From Woodworker to Entrepreneur: An Interview with Boise’s EZInlays
Nov 23, 2012
EZInlays is targeting a very niche audience: woodworkers. They build tools and templates that help woodworkers put decorative inlays on their creations, like a bear on a dresser or a rose on a dining table.
Below, founder Kurtis D. Leatham explains how he went from woodworker to entrepreneur and learned a few things along the way.
Tech Cocktail: What are some of the traits of a woodworker?
Kurtis D. Leatham: “They are creating a work of art. When building a project you aren’t just shaping wood, you are creating an object that reflects the vision within. You don’t just want to get it done, you want to make it as good as possible because it is a reflection of you and your inner self. You strive to create beauty and something that will have lasting value for the person who is on the receiving end of your product, even if that person is you. As the project progresses, you pay attention to all of the details because it is the details that will make your project acceptable or exceptional. The craftsman always strives to create the exceptional.”
Tech Cocktail: How have those traits helped you as an entrepreneur?
Leatham: “There are so many details that need to be considered when creating a product for market. It is more than just creating the minimum viable product, you also need to think about how that product is going to be used. How can you make the product useable? How do you tell your customers how to use it? How will you package and ship the product… the list seems endless but really it isn’t. Just like building a doll bed for your Mother… you keep the end goal in sight but you focus on the task at hand to move the project forward. Stay true to your vision but pay attention to the details as you move the ball forward, and eventually your project will be the realization of what you envisioned oh so many months ago.”
Tech Cocktail: How do you reach your customers, since they’re such a niche audience?
Leatham: “I have never really done anything in terms of sales and marketing so this is all new to me. I am working with a local franchise owner of a nationwide chain that I would like to get my product into. I have built financial concessions into my business plan for him to make some money for every product that gets shipped through the chain. It helps that he believes in the product and has allowed me to use his store to demo the product and sell a few items, too. Other than that, I am beginning to ship product samples out to people in the blogosphere whom I have contacted and write about woodworking. All I have asked in return is that they write about the product and share their honest thoughts concerning my product.”
Tech Cocktail: What are some things you’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur?
Leatham: “The most important thing I have learned is how difficult it is to take your idea from conception to a minimum viable product. Getting funded is an uphill battle even after you have a product that is ready for market. Finding manufacturers who can build your product is a bit of a challenge, too. When dealing with potential vendors, you need to be crystal clear about your expectations, timelines, and what happens if issues are encountered. I have lost out on a little bit of money because I didn’t have quotes in paper and procedures in place if the manufacturer destroyed some of the raw materials.”
EZInlays was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail Boise mixer.