Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our clients, friends, and family! Traughber Design just delivered its final sale of 2017 last week, and we thought this was a good time to thank our community of supporters and reflect on the past year.
This was our third full year of operation and the business is now profitable! We invested quite a bit in tools the first year, and we continued to build our client base the second year. This year we delivered 17 commissions (plus one pro bono project) with a wide variety of projects and have 1 commission in progress in the shop.
Traffic continues to grow to the blog and we have had over 2,800 unique visitors and 5,900 page views. We’ve published almost 60 posts now and have many more ideas for posts in 2018.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned over this 3 year journey is persistence. Most small businesses fail, and I wonder how many were on the cusp of success if their owners had just kept at it. Speaking of which, I’m grinding my way through David McCullough’s 1100 page biography (called “Truman“) of Harry S. Truman and the President’s persistence when everyone wrote him off is absolutely stunning. Check out this passage from the book which references a Newsweek poll of the biggest writers of the day: “Of the writers polled, not one thought Truman would win. The vote was unanimous, 50 for Dewey, 0 for Truman. “The landslide for Dewey will sweep the country,’ the magazine announced. Further, the Republicans would keep control in the Senate and increase their majority in the House. The election was as good as over.” As we all know from the history books, Truman won the election in 1948. He never gave up. The same goes for a small business; you have to believe you are going to win, just as Harry S. Truman did in 1948.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, please continue to support your local artisan ecosystem. Local small businesses are all tied together and a dollar spent with Traughber Design flows to other businesses, like hardwood dealers, tool vendors, glass manufacturers, etc. Along those lines, I’d like to give a shout out to Hardwoods in the Rough up in Manassas (and their Facebook page is here). They have only been open a year, and I was impressed with their customer service when buying some figured walnut the other day. I hope they stick around for awhile since they are the nearest hardwood dealer to us.
Looking forward, soon the Air Force will be kicking me out after 30 years of service, and I’m excited to pursue Traughber Design full time. I will be on terminal leave at the end of 2018, and we will see what other exciting commissions come our way.
This interview is our fifth in a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and makers, this time with magazine writer, blogger, and photographer Lisa Traughber, the Best-Sister-In-The-Whole-World. Lisa has been published in multiple magazines and also won several photography awards. Our readers may find her move to slash her work hours in order to create very interesting.
Thank you for doing the interview. You have many creative talents and I think our readers will be interested in how you were able redesign your life to shift your time from working to making. You only work 3 days per week and spend 2 days per week creating: writing for magazines, blogging, and doing photography. You made that shift some time ago, and how you made that shift might be very interesting to our readers.
You’re welcome. Thank you for your interest.
You started with writing for magazines and have had several articles published. Tell us a little about how you got started.
I took a week long class a number of years ago that was devoted to writing articles for inspirational magazines. The class was held at the beautiful Glen Eyrie located in Colorado Springs. The class taught me everything I needed to know to properly submit articles for publication.
How were you able to go from 5 work days per week to 3?
I changed job locations within the same organization. The location change was the right time to cut down my work hours so I could pursue other things. The change also gave me more time to spend with my family. The people in administration at the organization were happy because they wanted someone who would be flexible with their hours when they opened the new location.
Was that a difficult transition?
It was a very easy transition. I simplified my expenses and had my mortgage and car paid off, so I had more freedom in cutting down my work hours.
Tell us a little about the focus of your blog.
My blog is specific to nature at the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin. This includes the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. My blog focuses on wildlife and plants along with talking about photography. My main goal is to share the beauty, creativity, and artistry found in nature.
How did you get started in photography?
I have been interested in photography since I was in high school. I set up shots around the house and took pictures in the yard. Later, two of my favorite subjects were (and still are) my niece and nephew.
You’ve won some awards. What does it take to get to that level?
It takes practice and study. I have taken thousands of poor photos. That part is necessary to arrive at an exceptional photo. I have also taken online classes and done a lot of reading. That has been helpful in learning the technical aspects of photography that can improve a photo. I am still learning and I share mistakes with my readers so they can learn with me.
The blog is something new you added in 2016. How is that going?
The blog is going well. I want to do at least one post per week. This motivates me to get out and shoot regularly. The blog is a wonderful outlet for me to work on my photography and writing skills. I have new readers checking it out every week.
How often do you write?
I write for the blog at least once a week. I also write in a journal occasionally. My focus is on the blog rather than writing magazine articles now. I enjoy the creative freedom that writing for a blog provides. When you write for magazines, you have to follow their writer’s guidelines. You may also receive more rejection letters than acceptance letters. That becomes discouraging. When you write for a blog, you may receive immediate feedback and, in my experience, it has been encouraging. Bloggers are often good cheerleaders for each other.
