I have been a woodworker since I was about twelve years old working on the kitchen table in an apartment in the Bronx. Most woodworkers that I know make furniture. Except for a few smaller pieces, I do not make furniture. Most of what I make is my own design and includes such things as domino sets, woodturnings of various kinds, games, clocks, unique bookends … stuff like that. I use expensive, exotic woods exclusively because I feel that if I spend a lot of time on a piece, the material should match the value of the time and love spent on it.
When I was in my twenties I decided that I wanted to start “signing” my work. I designed a unique logo and fabricated a small branding iron by bending and welding some heavy wire. I use that branding iron to this day.
Then, some time in the 1990’s I began to produce some fairly small woodturnings and felt that the existing branding iron was too big for such small pieces. I began to think about how to reduce my existing logo and to make a much smaller branding iron. It took several years before I figured out a way to modify an existing process used in the printing industry to produce an exact copy of my design in any size that I wanted. And that gave me the idea for a business. Surely there were other woodworkers who wanted to brand their name or their logo into their work.
I formed a company called BrandNew and began making and selling my branding irons from my home and garage while I was still working for a major aerospace company as an engineer. For those first few years, the business was much closer to being a hobby than a real business. Our original customers were home hobby woodworkers who wanted to sign their work for posterity. Then in December 1994, I was 65 and I retired. But within a month I could see that emotionally I wasn’t ready to really retire to the porch and the morning newspaper. At that point I decided to devote some “serious” effort to BrandNew for one year to see if it had any potential. I invested about $1500 and began operating it part time out of my garage and spare bedroom.
At the end of the year, I had generated about $35,000 in sales working at it just a few hours a week. At that point I decided to get serious about it.
About 1-1/2 years later, we moved out of the garage and bedroom into a small 600 square foot facility in a neighboring industrial complex. Six months after that we expanded into the unit next door to us, doubling our space. Another two years after that we moved into much larger quarters with separate office space and a lot of room to grow.
In 1999, we began to get calls from former customers of a competing branding iron company that had been around for 40+ years. The company was closing its doors and the owner was retiring. He had no interest in selling the company or in being concerned with his former customers. But BrandNew was interested and we began servicing them by repairing their old equipment and by selling them new equipment that we designed. It was also at this time that we discovered that a huge commercial market for branding irons existed. Branding irons are used for applications that will perhaps surprise you such as – beekeepers (to brand their hives), trucking companies (to brand their tires), restaurants (to brand their steaks), pallet manufacturers (to brand their pallets) – and one day we even sold two branding irons to the White House to brand their hamburgers at the White House mess.
In 2007 I sold the company, now called BrandNew Industries, Inc. and retired (this time, at age 78) for the second time. BrandNew is still in operation today.
At the time of the sale, BrandNew was the largest branding iron manufacturer in the world. Not bad for a company that was started in his garage by an over-the-hill entrepreneur.
© 2014 by Paul Burri All Rights Reserved
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