Terri McClung –
This is the eleventh in the series of interviews conducted by the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation about small business entrepreneurship in our area.
The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation offers entrepreneurial services,
one-on-one business planning assistance, training, mentoring and operational assistance to existing local small businesses and startups.
Born Again Custom Woodworks, LLC is located at 606 Monroe Avenue, Covington, VA 24426. Wayne can be reached by calling 540.968.2093 and Pat at 540.691.5740.
I recently sat down with Wayne Lamb, Owner and Pat Harrison, Sales & Marketing to get their view on the life of being small business entrepreneurs in the Alleghany Highlands.
What ignited the spark to start your business?
Wayne: It started with me many years ago with salvation. I knew right away I was supposed to do something with wood but I had never taken a shop class.
I was actually working UPS at night and was praying for a new job and within two weeks I was working at True Value and that is where it all started with me because I could not quit making things out of wood.
I had never made anything and once I got started it was like eating chocolate cake, I could not stop and I was doing woodworks in the bedroom of my house on Craig Street.
I started doing cabinets and doors, etc and with all the experience over a period of time, I was getting better at what I was doing. You fast forward 32 years and Pat shows up.
Pat: In 2017 I made a visit to Wayne to buy some items from him. I had been in the antique business for 30 years, and Wayne was doing mostly cabinets with no experience at retail and it was at this time that it all began.
We put our brands together, my retail business, his knowledge of all the woodworks, and we blended our gifts.
Because of this business I was saved in September of last year.
Wayne: I do not feel like we had anything to do with our getting together. I had been praying for 3 years asking for someone to be sent to me and suddenly Pat shows up. Neither of us had any idea.
Pat: We have blended our gifts to make this work and we are very excited about what the future might hold for the two of us.
How do you generate new ideas?
Pat: I keep up with the trends and right now the live edge woods are really hot. We will be making live edge woods until things change and then we will move on to the next hot item. Whatever we can find to create, it will be part of our business and we will make it.
Wayne: Ideas just come in. Then there are people like Temple Kessinger who gave us input and it was like another chapter in the book. He appeared at the right time and gave us some contacts and helped lead us in a couple directions.
We ended up at the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation and they helped us look for space to start this business.
We also met with some small business folks out of Roanoke about the live edge woodwork. At that time the market was only at 20% and had not peaked yet.
Pat: I do a lot of antique shows and outdoor events and so I checked to see what is popular and what isn’t. We loved this kind of work so we decided to just get started making the live edge woodworks.
Tell me about the products you are working on or have already.
Pat: Here is a list of products at this time:
- Live edge tables
- Mid century tables
- C & O Railroad Locomotive shop beams tables
- Farm tables
- 1840 Log homes used to make mantels
- Coffee tables & end tables
- Using drift wood to make tables
- Mixture of antiques
- Will make most anything
Pat: One of the things we are very proud of is the C & O Railroad beams that we are cutting and making into tables. We have purchased all the beams left over from the old locomotive shop in Clifton Forge.
The locomotive shop was built in 1890 and the trees they used to make those beams are close to 200 years old. This wood from the locomotive shop now is approximately 300 years old that we are using.
The wood makes some beautiful tables. Eventually we will be doing birdhouses and other smaller items to sell which will have a piece of local history. I think that is pretty cool.
How do you advertise?
Wayne: The stage is in the beginning, things are happening “now”. We are located on Monroe in the old Coca-Cola Building. There will be banners on the building soon with our business name.
We do have a table made from the beams of the locomotive shop already at the Heritage Center in Clifton Forge.
Pat: We are getting a fresh start here and have recently changed the business name.
We have been putting some items in the antique mall in Lexington. We will also be doing shows at Liberty University and other places.
We are just now getting off the ground and I am feeling really good about it. We will be setting up in Clifton Forge for Heritage Day.
We also plan to do the home show at the Salem Civic Center in the spring.
You can stop by anytime or call our cells and we will be glad to work with you on anything you might like. We may not always be here due to getting things done outside but once things pick up we will have someone here approximately 8 hours a day through the week.
If you wanted a live edge table 12 to 20 feet long, we can do that.
Wayne: It has been a year and a half in the workings to get where we are now. Any table can be customized. This is big for people because if the customer has ideas we can work with them.
The wood from those beams just saw daylight after 300 years, that is crazy, and it is truly some beautiful wood. When you saw these beams one behind the other, they are like a matchbook, they are twins. They were together and now they are separate which really gives a nice look.
What would you say are some skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Wayne: From my standpoint on the manufacturing side of it, you have to be skilled to do quality work. Even after thirty years of doing woodworking I still want to improve on what I do.
Allowing people to invest their ideas I think is a great thing and being open to suggestions.
Pat: On my end, being in sales and marketing since I left college and a manager of a wholesale building supply place in Roanoke, I made a lot of contacts along the way.
On the antique business side and being associated with Black Dog Salvage I have made contacts there as well. I have kept up with what is selling. Having your product match with what is going out the door is a key.
If you had one piece of advice to someone starting their own business, what might that be?
Wayne: Do a business plan. Find out if what you want to do is marketable in your area. We all have dreams and that is okay but how many businesses you see open and shortly after they close.
Pat: As a partnership business, to know and trust the person you will be working with is a key also.
Wayne: This works on all aspects of any relationships whether it is your marriage or business, etc. If you have one pulling against the other, you don’t always have to agree on everything but you can talk things out. Keeping the lines of communication open is huge.
We want the best for each other. It is not about me or him. We care about the other person more than our self.
It was finding the right location because we looked at many buildings but everything we need seems to be right here. We still have a lot of work to do with this building but we have a vision.
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Pat: I see us with more employees and doubling in size.
Wayne: Our furniture be a brand of furniture.
Pat: The brand will be a dove with an olive branch which will be branded on every piece.
I called Wayne from the beach last summer and he said he kept seeing this dove with the olive branch in its mouth and I said to him, this is it.
Wayne: There is a story behind the dove and the olive branch.
I was sitting in church one Sunday before the service started and I pulled out my phone and what appeared on my phone was a dove with an olive branch in its mouth.
I can’t even begin to explain about this dove.
It was God speaking to me as he has done in so many ways in the past years. He has brought Pat into my life; otherwise, I would still be sitting in the corner sucking my thumb. There has been so much in the works that can’t even be explained.
How do you plan to build a successful customer base?
Wayne: Quality. Quality is up front and good customer service. You must have good customer service.
Pat: It has been fortunate for me after being in the antique business for 30 years, to have an established contact list. I have had people contact me about bringing our products to numerous places.
Is there anything we have not covered that you would like to mention?
Pat: We would like to thank the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation for all the assistance and information they have given us so far. Anyone interested in starting a business can really benefit by visiting the AHEDC.
Wayne: With The Gauntlet program there is a lot of help. It is one business helping another.
There is a lot of change happening in this area and you don’t need to look too far to see it.
Both Lamb and Harrison commented on business opportunities that they have observed in our area.
As their own operation continues to grow, they learn of other needs that someone could meet and begin other businesses to help grow the area.
One example that they stressed is the issue of accommodations.
Whether it is tourists coming through for recreation or travelers coming to the Highlands on business, there is a tremendous demand for a variety of accommodations from simple, clean rooms to unique lodging with more amenities.
Add types of food services and more retail establishments to the need for accommodations, and, Lamb and Harrison, concluded, there are many types of businesses that the area needs that would complement businesses such as Born Again Custom Woodworks.