Amy Howley has always had a creative bent and her husband Dean loves working with wood.
Amy would find inspiration on Pinterest, and ask her husband – can you make this? Of course he could, so he did.
One of their first joint creations was a headboard. While shopping for one for their home, they were struck but how expensive these items were. Dean surmised he could easily produce one for the cost of some tools and wood. He was right.
Over the last nine months, this young couple, who recently relocated to Millbrook from the Durham area, have found themselves with plenty of time at home. A paramedic on maternity leave, Amy has been focusing on their 9-month-old son Dawson, while Dean, a Durham College instructor has been working at home since last March. They have taken their time together to take their creative bent further, building a small business out of their home called King & Tupper.
The business offers custom wood décor, art, toys and furniture they handcraft at their home in Millbrook. Their products include hand-painted wooden signs, custom shelves, rocking giraffes and stools. Many of their items never leave home. After seeing the finished product, Amy lays claim to it, asking Dean to make a second one to sell. Dawson has become a key inspiration for new products, and one of the next items in production is a play gym. They welcome the opportunity to create something special for their clients.
In September, they were accepted as one of 14 participants in the Peterborough and the Kawartha Economic Development Starter Company Plus program. It is designed to provide business training for entrepreneurs who are trying to launch a new business or expand one that has been operating for less than five years and has been a stepping stone for business to launch or grow in the region.
The program consists of five mandatory workshops which were offered via Zoom this fall. Under normal circumstances, work demands would have made participation in these meetings impossible for the Howleys, but this year the couple was able to join these meetings and learned a lot, particularly in the development of an extensive Business Plan for their business.
Despite his business background, the program gave Dean a few surprise.
First, the program drove home the value of market research. One of the first tasks was the completion of a market research survey to better understand what community needs and desires their business could address. While they were confident that they had a good idea going in, the wealth of information they acquired during this process proved to be invaluable. Sharing their market research survey on some local social media groups including Town Talk and Town Hoopla generated a great deal of support and encouragement, which was both reassuring and motivating.
The program also helped the pair appreciate the value of a business plan. The discipline of completing this lengthy exercise forced them to examine many facets of the business that they hadn’t fully considered.
They were also surprised with the support provided by the business community- even in a virtual setting. All of the workshop leaders throughout the 5-week program were local business owners, some of whom had previously participated in the Starter Company Plus program. Each of them offered to connect with the young couple to offer guidance and support, and to help them share their business with the broader community. Even other participants were effectively competing for one of the $5,000 micro-grant prizes shared support throughout the planning process and in the development of the video pitch which was the final assignment. Some have even become customers.
The entire experience reinforced the notion that members of the business community are all connected, and camaraderie can flourish even in competition.
Whether or not they secure one of the seven grants, the couple is grateful for the opportunity to hone their business skills and embrace the camaraderie of the business community. KG