Going into business with a partner can be a blessing... and can also result in frustrating situations (uh, KC and I totally don't know what you're talking about). Add marriage into the mix and the possibility for awesome and for tension grows exponentially.
But it can work out... really wonderfully. And what gets made can be all the more meaningful. Makers M.F.E.O. (which stands for Made for Each Other-- how fitting?) know this firsthand as they make and manage, together, their growing LA business. We're excited to have them share more about their business and their working relationship!
Q: Tell us about what you make and how you got started.
A: We design and produce furniture, homewares and lighting. Our products are locally made primarily with reclaimed or sustainably harvested woods.
We began flipping vintage furniture and home decor more or less as a hobby with the potential to generate additional income. It naturally led into some refurbishing and eventually reinterpreting items that were beyond basic repair. Deconstructing these pieces gave us insight into basic furniture construction techniques.
Q: When did it make sense for your creative endeavors to be a "real" business for you? And how has your business evolved from that first concept?
A: After immersing ourselves in all the mid-century modern and vintage that Los Angeles has to offer, we couldn’t help but be inspired. We wanted to start designing original products and limiting ourselves to vintage didn’t feel like a scalable business model for us.
A moment of serendipity struck when my grandfather offered us his dilapidated, century old barn as a lumber resource. It provided us with all the reclaimed wood we would need to begin making our original furniture and décor. This material has become very meaningful to us and is still featured in many of our products.
Every facet of our business continues to evolve as we gain more experience and exposure. What began as a simple Etsy shop and hawking wares at weekend flea markets has developed into a legitimate web store, wholesale accounts and plans to attend tradeshows. We still have a long way to go to meet our overall goal, but it is important to step back from time-to-time and acknowledge the progress and accomplishments one makes along the way.
Q: You are a husband and wife team-- how do you make that work?
A: Working together has taught us a lot about one another. Continually working on our communication has been the key. If communication breaks down, the gears within M.F.E.O. can come to a grinding halt.
Q: You've said you two dreamed of launching a small, design-based business soon after you met... What was the motivation for that?
A: Whenever we would talk about our future, it involved making (or doing) something creative that brought joy to others at some level. Spending more time together and having a self-sufficient means of income were consistent themes as well. M.F.E.O. is simply a means to that balanced lifestyle that we seek.
Q: Why is sustainability important to your business and how has that been made manifest in your business?
A: Sustainability is important to our business simply because it’s important in our personal lives. Our primary materials are sustainably harvested and whenever we can, we source our parts and services locally within our own city.
We also hope that our work can somehow inspire shoppers to consider the importance of opting for quality, local craftsmanship and timeless products in place of trendy or disposable consumables. There still seems to be a great chasm between understanding one’s consumer habits and its direct impact on local resources and economies.
Q: You've been at your business a while. Where do you look for ongoing creative inspiration
A: California’s outdoor lifestyle and its Mid-Century modern influences continue to inspire us. Sometimes I feel like the internet has made inspiration too accessible so we find that just getting away from work by unplugging and going camping or rock climbing is a means to clear our heads. That reset enables us to cultivate more original ideas and designs.
Q: What advice would you give to people looking to make a creative business?
A: Don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect, just get started by achieving one tangible goal at a time. Starting your own creative business is a roller coaster of emotion. Take the opportunity to learn something in the low moments because it will help you more readily ascend to the next peak. It’s enabled us to appreciate the entire process, not just the good times.
Q: Anything else?
A: We’ve recently experienced our first infringement dispute with a big box retailer. It turns out that it’s a fairly common occurrence within the maker industry. We’ve learned quite a lot from the whole process and have been sharing our experience on our our blog.
Is your business a partnership? How have you made it work? Let us know in the comments!