I see Marley has been high-jacking my computer when our backs are turned. It's one of the places she must sneak off to when Mark and I are in the wood shop. We're lucky enough to be able to work from our home and hang out with our dogs. Our commute to the wood shop is simple and doesn't require leaving the comforts of our home, but it is separated from the main living area with a closed breezeway which has a only a few short steps to the floor above the garage. When we first looked at the space, I knew it would be perfect for the wood shop; although some people don't like the idea of a second story wood shop since you have to haul the wood up and down. It works for us though and you can't beat the view!
It's been snow, ice, raining for about 36 hours now. Mark had to take the chains off the truck about a week ago to service the truck and take it for its yearly inspection. We were hoping that we would be spared a mid-April storm that would do just what it has done. If you have ever, put chains on your car or truck, you know its not something you want to do more than once a year. 3 inches of fresh snow and ice in mid-April is not exactly what we wanted to see but it doesn't keep us from being able to work in the shop. Update: He put the chains and the plow back on since the snow turned out to be closer to 4 inches with and ice crust. Add that to the snow total for the season and I think we are close to 10 feet! Thank God for the thaws.
Juggling time between the necessary back office work needed to run a small business and actual time spent in the shop manufacturing cedar raised bed garden kits has been a balancing act that we are still learning to balance. We work well as a team though, so usually one of us handles more of the computer work (that would be me) dealing with the website design and management; getting taxes out and done; ordering and tracking supplies; the list goes on and on. All not very fun stuff but necessary. Mark handles other aspects like dealing with suppliers, freight companies, putting quotes together, maintaining the equipment. Workshop time is sometimes the two of taking turns in the shop, depending on what's going on at the time. One of the nice things is manufacturing the kits doesn't require two people to do - but the process obviously goes faster. For me, its the sanding that tires me out. We hand sand - twice all our boards and posts leaving a furniture quality smoothness behind reducing chances of splinters.
It's hard to believe Mark and I started Marleywood two years ago this May. So much has happened in those two years! But how we went became wood workers was a seed that was sown closer to four years earlier that we didn't even realize had been planted at the time. We run another small business, Homegrown Harvest which at the time focused on helping people start and maintain their own vegetable gardens. This year is actually our 6th season in business as retailers of the a variety of raised garden bed kits. Since one of our goals was to help people start gardens and discovered for most people just getting started was the biggest barrier of entry to even trying. We looked for kits that were easy to put together and beautiful to look at. Locally, we installed and maintained dozens of vegetable gardens for customers in the Fairfield County, CT and lower Westchester County, NY areas over a five year period. As installers, we knew our products inside and out having worked with the kits repeatedly over the years. The cedar raised bed kits we carried were from a small mom & pop shop down in South Carolina. I accidentally discovered the kits through a discussion I was having with a friend during one of my metal sculpting classes I was taking at the time. My friend mentioned her husband had stumbled up on cedar garden kit that he was able to put together that looked beautiful in their yard in Long Island. He actually put together 2 kits rather easily she remarked one for each grand child was the idea when they put them in. She went on to say her husband wasn't a very handy fellow, so for him to put to the two kits together on his own was a testament to how nicely the kits were designed. It sounded interesting and after looking at the photos of the gardens on her phone, she gave me the company's name and we reached out to them to become a retailer dealer.
The gentleman who initially ran the company, also design the connection system. Our first season as dealers we had great interest in the cedar beds ad installed quite a number of them. The second year started off just as promising when we learned the company had been sold; but no worries, we could still have our orders filled, the product would just be coming from Virginia now.
The following year in 2016, Homegrown Harvest had started to pick up traction in the local area we had been servicing. We had an early start to the season installing bed as early as mid-March and had already ordered and installed a number of Carolina Garden beds. It was when we tried to place an order when we learned the owners had decided to retire due to health issues and had finished their wood and were closing up shop. The business was once again up for sale.
After we learned of the first sale, in a Monday morning quarterback-style, Mark and I had discussed the possibility of buying the company. Not that we even had the opportunity, but the timing wasn't right for us anyway, but we knew that we wanted and needed to have a business that was a little less seasonal and back-breaking. The seasonality of the vegetable gardening services business is at best April to October of work in the field. That's not to say there isn't any work to be done in the months between November through March but in zone 6b where we were located things started really in January with sending out the next season's contracts, ordering seeds and plant starts; but, the income generating months are primarily March-October which a heavy emphasis on mid-March to mid-June.
When we learned the business was for sale the second time, we didn't hesitate. The timing and the price was right. Mark took the lead in making all the necessary arrangements to go down to Virginia and check out the equipment, do our due diligence on the company while I took care of the gardens. We work well that way, dividing and conquering when and where we need to. Although we much more prefer to be working side by side.
Mark and I met back in 1989 or 1990. Memories are fuzzy about the exact year. I was working in promotions at 2 local radio stations, 1400AM and 96.7FM in Stamford, CT and our station was looking to hired some new sales people. I called a friend in the business and asked him if he knew of any people to send them my way. After all, any new hire who lasted 6 months, the person who recommended them go 5 comp days. There like vacation days but you don't have to take them consecutively. My friend sent Mark over and the long story short, we became good friends and worked together for about a year and half before I left the stations. Over the years, our paths crossed as our families were all friends and we all used to run into each other skiing up at Okemo in Ludlow, VT. At one point, we both had condos that faced each other and would quite often see each other walking to or from the slopes with our skis.It was seven years ago now, that our paths crossed and began to merge together. Two friends given a chance at something neither one knew could be possible. Not many people are given a second chance in life and everyday we are greatly appreciative for the opportunity we were blessed with. Mark and I always enjoyed working together back in our younger days and seven years ago, we were both a point in our respective careers that we needed a change. We started Homegrown Harvest because we wanted to help people start their own vegetable gardens and we loved working outdoors and in our own garden.
When we started Marleywood, we didn't think it as appropriate to keep the Carolina Garden name seeing how we are manufacturing the kits in Bridgewater, New Hampshire. We still deliver the same quality cedar raised bed garden kits that our predecessors manufactured. We have our standards size kits available on our website and we off the ability for custom designed kits to suit our customer's individual needs. Marleywood allows us the flexibility to manufacture garden kits 12 months out of the year and who knows we can add products that may be less seasonal than raised bed garden kits.
The phone has started to ring and people are finding us some how on the web through searches. It's nice to see some of our hard work may be paying off. SEO optimization isn't something that is second nature to most small business owners. But when you are a small start-up company, a family-run mom and pop shop like we are, it's necessary to juggle things around. We strive to make a quality product for our clients that will last. We don't intend to become a big huge company, we just want to enjoy our time in the workshop making garden bed kits so that more people can start a garden and enjoy the delicious fresh vegetable that they grow from it or delight in the beauty of whatever they have decided to grow.