October 25, 2019
Willie Willette talks ARganic Woodworking through the Startup Stage
Author: Jen Amundson, Deluxe Director of Social Media and Communications
Coty Skinner had been incorporated for just over a month when he applied to be on the Small Business Revolution. A true startup, he was converting his passion for building furniture into a business that could support a mission. A veteran and a foster parent, he wanted to employ both kids aging out of the foster system and vets looking for work. But first, he had to have a successful business himself.
Deluxe called on an old friend, Willie Willette. His business, Willie Willette Works in Minneapolis, Minnesota was featured as part of our 100 Small Business Stories in 2015. So, when we chose a brand-new woodworking business in Searcy as one of our six businesses, we knew who to call for help.
Willie established his business in 1996. His company focuses on creating quality, one-of-a-kind furniture. Willie and his team of four work closely with each client to provide a product that matches their unique vision and needs. As Willie describes on his website, if you can think it, we can make it. That was perfect for ARganic.
Willie’s first advice for Coty was simple and profound. Sit down to eat lunch. He said it was months before he was able to do that in his own business, pacing the floor full of nervous energy. He encouraged the budding entrepreneur to take a break to recharge during his day.
The importance of taking a break was drilled home for Coty and his wife, Meghan, when they toured Willie’s studio in Minneapolis. A smile on his face, Willie demonstrated how a company foosball table brought together his employees and refreshed them for the afternoon ahead, when they might otherwise be hitting a post-lunch slump. He also showed them the various pieces of equipment he had purchased overtime to smooth production. He demonstrated how little leftovers his team produced, conserving both materials and producing income. The scraps from one project could become the centerpiece of another: the metal leftovers from a table made fashionable hammered cuff bracelets that had proved popular with buyers looking for something a little smaller than a dining room table.
Willie also talked to Coty about pricing custom furniture. Willie told Coty he wasn’t charging enough for his beautiful work. They commiserated together over the challenge of pricing something when the time commitment is not yet known and amid fear the job will be lost if it is priced too high. Willie encouraged Coty to push the ticket a little higher to support his mission and value. Willie shared a formula he uses to get a closer approximation to the true cost.
For the full story, watch ARganic’s episode by clicking here.