Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NASE Interview

I was recently asked to answer some questions for an upcoming article in Self-Employed Magazine. The magazine is published by NASE (The National Association of Self Employed), which I have been a member of for about 4 years. I thought for this blog that I would post their interview questions and my answers, as a way to give more information about ourselves and our business. The article is scheduled to be published in the March/April 2011 issue.

1. Tell us about Wilderness Creations. What do you do? When did you start your business? And why?
The company is owned and operated by myself and my wife Tasha (Nicholson).
We sell rustic and Adriondack style furnishings and home accessories. Furniture for every room of the house, as well as outside spaces and accessories such as lighting, artwork, antiques, carvings, books and so on. We help customers and clients find unique furniture pieces that will add beauty and character to their home, business or vacation retreat.
Wilderness Creations, LLC. is in it’s 8th year, in it’s current location and form. Before that the business was very small. I built rustic furniture out of our garage workshop at our house for several years before opening the store.
I started the business because I loved the Adirondack/Rustic style. It is what I want in my house and it feels more like a lifestyle than just picking a piece of furniture. It was one of those points in life where I wanted a change and a challenge. I definitely got both of those. I enjoy nature and being in the outdoors, and to me, this style of furniture is very natural and bridges the gap between indoors and outdoors.

2. How do you select the items that you sell on your website and in your gallery? Do you make any of the items yourself? If so, which one is your favorite and why?
We have relationships with many companies and crafts people that supply us with our unique merchandise. We choose items that are well built and that will last. Furnishings that are sturdy, but also beautiful and functional. From there, we try to pick things that we think will be popular and that will sell, but we also pick items that we appreciate and would enjoy ourselves.
I do make furniture myself as well. That is where the business began and that is still a big part of it. I do custom pieces for clients that are looking for something that we can’t find from other suppliers. Or sometimes they just want to know the craftsperson and have furniture that is made locally.
Trying to pick a favorite piece of furniture after more than ten years of building is tough, but I would have to say that it is a coffee table that we still use every day in our home. It is one of the first things that I made when I started learning the trade, in a small town in Colorado, in the late 90’s.

3. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a customer?
We are lucky enough to receive compliments almost on a daily basis. People that get very excited to see the products in our gallery and learn that we are here, with our unique inventory. But one of the best compliments I have ever received I will leave in the words of the customer, in the form that it came to me:
Hi Mark,
Words cannot express how deeply I appreciate what you have done for my daughter, Whitney.
You have made for her something that will last her lifetime, that is so unique and different than the norm. She couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved the barn wood and how you had transformed it into exactly what we had envisioned.
Many thanks for all of your help. Your talent is truly appreciated!

4. You’ve been an NASE member for about four years. Which member benefits have you used and how have they helped your business?
We have been using the health insurance that is associated with NASE for the entire time that we have been members, which has worked out well. It is important that we are protected with quality health insurance. We also have gotten a lot out of the Self Employed magazine. There are many useful articles that help us improve our business. Advice from, and stories on other NASE members are important because we know they are coming from other self employed, hard working people like ourselves.

5. I thought your website was very comprehensive. How does it help your business?
Our website has been very helpful for our business. It helps people find us and learn that there is a business in the area that is selling rustic style furnishings. It also tells them a little about our history and us personally. Potential customers can see a large sampling of what we sell and what we do, complete with pricing, dimensions, and all of the other details. This allows them to be educated before they even walk into the gallery. They can narrow down their interests and present any questions they may have. Of course, reaching more potential customers on the internet is key to our success. Tasha works on the website on a daily basis, adding products, updating information, and boosting our visibility.
6. What’s the most effective way you’ve found to market your business?
Nothing beats having loyal customers that want to share our story with their friends and family. People that come in and think of friends or relatives that would appreciate what we have and what we do.
From there I would say that it is utilizing our high traffic location by putting merchandise outside to show people driving by that we have a great inventory.
Next would be good use of the internet and our web site as marketing tools.

7. What’s your favorite part of being self-employed?
Being able to make decisions and try new ideas without having to answer to any one else. I like the freedom to be creative and work in my own style.

8. What’s the toughest challenge for your business right now?
Right now the biggest challenge is financial, as we slowly come out of the recession. We need to be very careful about what we spend and where we spend it. On the bright side, this has been a good exercise in fiscal management and prioritization. Like any small business there are many ongoing challenges, such as marketing, finding the right customers, and keeping up with the ever changing technologies of computers and the internet.

9. What’s your best work habit? What’s your worst?
My best work habit is being able to creatively solve problems and everyday questions.
My worst work habit is that I don’t always focus on one thing at a time, I tend to work on too many things at once which can cause some projects to stay on "the list" for longer than they should.

10. What’s the greatest reward you get from your work?
I would say there are two main things that are most rewarding. One is helping a customer to find just what they are looking for, for their home. To see a customer happy and excited about their purchase is very rewarding. On the creative side, it is very rewarding to create a unique piece of furniture from some basic wood materials. To design, create, and satisfy a client’s needs is what it is all about.

11. What’s the best business advice you can offer fellow NASE members?
Always be open to new ideas and working to improve your business. I have found running a business to be a process that is constantly changing and being adjusted. Be creative.
12. What do you see as the biggest advantage to being an NASE member?
Although we all have different businesses, it is helpful and comforting to be connected with other small business owners that face similar challenges, every day. We can all understand to some degree what it feels like to start and run a small business, and the ups and downs that come along with that.

13. What do you do to relax and get away from the office?
I like to be outdoors, walking in the woods, or being involved in other activities such as hiking, kayaking, skiing, and snow shoeing. I also like to play music and travel as much as possible.

14. Anything else you’d like for your fellow NASE Members to know about your business?
We believe in the products we sell and we love what we do. We don’t just sell the rustic/Adirondack style but we also live with it. We live in a small rustic log home in a rural part of New Hampshire, surrounded by forests, lakes, and streams.

15. Please give me all of your contact info, including physical business address, mailing address, phone numbers, Web site address, e-mail, etc.
1327 Main Street (Route 101)
Dublin, NH. 03444
PO Box 1024
Dublin, NH. 03444

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