The past month has felt very surreal between the Shark Tank airing, all the emails and messages of support, and the flights to North Carolina for the International Home Furnishings Market & NYC for the Nate Berkus show. I feel very, very fortunate to have the support of so many people. Thanks again for all the press and kind messages!
I've been busy working on growing the business through manufacturing new designs, connecting with new retailers and customers and managing the day-to-day logistics of running a furniture company. I'm so lucky to have an amazing team of people working tirelessly to help me manage all of it. And I thought building toy boxes was time consuming! :) Thanks so much to Katie Hatch, Lauren Tucker, Julie Martin Sunich, my Mom (part-time assistant) and Dad (QC/East Coast Czar) for shouldering some of the workload. And thanks to my husband and family for being so understanding and juggling schedules to accommodate me being out of town. And for loving me for who I am faults and all. :)
Here's a few of the press-related links that have shown up over the past few weeks..
I get to meet Nate tomorrow morning where I'll be a guest on his talk show where I'll be talking about starting a business from home and balancing work and family. I'll have a lot more shots tomorrow but I thought I'd post a few from tonight. It's been a long time since I was in NYC. In fact, I want to say I was pregnant with Grace when I was here last on business for A&E and History Channel.
I can't wait to share my journey and photos tomorrow. If you haven't seen his show, click here: http://www.thenateshow.com/episodes/
In the meantime, here's a shot from my hotel window. :)
|Grace, Me and Noah in 2006 -- The year I started Mod Mom Furniture|
I know lot of couples who've faced the same thing we have who've had to think up very quick ways to make money without shelling out money. And we were no different....
1995-March 2003: I worked various corporate jobs like training Manager/Director, Curriculum Development Specialist, Sales and Marketing Manager, Sales Planner and Integrated Marketing Manager. In March of 2003, I left my marketing job with A&E and The History Channel because Scott got a job offer from a company in Cincinnati, Ohio and it would mean we'd be closer to family and I'd be able to spend more time with our little ones. Our kids (then 5 months old and 4 1/2 years) were in full-time daycare from 6:30am-6pm while we both worked in downtown Chicago. They were happy and well-adjusted and I loved my job but like all moms working full-time, it's super hard to not be buried under a mountain of guilt. I was nervous about leaving my corporate career because we all know how hard it is to get back in after you've been out but I was feeling like I wanted to give it a try and by moving to a city that was less expensive, we could live on Scott's salary alone. I won't lie and say I wasn't torn about leaving a successful career. I was. But I also felt that if I had the opportunity to be with my kids more, I should take it and then figure the rest out. We moved to the Cincy area from downtown Chicago in March 2003.
October 2003: It's now October and the company that hired Scott has now lost or dismissed half its employees including the CFO which happened within weeks of Scott taking the job. Not a good sign. We were bamboozled. Little did we know, he was being hired to save a sinking ship and we didn't know it was sinking...and there was really no way to save it. Another round of lay-offs occurred and there we were sitting in a new house we'd just built with no income, severance, or healthcare. We had a to act quickly. Since we had both been in the media world, we knew we needed to move back to a market where those jobs were plentiful and it wasn't Cincy. I reached out to media companies in Chicago again and he reached out as well. I was really torn because I was just getting used to being at home full-time with my kids which is an insanely hard job with no accolades (as we all know) so when Scott started getting interviews and lots of interest from LA, we knew we had some decisions to make.
February 2004: We sold our Cincy house quickly (before the market crashed) on New Year's Eve 2004 and made the hard decision to go where the jobs were (which meant away from our parents). Scott was getting lots of interest but the offers weren't coming because we were in Ohio. That was what made us decide we needed to sell almost everything we had, pack the little that was left in a POD, and move across country to LA on our own dime. We went from a brand new 4000 square foot home in the Midwest to a 1000 square foot, 1948 rental home in LA. It took two months for Scott to get an offer from a large media company. We were so happy but obviously, LA is pretty expensive and while he brought in a good income, it still wasn't enough for a family of four in California. I had to think quickly so I tried to get as many freelance marketing gigs as I could. But it wasn't steady enough. We needed a steady income and the cost of childcare outweighed what I was going to probably make going back into an industry after losing a year of experience not to mention turn my kids world upside down again after a big move to a new city. I would have to go backwards career-wise. So I wracked my brain -- what would allow me to still be home with the kids and make money (immediately) at the same time while still focusing on the kids. They were still so little. While I love kids, I was scared to death to put the add on Craigslist for me to be a babysitter. What experience other than motherhood did I have, really?!? I knew I could market myself and just trusted that my mothering skills would be enough. It was the only thing I could think of that would work for both my kids and my pocket book. I babysat two precious babies for two years and still did freelance marketing work. I settled into my role and LOVED those little ones-- they became part of our family while they were in my care.
Mid-2006: This brings us to the start of Mod Mom. My babysitting was looking like it was ending with kids going to preschool and such and Scott had climbed the ladder to VP position with a media company so things were getting easier financially for us but we still needed my income. Once I realized there was a need in the mid-mod kids furniture market, I calculated that two days of babysitting equaled the profit from one toy box so I figured this was worth a shot. I required deposits so I could buy supplies and therefore didn't need to pay out in order to start the business. After all, we needed the money to pay bills and I didn't have money to spend on a new business. It was all about making money because it had to be -- we needed it. Good news was that I'd get to be creative again, which I really missed, and do something I'd never done before. I started building toy boxes one by one and marketing Mod Mom Furniture and the business started to grow.
February 2008: Big time restructuring at Scott's massive media company left him looking for another job but this time with a few months severance at least. Thankfully, before the recession hit, he found a job that paid half his salary but hey, it was a job!! I was starting to max out my building capacity with MMF and turned away retailers from around the world because I couldn't keep up. I was building daily but still able to be with my kids, pick them up from school, etc. It was all worth it because I could control my schedule, work my hours around my kids, and not pay out for childcare. And lets face it, now I'm five years out from my marketing job which would mean an even bigger salary cut. So I forged on for another two years knowing that if I could bring in "x" amount in income monthly, we could make it all work.
July 2010: We endured another lay off with almost no severance because the company had no money this past July. The small start-up he went with in 2008 was letting people go left and right and decided to go in a different direction. Recession strikes again!! And we were still recovering from the last two lay-offs/salary cuts. This time, I went through a bit of a meltdown. I figured I had no choice even though I knew MMF was gaining more and more popularity internationally and with the celebrity crowd but I was told my experts I couldn't go to mass manufacturing without capital. I couldn't watch us go under and not feel like I was doing everything I could. Just a week before I planned to start pounding the proverbial pavement with my resume that now showed I'd been out of media marketing since 2003, I got a call from Shark Tank. I took it as a sign that I should forge ahead. I threw everything I had into preparing for Shark Tank and in the process gained mentors, friends, and capital. My insanely talented, resilient husband accepted a new position at the end of January so we feel like we're at the beginning of an amazingly positive ride.
I think this is the longest post I've ever written and you're now probably on to your third drink but I hope it helps give a better answer to the question, "how did you go from corporate to carpentry?" It wasn't an easy path but it was the right one, that's for sure.
Happy Friday everyone!!!
The next thing that went through my head was "I wore a tool belt and 4 inch heels on national TV." And then I remembered the "in the garage" shots and started dying laughing. I promise to always enter my workshop that way from now on! :)
If you haven't seen the show yet, CLICK HERE!!
Everyone rightly wants to know what's happened since we filmed that in October of 2010! And I'm so excited to be able to tell you, finally!
AFTER THE TANK...
While in talks with Robert after filming, the most amazing, unexpected thing happened. I started getting other investment offers from old friends, new friends, friends of friends, and design experts. I didn't even go looking for the offers (cuz I already knew I had one!) but excitement from finding out that I was on Shark Tank (even without them knowing the outcome) coupled with their belief in the scalability of my brand made that happen. Also, I had already partnered with L and J Woodworking - Amish Manufacturer - in Ohio when I pitched the Sharks. They knew I had manufacturing lined up already, and that I was getting a deal from them that is almost unheard of in the furniture manufacturing/design business. Ray Yoder, owner of L and J Woodworking, agreed to start building (in December 2010) all of my orders on a made-to-order basis. No minimums. That just doesn't happen!! He's already built over 100 pieces over the past two months! I could only physically build a little over 100 PER YEAR! Anyhow, back to other investment offers. When I was in the Tank, I really truly believed that they were my only chance at securing capital. As it turns out, just by being on Shark Tank, even before it aired, led to other investment offers.
I'm incredibly happy to say that I now have, through other investment deals, capital to grow Mod Mom Furniture AND I got to keep A LOT more of my company and not pay royalties. It's a total win-win! The exposure and the experience from Shark Tank is/has been unbelievable. I couldn't have done it without that call from Shark Tank in August.
There is SOOOOO much more to this story that includes the kindness of strangers, old grammar school friends, and an amazing Amish community and friends of friends from London. And I can't wait to fill you in on all of that as well but I have to prepare for a flight to the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina. I've been asked to speak at the American Society of Furniture Designer's Annual Dinner on Monday, April 4th. I'm so excited!!
The future for Mod Mom Furniture looks very bright and I promise to keep you up to speed on all of it! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for believing in me. And thank you for all your messages and emails...I'm trying to respond to all of them as fast as I can. :)
My Original Pitch (without fancy TV editing )
I was fortunate to get through the entire pitch without getting interrupted during filming!
My name is Kiersten Hathcock and my company is Mod Mom Furniture. I’m seeking $90K in exchange for 25% of the company.
If someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d have an internationally known furniture company out of my garage, I would’ve told them they’re crazy. I didn’t even know what a jigsaw was then.
Just three and a half years ago, we were like most families I know. The toys were starting to overtake the house but we wanted a toy box that was gonna fit in with our modern furniture and frankly, there was virtually nothing on the market or what was, we couldn’t afford so I taught myself how to design and build a toy box. I knew I wanted it to be eco-friendly, have lids that lift on and off like puzzle pieces so it makes toy clean up a little more fun, and fit in nicely any room of the house. It occurred to me that we’re not the only family with this same need. At the time I had just left my corporate job to spend more time with my kids, so I was doing whatever I could to bring in money – I nannied and did freelance marketing work. I honestly figured maybe I’d sell a couple toy boxes a month to local stores. But I underestimated the power of social media and viral marketing.
Which brings me to where I am now. Seven days a week I’m in my garage covered in saw dust with a backlog of orders having to turn down retailers from 17 different countries because I can’t handle the volume on my own. My products have been featured in magazines like Elle Décor, Better Homes and Gardens, Dwell Magazine as well as TV shows and international design books. All without me approaching any of them. I’m even receiving orders from Hollywood celebrities and famous interior designers now. The other day, I read something online that said mod mom furniture was a “globally coveted brand” alongside a few of my competitors who are making 2 million per year and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not in their garages at 11pm finishing toy boxes.
With your help, I’ll be able to increase manufacturing by getting it OUT of my garage – where I physically can only build 3 per week -- and into an Amish furniture manufacturer in my home state of Ohio who can build 100 per week. And that’s just the start. I’ll be able to grow the brand internationally as well as design products and case goods for existing customers and for larger companies like Crate and Barrel’s kids division, Land of Nod, who reached out to me about exclusive designs. This blows my mind because I don’t have a design degree but my work is being recognized by the design world.
What started with a table saw and a mom has grown into a globally recognized brand which, with the right resources has unlimited potential. The brand is respected. The demand is there. Please join me in making Mod Mom the next million dollar furniture company.