Building A Better Mousetrap
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. Sure, you don’t have a boss, but that means you have to be the boss. You have to be responsible … for everything. No task is too small or not worth your time. Initially you put in long hours, often with little financial reward, and you learn quickly the importance of customer service, or your reputation – and sales – will ultimately suffer. On the bright side, being an entrepreneur also means your values can influence the marketplace.
For brothers Jeff and Darrin King, graduates of Corning Community College (’87 and ’92, respectively) and RIT, it means keeping jobs in America. Their company, clubfurniture.com, employs 10 people in their Charlotte, North Carolina facility and helps to employ between 200 and 300 employees at factories throughout the Southeastern United States. As entrepreneurs, they are also in a position to challenge the adage, “you get what you pay for.”
“clubfurniture.com started with a trip to a well-known furniture store,” said Jeff. “Their furniture was imported and expensive, and we didn’t think it had to be. We saw an opportunity to offer similarly styled domestically crafted furniture of equal quality at better prices online, and we took the leap.”
Their quest for value also led the brothers to CCC. They were looking for quality and affordability. At CCC, they found both … knowledgeable faculty who shared advice from personal experience, smart advisers who ensured they were transfer-ready, and tuition that positioned them for future academic and business success.
Darrin and Jeff worked for other companies before establishing their exclusively online operation, studying their employers’ strategies for insights that would help them when the time was right. Their adventure began 18 years ago in Darrin’s bedroom with a computer, phone, and basic website. The small business now accounts for multi-millions in sales, but remains a family affair, with Jeff’s and Darrin’s wives holding positions with the company.
“Entrepreneurialism is in our blood,” said Jeff, referring to his mother, Bonnie Winters, who owns Richard Winters Real Estate and is also a CCC graduate. “It has been good to us, but we worked hard and started at the bottom. Those are the ultimate secrets of success.”