Let’s ask Nicole Hodsdon, a Michigan-based woodworker who’s been bending plywood into stylish furniture and home goods since she launched her business Ciseal (“sis-EEL,” or layer in Irish) in 2013.
How did you start your business?
After getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I majored in product design at The College for Creative Studies. My first job out of college was freelancing in product design, mostly focusing on things like packaging, interior displays and craft design.
At first, I found clients on a word-of-mouth basis, but I started to get tired of working on other people’s ideas instead of my own. I decided I wanted to work on something more personal. In college I'd taken a course on bending plywood and I loved it, so I decided that was as good a starting place as any.
My brother-in-law was looking for a tablet stand and couldn’t find anything he liked, so I said I’d give it a go.
When did you know your business was going to work?
I decided to have a go at selling on Etsy. I started with just ten tablet stands to test the waters. I was so pleased when people liked them enough to buy them!I knew my business could work when I got my first repeat customer. It’s an amazing feeling when people want to buy your products, but it’s even better when they engage with you and buy your products as gifts for friends and family.
What lessons did you learn when you were starting up?
I would absolutely start with a business partner. My skills lie in the creative side of the business – designing and making – and the admin side of things can be overwhelming.
Even working at this small scale, I find a lot of my time is taken up with marketing, accounting and ordering supplies. I think my business would be growing faster if I had a partner to work on it with, to bounce ideas off and, most importantly, so that we could push each other.