While last year might not reach the significance of 2015, when Beautiful Fight Woodworking LLC launched, it certainly was a year of firsts.
Owner Heather Dyer, and wife Brittany, moved the home-based furniture business into its first brick-and-mortar spot, at 1315 W. College St., providing room to spread out and increase production capacity. That, in turn, contributed to 2019 becoming its first year of six-figure revenue, reaching $165,000 – nearly double 2018 revenue of $86,000, Heather Dyer says.
The fact that the couple, who married in 2018, are in a position of business growth isn’t something either imagined several years ago.
“We didn’t intend to be business owners,” Brittany says. “That’s the easiest way to put it.”
Around late 2011, Brittany wasn’t even sure how long she had left to live.
While working as a case manager for Judevine Center for Autism in 2011, doctors diagnosed her with epithelioid hemangioendothelioma of the spine, a rare form of cancer. Brittany, who says she was the 51st person in the world to be diagnosed with EHE, had to undergo surgery to remove a tumor on her spine the same day it was discovered. The surgery was a success. Ten days later, she left the hospital, and five weeks of radiation and years of physical therapy followed.
She recovered enough to resume work at the Judevine Center until 2015, when she and Heather were involved in a car wreck. Injuries Brittany sustained in the crash forced her out of her autism case manager job due to physical demands she couldn’t meet.
“I couldn’t continue to work in that environment. It was completely devastating to me at the time,” she says. “That was part of where the creative aspect of woodworking came from.”
Brittany used woodworking as an outlet to avoid being depressed. Doesn’t hurt that she and Heather are both artistically inclined. Brittany made her first wooden pallet sign in October 2015, planting the seeds for Beautiful Fight Woodworking. The name refers to Brittany’s physical struggles and finding beauty in their woodworking creations.
Like Brittany, Heather’s career is far from art; she worked a secretarial job at the A.L. Babbs & Associates LLC collection agency before quitting in 2017.
Their creations focus on custom farmhouse-style furniture and home decor items, including coffee tables, entertainment centers, benches, headboards and shelving. Early products were sold on Craigslist, but the two decided to abandon that after a few weeks, after connecting to Etsy and Facebook Marketplace.
Their involvement with Facebook Marketplace caught the attention of the social media company. They were invited in November to speak on a panel in New York City.
Roughly 95% of the company’s revenue is split from Etsy, where they’ve made over 1,000 sales since 2015, and Facebook Marketplace, Heather says. The remaining 5% comprises ticket sales generated from Create and Take events the women hold in the community.
The online orders keep on coming, Heather says, as they have over 200 projects pending. It’s led to a backlog of six to eight weeks – longer than they would prefer.
“We’re getting more product out but our run time has stayed the same because we keep growing in orders at the same time,” Brittany says, noting they completed 75 projects in December.
The move in July to a 4,000-square-foot shop west of downtown on College Street was the result of an unexpected visit from the city of Springfield’s Planning and Zoning Department staff. City representatives came to their residence to warn them that woodworking is specifically prohibited in a residential zone – a fact the women didn’t know. That precipitated a search for commercial space, which only took a couple of weeks, Brittany says.
“It was a step that needed to happen,” she says, adding the couple had gotten to the point where projects in various stages were spreading in and out of the house.
In the workshop
Aside from its work projects, the couple has hosted 30 Create and Take DIY classes in the Springfield area over the past two years. Locations rotate, but Hurts Donut Co. in Springfield, Copper Run Distillery in Walnut Shade and Sandy’s Deli in Nixa, have all hosted the events. The venues receive 10% of all ticket sales, Brittany says, adding most sell around 20 tickets at $30 each.
“But marketingwise, it’s priceless because we’ve had several orders come from individuals who came to the class and checked out our work,” she says.
Mary Mael says she’s attended at least five DIY classes. A retired schoolteacher with 30 years of experience for the Verona School District, Mael says she didn’t have much experience with electrical tools prior to taking the classes. Now, she’s made a three-tiered shelf, shadowboxes and a wooden Christmas tree with the Dyers’ guidance.
“It doesn’t make me as nervous to use those tools,” Mael says. “I get a little bit braver every time. They supply everything for each person.”
Aside from the workshops, which are usually held once a month, the Dyers have plans to open a retail space – possibly before year’s end. They’re researching spots now. The College Street space simply gets too dusty to have it share room with retail products, Heather says.
“I like our warehouse, but I just don’t feel like it’s the functionality that we would need for a furniture store,” Heather says.
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