Meet the Maker – Paul Ocepek of Modern Moose

Chloe Tate

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the amazing Paul Ocepek, who runs his handmade business Modern Moose from a bustling workshop in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Welcome, Paul!

LB: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Paul: Probably age. It may sound like an overly simplistic answer, but we all reach a certain point in our lives where we need to decide to fish or cut bait. I was self-employed for about 12 years running a home-based product design consultancy and began growing bored creatively. I have always had side projects or ideas that I would work on in my off-hours. I finally just reached a point where I felt I needed to pick one of my side projects and make it my main focus.

At the time I was really interested in laser cutting and had done quite a bit of research into what types of products I could possibly create using this technology. I was also exploring flatbed inkjet printing on to wood substrates. Between these two technologies I knew that I would be able to create a unique, scalable, and nimble production process to make my creations. Sooooo, I bought a commercial printer and a laser and set them up in my basement. As I like to say – most guys buy boats or motorcycles during their mid-life crisis – I bought industrial equipment.

After about a solid year of product development and refining the production process I felt ready to introduce my creations to the world and sent in a very large check for a booth at the NY Now Gift Show. This was back in 2011 and every day has been an adventure since.

LB: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Paul: Honestly, I don’t think I spent too much time thinking about this. I guess I was hoping to be defined by my ability to create original, well-made products and deliver them on time to retail. I was certain that the whole process would be evolutionary and eventually I’d find my sweet spot. I knew that I was looking for customers who would appreciate modern, fresh and affordable decor products that were made in the USA.

LB: How would you describe what you create?

Paul: Modern Moose is about fun, well designed and affordable home decor products that are locally manufactured in the USA. “Produced in Mass Not Mass Produced” is our motto.

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

LB: Where can we find your products?

Paul: Modern Moose products are available online and through various brick and mortar retailers. The majority of our business is wholesale – we sell to quite a wide variety of shops, including: book stores, toy stores, gift boutiques, hospital gift shops, museum gift shops, furniture stores, and even a few ice cream shops! We also have numerous international accounts and a distributor in Canada.

LB: Walk us through your typical work day.

Paul: I get into the office around 7:00am, before other employees arrive, and try to spend the first hour of the day doodling in my sketch book and doing some design-thinking. I really enjoy this quiet time and usually feel most creative earlier in the day.

Following my quiet hour, I start answering email, downloading web orders, and generally planning on what has to go out the door that particular day. When my team arrives, I am able to step back a bit from the production side of things and concentrate more on the tedious but critical tasks of bookkeeping, supply ordering, customer relations, etc. This takes up most of my morning.

After lunch, I try and concentrate on business development, exploring new design ideas, and social media.

Then there are days where I don’t do any of the above, and spend my time trying to fix a broken compressor, troubleshoot a printer that’s not working properly, or drive around trying to find vacuum filter bags for a sander. Life in a production facility is rarely dull and there are times when I feel like I’m waiting around for the next thing to break. Luckily, we have very reliable equipment, and the nightmares are few and far between. (I’m sure I just jinxed myself by typing that last line.)

At the end of the day, I usually check up on all of our equipment and make sure that we’ll be ready for the next day’s activity. I also review what has been shipped and go over our sales numbers. If time allows, I will squeeze in some reading or maybe a podcast on small business, e-commerce, or entrepreneurship.

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

LB: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Paul: 1. Do you have a product that people want to buy? Can you change it if they don’t? Sounds simple enough, but the market – and retail especially – is a fickle beast. This I have learned firsthand.

2. Can you sell your product at a fair price and make enough profit to sustain your business? I mean real profit. Enough profit to cover employees, equipment, insurance, taxes, leases, trade shows, advertising, sales commissions, etc. To this day, I’m still a little shocked at how fast money seems to fly out the door.

3. Are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen? You will need more time, more money, more patience, and more resolve than you ever thought possible. It will also be the most rewarding and fulfilling thing you’ve ever done.

LB: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Paul: Fresh air and fishing, and a cold beer never hurts.

LB: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Paul: Buying my first couple pieces of equipment back when I still had my consulting business. The extra revenue stream at the time really helped to absorb some of the costs of a start-up manufacturing business.

Switching materials after 2 years of production. My first products were built like tanks; the wood I was using was too thick and cut very slowly. Therefore, throughput was slow and product costs were too high. I switched to a thinner, more appropriate material, and increased output by 4X. Obviously, this reduced our wholesale price and we were able to hit a much more desirable price point.

Making good hires – a good employee is worth their weight in gold. I have a few early hires that are still with the company, and we would not be where we are today without them.

Hiring good sales people – we use 2 fantastic rep groups that have been essential to our growth.

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

LB: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Paul: Due to fairly rapid growth and the expenses that come with it, we found ourselves in a bit of a cash flow pinch about a year ago. Fortunately I was able to acquire a line of credit from a local small-business-friendly bank. I’m constantly reminded of a quote from Albert Boateng: “An idea begins the journey of an entrepreneur, but cash flow ensures it continues.”

LB: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Paul: We love dogs and are huge supporters of pet adoption and our local animal shelter.

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

LB: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Paul: 1. Shopify – can’t recommend this e-commerce platform enough.

2. Stitch ( – this is our online order management software. It’s simple, nice UI and integrates seamlessly with Xero – our accounting/billing software.

3. Xero – see above.

LB: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Paul: Hopefully you’ll see managed growth. A few new product lines, a lot more designs and more retail customers. We’d also like to continue to increase our presence on the web. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

LB: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Paul: Buffalo wings and extra blue cheese.

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

LB: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Paul: Sneaking a few minutes here or there and doodling in my sketchbook… except when driving. 😉

LB: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Paul: “A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  – Karen Lamb

LB: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?

Paul: I would start a creative project to get kids more involved in doing things with their hands. School shop classes have all but been eliminated, and we’re losing our ability to build things, use tools, and work with different materials. Our skilled workforce is rapidly declining in this country and I think it’s a big problem – especially if we expect to bring back manufacturing jobs from overseas.

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Modern Moose, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

About the Author

Chloe Tate

Once described as “relentlessly cheerful,” Chloe is a lover of all things colorful and practically every fruit known to man. She lives in Atlanta and divides her time between supporting Lucky Break clients, keeping shop at a local artisan market, and event planning for business conferences. She’s also working on the launch of her skincare line while finishing her degree in Organizational & Leadership Studies. True story: Chloe shares 50% of Lela’s DNA and is poised to inherit her obscenely large shoe collection.

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