Due to popular demand, we’re writing the second installment of our Raw Urth Designs story. Years have rolled by since that first chapter was written. Our kids have gotten older, as have we (is it wrong that I keep my original photo up on my own bio? probably… actually,… yes), we have built some fantastic relationships with clients turned friends across the country and, we have learned so much about what we do and how to do it better.
If you read Chapter 1, you know the story of Stefan and I dreaming, creating and jumping feet first off a cliff. That story is in line with a fairy tale because it is the story of a beginning with out committing to what comes next. Something has to come after the jump. We love the quote by Reid Hoffman, “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off the cliff then, builds the plane on the way down.” If Chapter 1 was about the jump, Chapter 2 is about building that plane.
When Stefan and I were taking the leap to buy a trade show booth on credit cards and a dream, we did not have a lot of overhead. We were working out of our garage, using my cell phone as our business line and delivering everything in Stefan’s truck. The safety net was pretty secure when I think back on it although, it did not feel that way at the time.
As the business grew, we started hiring. At first, we had a guy or two come to our house to help out on projects as needed. Pretty quickly 2 turned into 3 then, 3 to 5. We all ate lunch together in our tiny kitchen and talked about everything we thought we could do with the company. I have to laugh at myself as I think about the way I gave a pep talk at the kitchen table. It was a comfortable way to work. We had the kids with us all day, everything was new, we had unlimited energy and we were never far from our own tea pot. It was grassroots at its finest and, also (apparently)…..illegal.
One beautiful, sunny, Colorado afternoon, a woman in heels came walking down our gravel driveway with a clip board in the crook of her arm. By this time, we knew we were crossing lines with 7 employees showing up to work daily. They parked behind our house at Grandpa Bob’s and punched a time clock next to our only bathroom off the living room. It was clear that it was not a couple of helping hands. When I saw her through the window, I knew it was a game changer. I remember walking out the kitchen door to greet her. I smiled and said, “We’ve been expecting you. I’m Amy Sasick, can I get you a glass of tea?”
We hit our first major speed bump. Time to start getting creative and thinking beyond what we were going to build next. It was time to begin creating stability and making a plan. The County did not shut us down but politely suggested that we find a commercial location. Seemed totally reasonable to us. Then, they actually found the shop we ended up purchasing and moving into! Larimer County was truly wonderful to work with during the entire process.
About 1 mile from downtown Fort Collins, our new shop on Blue Spruce Drive was about 3200 sq ft. There was an additional 1200 sq foot building across the back lot that was more of a storage building than anything. There was a tired, old office at the front with blue carpeted floors and dingy walls. Stefan and I pulled all the carpet from the offices, painted the walls and concrete floors, knocked out a wall so we shared a space and hung new blinds. The guys that worked with us helped us make all the office furniture, steel base boards and casements and moved all our tools from the garage into the shop. We tried to give it a touch of home and fill it with house hold items instead of office items so it was all more cozy and in line with what we knew.
With the new space came more help in the shop, more tools, more raw materials, more trucks, more utility bills, more working relationships and more space to organize, create and clean. Stefan and I could no longer be in every step of every job. We could not continue the way we had been operating the business. As Tony likes to say around here, we were operating on tribal knowledge. He was right. It was time to build that plane and figure out what it takes to really create a business.
Over the last 7 years, we have learned so much through trial and error as well as sheer determination. We have learned how to focus on less to achieve more. Our day job revolves around finding solutions and solving problems. Support staff to the shop, administrators, suppliers and clients, Stefan and I are here to make sure everyone else can do what they do best. That’s not to say we do not continually push towards more products and designs. We will never give that up!
Through this understanding and shift in perspective, Raw Urth has really become much more than us. This time has been about the building blocks of something great. Our time at Blue Spruce has given us the foundation we need to develop something lasting and strong.
We are equally as proud of what we have built with the company as we are of any product we build. It is exciting how much creativity building a company can demand. Road blocks, set backs and challenges are all part of the process. When they come, we do not get discouraged, we simply find the solution, step around, and keep pressing forward. When we look back, we see personal growth, development, a little more understanding of the larger picture. Our empathy grew deeper and our management style gained purpose and structure. It has been worth the time. The plane has been put together and we look forward to the upcoming flight!
As I write this chapter, it feels like it is coming to a close and we are stepping towards a very exciting Chapter 3. Our wings seem to be lifting and we are well on our way to something new. We have 24 people working at Raw Urth as of this summer, 2016, and really need quite a few more. Our real estate however, is completely maxed here on Blue Spruce! We honestly could not squeeze another person into our existing building. So, we are building a new one and moving a block down the road!
We will have a 16,000 square foot space with a real, working showroom! No more clients in the break room looking at hoods that hang over the lunch table and back stock of shipping tubes. It is exciting to move forward but, also a great exercise to remember how we got here. I was feeling a little overwhelmed and nostalgic the other day, worrying that as we grew we might be tempted to change what makes Raw Urth special. I mentioned it to our son Manny. His response?
“Mom, our garage is just getting bigger.”
He’s totally right. Nothing has changed, the garage is just getting bigger.
We can promise that even through growth, our core values are the same as they were on day one at the kitchen table. Continuing to create the best possible product, in house with love and a human touch is the mission. We want to do it with the nicest group of people we can find, taking care of the world around us in the process.
If we build it, things will come. As if on queue, things have come!
As a full circle, I have been invited as the industry leader on all things metal and a guest speaker at the International Home Builders Show in January 2017! Yep, the same show that started it all for Stefan and I. This year, the show will be combined with the National Kitchen and Bath Show so, I will get to share all that I have learned about designing with metal with everyone there.
While at the show, we plan on launching 4 brand new products that we could not be more excited about. (As a hint, it involves the greatest generation, the Empire State Building, and an awesome metal must-have that is currently not on the market,…. anywhere!)
We would have never been able to make this step and start heading down this new and exciting road if we did not have the last number of years of learning and developing under our belts. We have the best group of people working with us ever, a brand new web page with all the bells and whistles and a gorgeous new cinder block building to move into and grow!
The next chapter will be a thriller! All the work, the lessons learned and the striving to be the best we can be is paying off. We could not be more proud of it all.
– amy + stefan sasick