When he was only 13 years old, Nick LeMay jumped into the furniture-making business with both feet. Now 17 and in high school, the principal of Cozy Meadows Log Furniture in Eau Claire, Wis., says his business was born out of necessity.
“The idea started in 2008. I really wanted my room to be outdoorsy and have a log furniture bed. But they cost so much, I looked into how I could make it by myself instead of paying someone for doing it,” says LeMay.
After creating a design, LeMay bought some white pine and built the bed. He enjoyed the process and the result and was ready to give up his amateur woodworking status.
“I realized how easy it would be and how much other companies charge for this type of product, so I figured I could go into it myself as a business.”
LeMay enrolled in a program for young entrepreneurs at the local Western Dairyland Business Center. The curriculum helped him develop a business plan and featured a competition with the other students.
“I made it to the final round,” he says. “There were about four finalists. I was not an actual winner, but still went home with a business plan. It was a weeklong conference, so I learned a lot through it.”
The plan helped LeMay figure out how to build the beds in an inexpensive and productive way.
“The main problem for me was marketing. All of the big businesses are at the top of search engines so I mainly advertised by word of mouth, through Craigslist and by developing my own small website.”
LeMay got some press from the local newspaper and has never been shy about asking for advice. Adults take him seriously, but his peers have usually been skeptical.
“Other teenagers usually don’t believe me. When I tell someone under the age of 22 that I have my own business, they think it’s just kind of a joke. But when I tell adults they’re usually interested and will talk to me for quite awhile about what I do.”
LeMay works in a 100-sq.-ft. shop in an out-building next to his family’s home. He also makes nightstands, lamps and coat racks. His clients usually want a custom product, which LeMay designs with the help of Google SketchUp. He makes about $300 per bed, using his allowance and earnings from babysitting to buy the materials.
He’s still at the break-even point, but hopes to start making a profit soon. Homework, sports and other school activities keep him out of the shop. He’s got his sights set on becoming a patent attorney, but plans to keep the furniture-making business going through his college years.
“The best part about this is learning how the business world works in general. I do everything from working with a customer to marketing to building their products. There is so much to learn and I enjoy what I do,” says LeMay.
To view his website, visit www.cozymeadowslogfurniture.yolasite.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.