Meet the Maker – Collin Garrity, Woodworker
This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Collin Garrity, a modern woodworker who works from his home woodshop in St. Louis, Missouri. Welcome, Collin!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Collin: While in college, I worked in a woodshop, and I would go in after hours, designing and building anything from guitars to spinning tops. By the time I graduated, I was wholesaling to several stores and, since I was leaving town (and my access to the woodshop), I had an all-or-nothing decision to make. It took two years of part-time jobs before I was doing woodworking full time; and I still have a very small shop, but it’s a blast. If it continues to grow, awesome; and if I spend a couple more years paying bills and having fun, then It’s kind of like taking my retirement before my career while I have the drive and energy and enthusiasm. I would hate not knowing if I could have turned woodworking into a lifelong career, so instead of wondering, I am choosing to find out.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Collin: I didn’t start with seed money, a business plan and a branding package. Instead, I started with a couple good products. I spend most of my day making items that I know sell well, and I spend a part of most days experimenting with new ones.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Collin: I make a collection of useful items, from jewelry to furniture, that has a playful minimalism throughout. From a folding table to a fly swatter, I think everything we surround ourselves with can be beautiful, and that doesn’t have to mean “loud.”
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Collin: My work is available in about 40 stores across the country, in stores overseas, and I have collaborated with companies like Shinola, Lemaire, and Prospector Co. (which means my beardcombs are available at J. Crew) and of course there is CollinGarrity.com.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Collin: I work from home, so I usually start out answering emails over a bowl of cereal. Then I package up orders, wire lamps, or do anything else that is “indoor” work, so it isn’t hanging over my head while I’m in the woodshop- which is a detached one-car garage. Out there, I’ll usually spend about 5 hours making products, and an additional hour goofing off- trying new designs, playing around. In the evening, when my partner gets home, we’ll often hang out on the couch, where I will continue doing “indoor” work while she weaves. It’s strange having my work and hobby overlap- and it’s helpful in that it forces myself to pursue other hobbies.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Collin: 1) Don’t limit yourself. If I just made jewelry, or just lighting, or furniture, or desk objects, there’s no way this would work; but being open to new genres has helped me find some of the ones I love the most (some of which have a ready market).
2) Don’t quit your day job, but consider changing it. The best choice I made when I was starting out was taking a part-time job at a store that sold my work. I got to see how people interacted with my pieces, and I was able to try out all of my new designs there- which fast-tracked a lot of learning for me, and helped me come up with a lot of new designs.
3) Don’t quit. You’ll want to; don’t.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Collin: Sometimes taking a break is the best (and safest) decision to make. It’s important to recognize when you are distracted or need to reboot, but usually I just think about going home for Christmas, or buying a beautiful old building, and that helps me work past the exhaustion.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Collin: Starting out, I said yes to everything- and wasted a lot of time and energy on projects that weren’t worth it. I had to back out of some projects and waste other peoples time; and I had to see other projects through, and waste my own. It’s important to say “yes” as often as you can, but “no” as often as you need to.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Collin: Perennial is a St. Louis non-profit that teaches people to repurpose things- but what they do most of all is empower people to learn new and intimidating skills, so I like supporting them. I started woodworking because of the empowering kindness of folks in Asheville, and that changed my life.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Collin: 1) Social media- especially Instagram, which is by far the space through which most stores find me.
2) Podcasts/Spotify- I get to listen to music all day long, and it keeps me going.
3) A good post office- I don’t go to the one that is closest to me; I go to one where the (short) drive is nicer, and where the people who work are kind and happy, and we’ve become friends. Since I have to go so often, this helps me dread the trip less.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Collin: In a humble old building with a beautiful workspace, a small showroom, and someone to answer my emails for me. At that point I’d also like to be doing some freelance furniture design for companies like Vitra. That’s my goal.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Collin: Aesop Rock, Nacho Picasso, Kollega, why?, Tchaikovsky, Ferry Corston, DJ Tiesto, Ratatat , Lana Del Rey, David Grey, and terrible bands I listened to in high school.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Collin: It’s a toss up between answering emails and going to the post office.
Thank you, Collin, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you. We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!