Friday, May 25 , 2018, 2:14 am | Overcast 59º

 
 
 

Paul Burri: The Success Story of a Garage-Based Business

I recently got a response from one of my readers asking about the last business I owned for 17 years. I did write about it once, but that was several years ago so here it is again. I hope it may be some slight inspiration to anyone thinking of starting a home-based business on a shoe string. It can be done.

I have been a woodworker since I was about 12 years old, working on the kitchen table in an apartment in the Bronx. Most woodworkers I know make furniture. Except for a few smaller pieces, I do not make furniture.

Most of what I make is of my own design and includes such things as domino sets, wood turnings of various kinds, games, clocks, unique bookends, stuff like that. I use 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 20s, 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, sometime in the 1990s, I began to produce some fairly small wood turnings 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 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. Our original customers were home hobby woodworkers who wanted to sign their work for posterity.

In December 1994, I retired from that company and decided to devote some “serious” effort to BrandNew for one year to see if it had any potential. I invested about $1,500 and began operating out of my garage and spare bedroom.

Among my woodworking creations are domino sets made of exotic woods. (Paul Burri / Noozhawk photo)
Among my woodworking creations are domino sets made of exotic woods. (Paul Burri / Noozhawk photo)

At the end of the year, I had generated about $25,000 in sales working at it just a few hours a week. At that point I decided to get serious about it.

About 1½ years later, we moved out of the garage and bedroom into a 600-square-foot facility in Old Town Goleta. 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-plus 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 perhaps will 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 hamburgers at the White House mess.

In 2007, I sold the company, now called BrandNew Industries Inc., and retired for the second time. It 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 started in a garage with a $1,500 investment.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer, guerrilla marketer and iconoclast. He is available to local organizations for speaking engagements and to local businesses for business consulting and/or mentoring. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >