Meet Andy Chapman from Stumpdust
Name of Business: Stumpdust
Name of Principal: Andy Chapman
Location: Duvall, Washington
Years In Business: 1
Tell us about Stumpdust:
Woodworking has always been an integral part of my life from making wooden molds as a young apprentice pattern maker in England to renovating and furnishing homes both in England and the United States.
With a degree in engineering behind me, I fabricated my first woodturning lathe from an assortment of metal tubes and salvaged parts some twenty five years ago while working as an aerospace designer at Roll-Royce. Even after a voyage to the United States in 1996, the lathe I work on today still has remnants of those inauspicious beginnings while the rest of my workshop is an eclectic mix of new, old, hand me downs, inherited and homemade.
Woodturning became a profession in 2012 as I began creating traditional gardening tools from salvaged wood that were sold through Le Jardinet, a successful garden design business managed by my wife Karen; an extremely talented and internationally recognized author, designer and garden speaker. As the tools have gained national recognition and sales, the product range has grown to include bowls, vases, collectables and more and so the sawdust was transferred to Stumpdust in 2014.
Teaching is also a fundamental part of my business as a way to share the passion, knowledge and huge amount of fun that woodturning is. I offer small group lessons and one-on-one classes in my workshop as well as on-line classes produced and hosted by Craftsy.
Entrepreneurship is challenging! What inspired you to start your own business?
An enforced break from a career in information technology in 2012 and a tough job market led me to seek a new career path in something that I had a passion for and joy in, as well as regaining some control in my life.
Walk us through a day in your life as a business owner:
My day starts around 4am when I do a few hours part time work at a local hardware store to help supplement our income. Early morning, after returning home, I head into the workshop and spend the rest of the day processing wood and turning items on the lathe. The evenings are spent answering emails, updating the accounts and processing/shipping orders. Repeat and rinse – 7 times a week.
What about your business has given you the most pride?
The first thing is that there is a great sense of satisfaction and pride in taking a piece of wood that is sometimes rotten or has been cast away because of knots, blemishes or splits and then working it into something both artistic and functional while revealing its hidden beauty. Secondly working with my wife and business partner every day, whom I am very proud of, and growing both our businesses together.
What about your business has been the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to find a way to stand out from the crowd. There are a lot of turned products on the market but I wanted to create something unique. Before I started Stumpdust I had been making dibbers and wine stoppers as gifts and was encouraged by the many positive reactions to these handcrafted, recycled products. I also realized that people wanted to know the story behind each piece. Hearing that their dibber came from a gnarly old apple tree from our daughter’s garden, or that a rustic vase was turned from a maple tree that fell down in a storm was important to them. As customers use my tools and other products they become a part of the continuing story. Understanding this concept, together with working within the gardening community alongside Karen, helped me to form a business plan.
What advice would you give to a new business owner who is just starting out?
Be sure you have a real passion for your new business – you will be working long hours, you may have a number of disappointments or even a few failures and of course financial stresses along the way.
What is it about your products and/or services that make them special, unique, and worth having?
All my products are handmade from recycled or salvaged wood gathered locally here in the Pacific Northwest. The few purchases I do make, I try very hard to buy locally supporting other local business.
What’s your next project?
The next chunk of wood hasn’t told me yet!
And finally, how does your own personal garden and/or gardening enrich your life?
It doesn’t! I’d much rather be in the workshop. Well not quite true but I leave the gardening to Karen. Certainly living and working on a peaceful 5 acre property feeds the soul but also it reminding me to appreciate the simple beauty that surrounds us. Beats working 9-5 in a windowless office any day.