Family Business Saved by the Blog

Home Based BusinessApril Morse was a young mother of two whose custom cabinet family business was floundering. The economy has been tough on the entire nation, but April's tiny Northern California community, Lodi, has been notorious for its lack of action ever since Credence Clearwater Revival sang, "Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again!" It's the last place you'd expect to find a hot new product that one of America's most prominent retailers can't resist.

And if April hadn't written about her wine bottle-shaped cutting boards on her oh-so-tiny blog that was "read by about nine people," the president of Williams-Sonoma probably never would have know the item existed. The story goes like this:

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Weber's Cabinets, which specializes in custom cabinetry for homes and commercial buildings, was at the end of their rope. Construction in the the area was grinding to a halt, and they had to let 25 employees go -- whittling their company down to April, her father and one other part-time worker.

Home Based BusinessThe one thing they had an abundance of, however, was wood scraps. Since there's a wine community in the area, they thought maybe a wine bottle-shaped chopping block, made of these wood scraps, might sell, so they created a pattern and started constructing. They figured the local wine stores and vineyards might be interested, and a friend encouraged her to submit the product to Williams-Sonoma.


Facing the big guys

Although it seemed intimidating -- "My Gosh! They own Pottery Barn!" she exclaimed -- she reasoned she had nothing to lose, not even a sample cutting board, since Williams-Sonoma only accepts photos and descriptions at first. Heaven knows she had the time. So she went on their website, figured out how to submit, and, like a diligent salesperson, followed her submission with a phone call the next week.

"They were like, "Are you kidding? Did you read the submission form? It says not to expect a response in less than 60-90 days," she said. Feeling foolish and naively over-eager, she decided to write about the experience on her blog site, Custom Cabinet Girl, which she originally started to express herself as one of the few female custom cabinet woodworkers she knew.

Within a week of posting the blog, she heard back from Williams-Sonoma. It seems the president of the the company had found out about her blog via a Google alert he had running for Williams-Sonoma. He was in Australia at the time, but phoned his associates back in the United States and told them to get a hold of April immediately and start stocking her product ASAP.

April was stunned when she got the phone call the next morning. The Williams-Sonoma rep told her they would have called her sooner, but there was a time difference in Australia and they didn't want to ring her at 10:30 the night before.


Be careful what you wish for

That's when the paperwork began, as well as the process of submitting and modifying her product for in-store sales. Although each cutting board takes days to complete -- two-and-a-half hours to cut and assemble, but much longer for glue and finishes to dry -- the paperwork was a bigger challenge because she was unfamiliar with it.

But the hard work is paying off. While custom cabinet orders have dwindled, April is busy preparing 300 cutting boards that retail at $129.99 each, to go on sale in a number of select stores starting Sept. 1. She's hoping that online and catalog buyers will also pick up her product.

"If that happens, we're going to have to change the way we do things," April says. Perhaps she'll be able to hire a few more woodworkers back. And perhaps she'll have time to make a cutting board for herself. "I don't even own one," she says. "We can't make them fast enough."

She acknowledges the fact that if she hadn't blogged about it all, she'd still probably be waiting to hear back from the company that changed her life and helped save her family business. "You have to take advantage of every opportunity that's out there," she advises. "Even if you're intimidated, you just have to force yourself to do it."

For April, it paid off. She's now anything but stuck in Lodi again.



Next: The New Generation of Entrepreneurs


Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Editor

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.

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Tara

That's so great that you managed to save your business! What an inspiring story. I love how one little decision can make your life change forever!

Tara | http://www.kingskingco.com

February 10 2014 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jamesdavis1

Thanks for sharing!! Family Business Board: http://www.continuityfbc.com/family-business-board-of-directors/

September 20 2013 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zolemia

I am truly happy for you! So wishing this keeps on for you and at the same time, hoping the same thing happens to me. I am a single Mom, and registered nurse that has been unable to work for 6 years because of a car accident. I am now trying to make some money with my website because I have spent my savings. Keep going!! http://zolemia.onlineproductsconnection.com/home.html

September 25 2011 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry Carley

If your cutting board business takes off, don't do what most American companies have done: fire your American workers, shut down your factory here and outsource the production to some Third World country sweat shop. We need good paying jobs in this country, otherwise nobody will have any money to buy anybody's products.

August 25 2010 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wolfman

you never want to make something useful that is going to last a liftime as after the peak it sells no more

August 24 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WonderChild

Kudos to April for being a business saavy mom who is making a great product IN THE USA! I hope her business grows and she can hire MORE AMERICANS to help make the cutting boards.

August 24 2010 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bebe

My father used to collect wood, he had some boards that he dragged aroung for 50 years. He made all kinds of things out of wood, jewelry boxes, candle sticks etc. He made wooden cutting boards similiar to the ones shown here. I still have mine 32 yrs. later! It didn't crack or fall apart. I'm sure April Morse is an experienced wood worker as my father was. I congratulate her on her efforts to keep the family business going. Anyone that has negative things to say....too bad for you, keep collecting soda cans!

August 24 2010 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cathy

Great story, but who can spend 129.99 on a cutting board? I can't even spend that much on food for a week!

Good luck to her anyway.

August 24 2010 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julie

Nice going, Lady! You are very innovative and show the true American spirit when you put your mind to something creative and made it happen instead of living off the government for two years. Congratulations!

August 24 2010 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
margie

To (Mskat)
I can understand your reluctance to buy a cuttingboard at this price tag but my husband has made this same cutting board for friends and family for years and they still have the boards. He uses scrapes of exotic woods, primarily dense woods that last and stand the test of time. Only his are without a handle and retangular in size. To mass produce these is crazy at $129.99 a board you can bet this lady is not getting even $60.00 per board from Williams Sonoma and I know what time and effort goes into making these boards. Average that out to an hourly wage and not worth the effort. They also make a wonderful serving board for cheese and crackers. I hope she is successful.

August 24 2010 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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