, the front office people, the shipping logistics people, the marketing people. If you want to get into the furniture business to get away from computers and spreadsheets then partner with someone. I have seen many extremely talented people not succeed because they couldn’t properly bring their pieces to market. Do you know what packed sizes fit freight and what goes ground, what is your to the trade discount, does your insurance cover shipping overseas? These, and a million more questions, are just as important to have a grasp on as any technique you will use in the shop.
Anything they should avoid?
Trying to do it all on their own. You can still be an individual and have your own style if you ask for help.
Anything else you would like to include?
Owning your own furniture company is hard, both physically and mentally, but if you work at it and really love what you do it’s incredibly rewarding.
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