The Art of Sustainable Craftsmanship
Brian Boggs Chairmakers Brings the Art of Luxury Woodworking to the Modern Age
Handmade wood furniture that preserves the tree’s integrity and lasts for generations
2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Winner
Brian Boggs Chairmakers, Inc.
Brian Boggs always had an artistic talent and drive.
No question, Brian Boggs’ furniture is rare in the market; from their desirable appearance, to how they’re designed and crafted, to their permanence. Everything in Brian Boggs Chairmakers is set up to reduce waste so that every part of the log is used.
His designs embrace both 200-year-old chairmaking techniques and his own innovations that honor the natural tendencies of the tree. In addition to honoring the integrity of the tree, Brian and his team honor the environment. The company purchases premium logs from providers that promote sustainability and have personally co-founded an organization that taught woodworking skills to tribes in northern Honduras and the Amazon jungle in Peru, so that they could generate income without destroying the forests around them.
He knew he needed to be more strategic with his business, but didn’t really know how. After spending decades fully focused on his craft, he didn’t have a business plan, database or marketing strategy. Moving from Kentucky to Asheville, North Carolina was the turning point. There, he met his now-wife Melanie. Not only did Brian make a love connection, he also found his future business partner – the left-brained yin to his creative yang.
Brian and Melanie are long-time FedEx customers because they know how important shipping is, particularly to a small business like theirs.
“We build everything to order in our Asheville shop and we usually have a five- to seven-month wait. Our customers play an integral role in the design process so when they receive the call that their piece is ready to ship, they can’t wait to see it,” said Melanie.
“For customers that don’t have the opportunity to visit the shop, the FedEx rep delivering our box is their first physical experience with us; they’re an extension of our team. If a piece arrives broken or damaged it ruins that important experience and we have to go back and start all over to build the piece and their trust. We trust FedEx because we know that they will take care of our work and represent us at the door with each piece.”
Brian and Melanie heard about the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest a few years back, when In Blue Handmade, another Asheville-based company, won the grand prize. When they got the email on the contest this year, they decided to enter themselves.
They’ll use the grant money to create a video for their new website and to support marketing efforts. “We are also going to have FedEx Office enlarge some of our images for our booth we take to shows,” Melanie said. “So, we’re using our grant to boost marketing efforts.”
Running a small business is a process, with lessons learned along the way. Those lessons can come in the form of corrected mistakes or good decisions that ended up being great decisions or unexpected victories.
Here are Brian and Melanie Boggs’ top three:
- BUSINESS ACUMEN: Even if You’re an Artist, a Maker or a Creative, The Rules of Business Still Apply
“I used to think that an artist/craftsman enterprise was unique and different than any other business, and I no longer believe that is true,” Boggs said. “Although every company is unique, the same rules of business apply, artist or not.” According to Boggs, you can have a craftsman’s soul, but you still have to think about marketing, cash flow and operations.
- THE ART OF PACKAGING: Think of Your Packaging in Terms of the Customer Experience
Brian Boggs’ Chairmakers customers wait six or seven months for their orders to be handcrafted and shipped to their doors. The last thing the co-owners want to do is make the furniture arrival feel like a non-event. In most cases, the process of opening the shipping container is the first physical encounter a customer will have with Brian Boggs Chairmakers. Packaging is a big part of that experience.
- HIRING: Be Confident Enough to Hire the Right People
Today, BBC has an ideal staff, including apprentices who will help keep the craft alive. However, early on, the Boggs made their share of hiring mistakes, something Melanie attributes to the co-founders’ own learning curve around matching what they were looking for with applicants that were available in the marketplace.