Building a Family Business Selling Handcrafted Furniture Online

From: How to Sell Online  with Alison J. Prince

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Building a Family Business Selling Handcrafted Furniture Online

Katie Meitzler and her husband Addison were looking for a way they could work together as newlyweds. Although they came from different backgrounds, they hoped to be able to have a family business. They wanted to be “hands-on” parents.

With Addison’s construction background and Katie’s eye for design, it didn’t take them long to land on a side-hustle with potential: building furniture. They chose a style that worked for them; one that was more primitive and that suited farmhouse design. They named their business Red Fox Primitives—and they’ve grown it from local craft shows on weekends to a thriving online business. 

Letting Go

As with a lot of business owners, the couple wore pretty much every hat, from building the products to promoting them, to building an online store, to dealing with paperwork, and learning how to build in value along with every sale, especially when shipping huge pieces of furniture was hundreds of dollars.

It eventually became evident that in order for their company to grow, they were going to do have to do one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs: let go of some of the facets of business ownership.

The first thing to go was bookkeeping, and according to Katie, it was the BEST thing they could have done. They could pay someone skilled in accounting to manage that side of their business, freeing them to focus on other aspects. Gone were the early mornings and late nights sifting through invoices.

The couple also had to let go of personally handcrafting every item they sold too. They realized there was only so much work they could get done in a single day if they did all of the work themselves.

They had incredibly high standards for their products, however, and that wasn’t something they were willing to bend on.

So they started—carefully—looking for manufacturers they could work with. It took time, a LOT of communication, and getting samples before they located trusted partners. Katie and Addison still create all of the designs, then send them to the manufacturers for completion. Katie asks them to send photos during the construction process so they can make sure things are being crafted according to their standards.

They also started small, with just a few pieces. With success behind them, they continued to expand—and their customers are wildly happy with the products they receive.

Finding Profitable Opportunities

With high-end products, some people might think there’s a lot of profit already built in. But with quality always comes cost. That’s why Katie and Addison have looked for opportunities to improve profit margins for their online store—and they’re things that any e-commerce business owner can put to good use. 

For example, they’ve worked to develop good relationships with the shipping companies they work with and that’s given them the chance to get better pricing. 

They’ve stopped shipping products that can be easily broken, especially mirrors and other glass pieces. (I've been there and learned some pretty huge lessons myself!) 

They’ve also found that if they can produce pieces of approximately the same size and shape, the number of different types of shipping and packaging materials they need can be reduced—again, a simple but important savings. 

The Meitzlers have also added complementary products to their online store that they don’t create themselves but are always careful to keep their customers top of mind. As sellers know, repeat customers are always a good thing when it comes to profits. 

Keeping Things Social

Red Fox Primitives has a healthy social media presence, and the couple has worked to keep it that way. In addition to their Facebook and Instagram pages, Katie has jumped into TikTok. Her posts feature products, décor styling tips, and polls—and some have received tens of thousands of views!  I was so dang happy that she’s seen success on the TikTok platform—it’s one I encourage a lot of new e-commerce business owners to try.

Their Family Business…“It’s Just Been Incredible”

Since launching their family business in 2012, the Meitzlers have seen a lot of changes and a lot of growth. But they’ve always kept their goal to make it a family business. Their kids are still young, but the couple loves the memory of having them “bebopping” in to see what was happening. They’re able to drop their kids off at school every day and be actively involved in everything they’re doing. They've outgrown their garage workspace and have been able to construct their own shop and warehouse. 

Top 10 takeaways

  1. Business can create a flexible schedule so you can be with kiddos.
  2. Get stuff off your plate—hire out so you can focus on sales.
  3. Importing products from manufacturers can help increase production and growth—but GET SAMPLES.
  4. Fall in love with the process, not just the products.
  5. Keep it simple. Limit the number and sizes of products you offer. 
  6. Build relationships with suppliers so you can get better pricing and more insider info.
  7. Check and verify measurements when ordering products (including units of measure.) 
  8. Communicate your expectations with the manufacturer clearly and assertively—speak up and be confident in your request for high-quality products.
  9. Reuse your videos in content.
  10. Use platforms like TikTok—and be consistent in posting. 
Additional Resources

Connect with Katie:

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