What have you learned on your blogging journey?
Prior to starting the blog, I took the class “Creating WordPress Websites” through Moraine Park Technical College. It is a 6 week online class. I learned everything I needed to know to get a website up and running. Knowledgeable instructors answered all of my questions. I highly recommend it.
Any big plans for 2017?
I plan to take the class “Writing Effective Web Content” (www.ed2go.com/mptc) to help me to develop my writing skills. I also plan to watch a photography DVD series I purchased a while back to improve my photography skills.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
My blog is photography driven. I will go for a drive or hike at the Horicon Marsh and whatever happens to be there that day can become the subject for my blog. I develop the written content from the photos. I try to include interesting, educational content as well as personal insights. At times, I will decide to look for something specific, like macro shots. I may also talk about the process of taking the photo if I think it is helpful for my readers.
What advice do you have for beginning bloggers or photographers?
I recommend taking classes, reading, and talking to other bloggers and photographers. You can avoid a lot of mistakes by learning what has worked for others.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t be afraid to jump in and start your own blog. It is a great opportunity to learn and to meet others who share the same interests.
Thank you, Lisa!
For our other posts in the entrepreneur interview series:
Amazon best selling author Lawrence Colby, write of The Devil Dragon Pilot: Part 1 and Part 2. Colby has finished his draft of his second book, The Black Scorpion Pilot. Stay tuned for another interview with him after the book is available on Amazon.
Last week we passed 1000 readers of the blog! Many thanks to all of you for spending the time here and your support. As you can see from the picture, the blog seems to be really taking off, which is encouraging since we just launched on September 8th.
We’ve learned many things about blogging and launching this digital side of Traughber Design which I’ll share in a future blog post, but just wanted to mark this milestone and pass along my thanks to all of you!
This is the third in our series of interviews (see bottom of post for links to the other interviews) with successful entrepreneurs, in this case, Mo Johnson, the owner and CEO of Better Display Cases.
Thanks for the interview today. Like I said, this is the fourth interview, probably the third that we’ll publish. We have a couple more in the queue here. I really appreciate your time.
Sure. Thanks for coming.
So, tell us a little bit about your background before you became an entrepreneur.
Well, I’ve always been an entrepreneur I would say. Going way back to when I was a kid I would deliver newspapers and, you know, did different things. I started a janitorial business which was the first real business I started. That was while I was in college. I did that for awhile. I had a lawn care business. Anyway, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak, I suppose. Along the way, I went to law school and became a JAG and did a 20 year career in the military. After I retired from the military and I’m doing what I’m doing now…doing the entrepreneurship thing full time.
Awesome. Where did you get the idea for this business?
Well, so that just kind of happened. I retired from the military in 2013. I have to back up a little bit. During my last years in the military I was already trying to, you know, have a business on the web. What I did then was I had a website. I started with SEC Sportsfan. My idea was when I retired I would just be a blogger like you and do that full time and write stuff that I enjoyed writing. Hopefully people would enjoy reading it, and the website would be popular. More people would read it. And they’d click on ads. I’d make money. Life was good. That was the plan. And I would love to do that now, by the way (laughing), if I could.
I saw the blog and I was encouraged you had a Green Bay Packers article on there.
The sports blog.
The SEC Sportsfan one?
The article about Eddie Lacey associated with Better Display Cases?
I guess Wayne must have written that. That was one of our ideas. Wayne was my Internet marketing guy and did that. So I started that (SEC Sportsfan) in 2006. I got passed over for Lieutenant Colonel, and I don’t know if we even want to put this in.
Maybe we’ll edit that out.
Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.
That’s probably a key point.
It probably is. Of course it is.
That probably spurred you to do all this.
I’m sure. Probably. Of course. I had something to prove, you know. I’m going to be more successful than any of you. Whatever, I don’t know. It certainly changed my focus. I knew I was going to be getting out of the military. I started being really interested in the Internet. I’ve always wanted to start a business. Then of course the Internet was big and looked like it was actually going to be a real thing. Actually, the way that started, I wanted to get sell on eBay, so one of my co-workers was looking for a gift that she needed for somebody. She wanted to get them a little Tennessee mascot. So she had a hard time finding it. So I was like maybe I could start a business helping people, or selling sports-related gifts on eBay. I bought some products and tried to sell them on eBay which didn’t work well at all. While I was starting that I was looking at other things and then I became interested in the idea of building a content website, blogging, and having traffic coming to it, and then you get money from the ads or from selling products related to what your customers that visit that website are interested in.
And that worked really, really, really, really well. Really took off which I guess is what got me excited about it and that’s the way things go. If it doesn’t work out, you’re not going to be excited and you’re going to move on. But that worked so that motivated me. I would stay up to 2, 3, or 4 o’ clock in the morning working on my website. There was a lot to learn. There was a lot to do. It takes a lot to do that. The SEC Sportsfan website did fantastic and went from nothing at all to at one point I was making $5,000 per month from my website.
Wow, that’s really good.
Because I was ranking high in Google for product search terms like Dallas Cowboys Fathead. Of course it was SEC Sportsfan so it was more SEC I mean that was what you were more likely to rank for so you’re better off focusing on that. All kinds of product keywords related to SEC teams.
So the $5,000 was people clicking through ads on your site?
About half of that was Adsense, so ads, people clicking on ads. The ads are going to be more valuable and you are going to make more money if they are product-oriented. I ranked for all sorts of things. The things that make money are products. If people are selling stuff they are willing to pay a lot for a click on a product ad or product search term as opposed to just anything.
So I was also an affiliate, if you’ve heard of affiliate marketing. It’s where you sign up with a company and you sell their product with a simple thing like a click. I signed up with Fathead, with Amazon. It’s the same thing. It’s an ad on my website. People click on it. If they buy something, I get a percentage. With Fathead it was 15 percent.
Through all of that, the first thing was getting the traffic which is a whole thing in and of itself, the content, the images, and everything. Then the selling happens and then you make money. At the peak, I’m talking Christmas, I had some months where I made $5,000. Maybe on average it was $1,000, or something, $2,000. For a couple years.
But still, that’s pretty good.
And the way it was growing, my goodness, it looked that would really work. Like I would be able to retire and just do that.
I was Mo Johnson of SEC Sportsfan.
This interview was so in-depth that we broke it into multiple parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Mo Johnson where he hits it BIG with his next venture: Better Display Cases.
For our first entrepreneur interview with best selling author, Lawrence Colby, click here.
For part 2 of our interview with Colby, click here.
For our second entrepreneur interview with photographer Richard Weldon Davis, click here.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our clients, friends, and family. Traughber Design just delivered its last commission of 2016 (see picture at left) on Friday, and we thought this was a good time to thank our community of supporters and reflect on the past year.
This was our second full year of operation and the business continues to build. We delivered 8 commissions this year with a wide variety of projects and have 1 piece in progress in the shop.
One of the most exciting things this year was the launch of the new and improved website and blog. SiteGround’s servers will give us a lot more space and room to grow than our previous website. There was a little bit of a learning curve with our blogging software, WordPress, but the functionality is much greater than we had with the last website and we’re much more comfortable now with using WP. Traffic continues to build and we had over 350 unique visitors in the past 4 months (the blog went live in September with post #1) and 1,500 page views. The metrics show our users are spending more and more time on the site, which probably makes sense given we’ve published almost 30 posts now and have more content.
We’ve been very blessed with not only commissions from clients, but also just words of encouragement. If you can, support your local artisans in 2017. If you know of someone trying to get their enterprise off the ground, consider throwing some business their way. Every sale can be critical in those first few months or years of operation. We will continue to do our part by sharing the exciting stories of other up and coming makers, and have three more interviews in the queue for early 2017.
The future looks bright and we are talking to multiple clients about potential commissions for 2017 including another black walnut gun cabinet which will keep the wood shop humming. Our last one took approximately 100 hours to make, so we are very interested to see how long the next one will take.
Why Did I Write This Blog? I wrote this blog to share some woodworking wisdom gained over the years and also lessons learned from starting my own woodworking business in 2015.
But first, let me give you a bit of backstory. In 2014 I finished up a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. We were extremely busy when I was there, but a situation like that gives a person some time to think about their future, especially since we were away from our families. At that point in my career, I had been in the military for 25 years and was approaching one last assignment before retirement. With our military pension, I knew we were not going to starve and that there was a golden opportunity to try something new. I kept thinking “if money was no object, what would I like to do as the next act?”
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is woodworking. Ever since my first Industrial Arts class in middle school I’ve enjoyed making things. Our itinerant lifestyle and postings all over the world have made it difficult to set up a permanent shop and outfit it with quality tools. We have been in one spot here in Northern Virginia for a while which has enabled me to carve out some space for a shop and to invest in tools.
Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is start my own business, which I did with Traughber Design in 2015. The commissions have been steady and the business has a bright future. Writing this blog may help some other budding entrepreneurs out there get started on their dream business. We’ve learned a lot about things like pricing our work and will share those tips. In addition, I’m ramping up this woodworking gig part-time as my career winds down. I’ll share some insights learned about how to manage that transition.
Last, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shoutout to Kevin Hanson. He was the catalyst who pushed me to attempt the first commission, the black walnut gun cabinet pictured above. The cabinet was from a plan I purchased from Wood Magazine, was a challenge, and great confidence builder.
So that is why I started his blog. I hope you like it.