January 14th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh
Editors note: OK, this is really me (Peggy) but I found this old photo of our Marketing Manager Dennis Shanoff and it got me wondering how we ever survived the early days of start-up.
Eight years ago I started this online furniture store. I had no experience with ecommerce— or any sort of business for that matter. I am a chemist by education and a teacher by trade. I had recently lost my job, I was approaching my 50th birthday and I decided my next career was going to be my last. Thirty years after graduating from high school I would finally take the advice my guidance counselor offered: “follow your passion”.
Fast forward a few years after (a slow) start-up. I’ve just hired a “Marketing Manager”, Dennis Shanoff. It’s his first day on the job. I’m imagining this conversation he’s texting to his wife:
Dennis Shanoff: My boss is a cat
Dennis: sends selfie (above)
Dennis: I’m sitting at a desk in this lady’s spare bedroom trying to figure out how I’m going to build a furniture brand around her passion
Susan: which is?
Dennis: saving the rainforest
Susan: from Vermont?
Dennis: most furniture is made from rainforest woods. Peggy’s trying to raise awareness about that and promote sustainable Vermont made furniture instead
Susan: OK so it’s a stretch. Don’t panic
Luckily Dennis didn’t panic. Four years after what must have been an unnerving first day at work, Dennis Shanoff has helped transform a fledgling start-up that no one believed would ever get off the ground, into a small business with a reasonable chance of long-term survival.
I don’t think our story is that atypical for small businesses in Vermont or throughout America for that matter. It’s full of hopes and dreams and absurdity. Luck, misfortune and determination. But more than anything it’s a story of how a small group of disparate entrepreneurs managed to leverage their differences in an effort to change the world.
My friend Annette thinks I should start reflecting on this unorthodox journey with Vermont Woods Studios and share my memories here and on Medium.com. Maybe others with a passion to make the world a better place will find or offer encouragement. Think? Let me know (on Facebook or in the comments section below) if you’d be interested to read more start-up stories about Dennis, Douglas, Ken and the gang.
September 28th, 2011 by Dennis Shanoff
By Dennis Shanoff
Here at Vermont Woods Studios, we have always (and only) sold 100% USA made wood furniture. Vermont made furniture to be more precise. And the reasons this matters are many and compelling. Let’s start with superb, lasting quality and built from a natural and sustainable material. Well that’s good for your wallet and very good for the planet. And when you factor in the US jobs it creates and the local economies it helps support, well to me that’s when it becomes very compelling. Our product and service choices really do matter and can make a difference.
This past year ABC news ran some Made in America feature stories. You may have seen all or part of these week long series specials on the nightly news. They did a great job of raising awareness of how little we have in our homes that was produced in this country. And the obvious “reason this matters” drawn from these segments was how it has impacted the US economy and our jobs market.
So it did get me thinking that maybe I could shift at least some of my buying to US made goods (as challenging as that sounds). I would do my part plus I certainly have been experiencing some quality issues with my offshore made products, especially tools. Why is my father’s power drill from the 1950’s still working while I am on at least my 5th one!
And my next thought was that I couldn’t be alone in this thinking and that sooner or later a “Buy American” movement would begin. If ABC news couldn’t push this movement, no one can! Well the whole ABC coverage did inspire and encourage me to think more about this and ponder what a small movement with “spreading potential” could do? When could we make a really big difference? How about the time of year when we really ramp up our spending? What would be an easy to adopt theme? And then it hit me, holiday shopping is right around the corner. How many Secret Santa office parties will there be? How many school children will be partaking in a holiday gift exchange? And how many families and friends will be having an old fashion Yankee Swap! So why not an American Made theme holiday gift party this year? And that’s just what we are going to do here in our Vermont Woods Studios office and that’s what I am going to do when it comes to my family and friend gift buying.
In the coming weeks I will be posting on this blog the results of my findings and ideas. So if you are curious as to what I find or if you want to share your thoughts or findings please come back and post your comments here (or even better– on our Facebook page).
Now imagine if a million holiday gatherings follow this Buy American theme this season… well that will really matter! Join us and pledge to Buy American this holiday season.
June 6th, 2011 by Dennis Shanoff
For years I've been trying to either cajole or coerce some of the creative people at Vermont Woods Studios to guest blog for me. Our team members' lives are infinitely more exciting than mine so naturally I am ecstatic to finally report that I've recruited a guest blogger, Dennis Shanoff. Woohoo!
Dennis is an ace online marketing genie and an avid outdoorsman and naturalist. I'm excited to welcome him to this forum and I look forward to reading his posts. Here is the first:
"My weekends discovery has reminded us at Vermont Woods Studios to thank our customers who have “feathered their nests” with our cozy Vermont Made furniture.
You might be interested to know that other families are beneficiaries of the Vermont Furniture you chose for your home! It’s just that these families happened to be feathered! You see the small lumber cutoffs from some of our craftsman I turn into nesting boxes for birds, specifically the Eastern Bluebird and the equally beautiful and graceful Tree Swallow. These guys eat pesky bugs and they eat up lots of bugs when their young arrive!
I maintain about a dozen boxes in my yard and some of my neighbors that have the right terrain have placed our nest boxes in their yards. I monitor these boxes every few days to see how things are going. As usual this year I have full occupancy. Mostly Tree Swallows but I have observed 3 boxes taken by Bluebirds. This past Saturday I found eggs in all the boxes and in one box a Momma Bluebird was sitting tight.
So Sunday morning when Momma bluebird flew out to get some breakfast I checked into the nest box and discovered tiny hatchlings that couldn’t have been more then a day old! Perfect timing! This is the soonest I have seen them after hatching. About the size of a Nickel!
The Tree Swallows should be hatching very soon too. While the Swallows will hatch, fledge, and hang out a bit, they will eventually move on. The bluebirds on the other hand will repeat this process 2 or 3 more times this summer. And the young from the first Bluebird hatch will stay around to help Mom & Dad take care of the next batch! And so it goes on my land year after year. It’s such a great feeling knowing each year you helped nature put 60 or more beneficial birds on the planet and in the skies!
So we thank you and a big thank you from our appreciative feathered friends! They just love these nest boxes! And we hope you are loving your newly furnished nest too!"
Contributed by guest blogger Dennis Shanoff