How a Savvy Business Player Rocked the World of a Talented Chairmaker

Melanie and Brian Boggs have carved out a formidable niche in the artisan-furniture industry. Photo by Matt Rose.

Brian Boggs was in his early 20s when he happened across John D. Alexander’s book Make a Chair from a Tree. Today, three decades on, Boggs is a globally known furniture craftsman and woodworking-tool inventor who commands production in a 10,000-square-foot facility and trains multiple apprentices. When he designs his sleek, flowing chairs — plus a lot of other furniture — he uses native hardwoods from Western North Carolina’s dense forests. (Honduran mahogany is a tropical exception.) He and his wife/business partner, Melanie, share how they shaped the Boggs brand.

How did your business collaboration with Brian begin?
Melanie: We met through an online dating service in 2008, and, in the early days of our relationship, Brian hired my consulting company to help him develop a strategic plan. It became clear that, more than a consultant, he needed a business partner, and so we eventually established Brian Boggs Chairmakers.
Brian: I had the furniture thing going on, but business acumen was not what I was wired for.

What roles do you play in the company?
Melanie: Brian focuses on design, production, craftsman training, and is our best salesman. I wear a lot of hats: business development, sales, marketing, human resources, production schedules, CFO, and professional “craftsman herder.”
Brian: The goal has always been to leverage our strengths to develop this craft as a business and to build a values-driven organization.

What are the key components of your marketing strategy?
Melanie: We mine all of our data. We stay in touch with our clients, asking their opinion and finding “holes” in the furniture market we might exploit. We offer tours of the shop each afternoon, we exhibit at a few carefully selected shows across the nation throughout the year, and we’re active on social media. We recently started “The Ask Brian Boggs Show,” a podcast for woodworkers, and Brian has written articles for the top woodworking magazines.

What’s changed in your approach as you’ve grown?
Brian: I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and so a lot has changed and continues to change. We’ve become more strategic. We don’t try to appeal to the masses. We have to remain current. It’s taken a long time to find and refine the “right” words to describe our furniture. We’re constantly striving to find fresh new language that accurately evokes the spirit of the work.

You’ll get to address your audience directly in a certain new ad campaign.
Melanie: We were chosen one of ten national winners [of] a Small Business FedEx Grant. The FedEx crew was in our shop in October for a couple of days shooting photos and videos that will be used nationwide at each of the 1,800 FedEx offices. If you go by FedEx on Bryson Street in January, you’ll see a poster of Brian. The video was about the two of us giving business advice for other small companies.

Brian, what has it meant having Melanie working with you?
In a word: success.

Brian Boggs Chairmakers, 239 Amboy Rd., Asheville. For details, call 828-398-9701 or visit brianboggschairmakers.com.

 

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