Names: Matt Schweers and Jack Kauffman
Hometown: Heyworth, IL and Chenoa, IL
Branch of Military: Navy (Matt) and Army (Jack)
Current Duty Station: Naval War College in Newport, RI
We make quality customizable wood products. We have two sides to the business: our signature line is the solid walnut ashtray/coaster that Jack mostly produces, and the rest is an eclectic mix of things like beer openers/coffee tables/shadow boxes made of whiskey barrels, coin holders, cribbage boards, and a lot of one-off custom projects for people. We aim to provide unique, high-quality products at an acceptable price.
Q: What made you choose this type of business?
Initially I was sick of the stock choices and low-quality furniture you find at many of the bargain stores and started building things for our house that would be durable enough to stand up to all of our kids. When my wife and I were younger we spent a lot of time at antique stores and flea markets, loving the uniqueness of what we’d find. Laser engraving started with making signs for the USS MONTPELIER (Hooyah Green Mountain Boys!) and other useful items around our house. Jack and I spent a lot of time together on all of these projects and he decided to make me a solid wood ashtray as a gift – this was the start of our signature line.
Q: What motivated you to start your business?
We started running out of things to make for our house! The passion for problem solving, laser engraving, and making keepsakes didn’t go away and starting a business was a great way to turn my leisure time into something productive and worthwhile, with the additional benefit that it allows us to upgrade to better equipment to make a wider range of products. Our friends loved the ashtray that Jack made and that inspired him to test out different designs for sale.
Q: How do you manage the work/life balance?
You work when you can! You won’t find me watching much TV or browsing social media. It certainly takes a lot of extra time, but being both a business and a passion project, it is an outlet for creativity and decompression.
Q: Any advice for fellow veterans or milspouses who want to start their own business?
Go for it! If you don’t think you can fly, you never will. Even if you plan meticulously ahead of time, you’ll still be learning new things constantly and making some mistakes. The best way to make it happen is to jump in with both feet!
Q: Favorite thing(s) to do in your current duty station?
Here in Newport, Rhode Island we enjoy walking and hiking the many parks and preserves, visiting the cider mills and orchards, and exploring new towns and breweries.
Q: Where can we support and learn more about your business?
To discover more military spouse or veteran small businesses, click here.