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Learning to Say "Yes" to New Business Opportunities. Meet Husband and Wife Duo Nate and Erin Moren

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Husband and wife duo Nate and Erin Moren have been on the same track since they met at college. Now, with their company Tandem Made, they've combined business with pleasure to make high-quality, bespoke furniture, jewelry and home accessories that blend function with style. 

 

Erin loves the excitement of producing unique items for equally unique clients, so we chatted with her to learn more about what their day-to-day is like, how they price their products and what areas she's hoping to master next as a successful small business owner.

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Name: Erin Moren

Business: Tandem Made

Started: 2011

 

How did you create your awesome job?

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus on furniture design from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). That’s where, in the woodshop, I met my husband and now business partner, Nate, who was in the same courses.

 

We started  Tandem Made just after we relocated back to Minneapolis from Chicago, where Nate worked as a metal fabricator and I was studying Arts Management in graduate school. 

 

We’ve always been focused on producing amazing individual furniture pieces and we’ve tried hard to listen to our environment and sculpt our designs to reflect our clients’ wishes. At first, that meant getting to know people and doing anything that came our way. But, as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to put our energy into creating one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture alongside a range of off-the-shelf home goods and accessories.

 

Who was your very first customer?

Our first customers were my Mom and Dad! 

 

Knowing that Nate had a degree in cabinet making and I had experience with construction, and that we both had a knack for design and space planning, they were quick to ask us to design and make their kitchen as soon as we had set up shop. 

 

At the time, we were renting a studio to start a business out of while also looking for part-time work. This job gave us the opportunity to concentrate on making things together, and we’ve been lucky enough to carry on doing that.erin_moren_3.jpg

 

 

 

When did you know your business was going to work?

There are still moments when we’re surprised at what we’ve achieved together, like when a big project is complete or when we invest in a new tool. 

 

But we know that as long as we continue to be excited about the future and the ideas keep flowing, Tandem Made will always work for us.

 

What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?

The biggest surprise since starting up has been the time it takes to do all the business stuff. Even though I studied marketing, accounting, finance and project management, and I knew how to run a business on paper, I needed on-the-job training to really understand it all. 

 

Whenever we find ourselves caught up with the boring bits, we focus on our awesome clients and remember we’re in this to make great pieces that challenge us and make people's lives more beautiful and efficient.

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How do you price your products and services?

Since most of our pieces are custom-made designs, our quotes are based on the size and complexity of each commission. 

 

We’ve always been good at breaking each project down to estimate costs. Final quotes include materials, labor and shop expenses, then we usually add a percentage for incidentals. 

 

We also track all time and material costs and compare it to the original quotes, so we learn from our experiences and continue to streamline the quoting process.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

We’ve gradually evolved into a rough routine that works most days. 

 

We normally wake up at around 7am and start the day by responding to emails. Between 9:30am and 10:30am, we prepare to head to the shop, which involves packing lunch, purchasing supplies from the hardware store and stopping by the bank on our way in. 

 

From 10:30am until 6pm, we work in the shop. This could involve working with wood or metal, cutting, finishing or just experimenting around a new project. 

 

We get home by 7pm and make plans for the next day before fixing dinner and doing chores around the house. By 10pm, we’re ready to relax, which usually includes snuggling up with our two miniature dachshunds and trying to stay awake for at least one episode of a show on Netflix.

 

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If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?

We’re lucky that we both feel like we’ve been doing this with intent from day one. There’s not much we’d change about how we’ve created this business, but we’d have been a lot less nervous about it in the beginning if we'd known it was definitely going to work. 

 

Through experience, we’ve learned to say “yes” to opportunities and trust ourselves. We know we’ll figure it out somehow and, over time, we’ve learned to tap into the amazing support that’s out there.

 

What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?

We would love to understand business growth better and know what our options are. Hiring an employee is intimidating, but maybe there are there other steps we could take? 

 

Over the past year, we’ve developed a product line that we want to bring to a wider market, but we’re not sure where to begin when looking at vendors outside of our geographic area. We’re learning as we go about packaging, shipping and the wholesale game, but we really want to know how to up the ante and get our work out in the world.

 

Let's help Erin out!


When it comes to retail success, having a great product is just the beginning. 

 

Can *you* help Erin and Nate find the new customers they need in order to take their business to the next level? Share your thoughts on hiring a new employee, or add your tips for how they can expand their marketing to reach a wider audience.

 

Can't wait to hear your stories. :-)

1 Comment
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Level 7

Learning to Say "Yes" to New Business Opportunities. Meet Husband and Wife Duo Nate and Erin Moren

I am currently in the process of researching and learning the best ways to go about hiring employees. To get started, I ordered Hire Your First Employee by Rhonda Abrams. Has anyone read this book or have any experience they can share?

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