Kevin Werbinski is the owner of Modern Design Group, a custom fabrication shop in Hailey, Idaho. Kevin spoke with us about his business, keeping his crew busy with projects, and how OnDeck financing has helped him achieve his goals.
Tell us about yourself and how you started your business.
I started doing cabinetry when I was 19 years old. I swept floors at a cabinet shop that was close to where I lived, and it slowly progressed into more complex projects. I moved down to North Carolina when I was 24 years old and took a job building custom yachts. That was a turning point as far as high-end work and design, and just really fueled my mind in that direction.
After a while, I got a little tired of living on the East Coast and put a resume online. I ended up moving to Idaho and working on some beautiful houses at a ski resort. I was working for a guy up here doing two very beautiful projects. One 35,000 square foot house, and one 12,000 square foot house, very high-end projects. I just really loved doing those types of projects – especially the high-end woodworking. When we finished those the owner decided that he was going to retire and move to Hawaii. He had built a good client base over the years and when he left he kind of turned his clients over to me, as I was the lead person in his shop. They had known me from working in their houses through him, and the clients called me after he left. And I just decided that was the next logical step: to open a business at that point and service those clients.
I started my first business about 10 years ago. We were in business for about five years and then a company out of Montana bought that business after seeing some of the work we did in Jackson Hole. I went to work in Montana for a little while and helped them set up some things. And then those business partners bought me out about four years ago. I used the money I received from that partnership and I came back to Idaho and started Modern Design Group.
The services we provide at Modern Design Group are interior woodworking, cabinetry, furniture, passageway doors, and wall paneling. We’ve gotten into a lot of custom steelwork, steel front doors, steel cabinetry. Any custom interior details we can accomplish.
What do you love about owning a business, especially in your industry?
Several things. I like the employees and the group of guys that I have around me every day, and the relationships I’ve built with them. It’s a great feeling and we all work well together. I love the design aspect of it more than anything, accomplishing a certain design intention. They’re more like pieces of art to me than just a typical house. I really enjoy being around that.
What are biggest challenges you faced as a business owner?
Hiring good employees and expansion come to mind as one of the first ones. It’s hard to find people who have an eye for detail and want to accomplish the same end product as you. Marketing the business at first was tough, I mean it was more knocking on architects’ and designers’ doors, sometimes feeling a little rejected, but always just pushing forward. It’s paid off now, but those were two of the biggest challenges in starting the business.
As far as the financing that we use, OnDeck has been awesome. They extended us a generous line of credit, and we’ve used it a few times now. It’s always helped in bridging while we’re waiting for invoices, and I really enjoy working with them.
What is the most exciting thing about your business?
I’m excited to think about growing it. We’re looking more into the Seattle and Denver markets. It’s very exciting for me to think about putting an actual full-time salesman to work as opposed to me being the only salesman. We’ve got a good client base and word of mouth tends to work well for us at this level. A lot of the projects that we’re working on can last years. I’d say at this point the business has kind of hit a plateau where, with the number of employees we have, we can only produce so much work, and we’re pretty booked up unless I want to expand the business and add more employees.
What was it like looking for financing as a business owner? Sounds like you had an a-typical experience in the beginning.
As far as financing for the business goes, at the startup of the business I covered a lot of expenses out of pocket with the buyout I got from the company I worked for in Montana. But there was a certain point where we needed to add extra equipment, and we just started looking for financing to do that. We looked at a few lines of credit, different loans, and landed on OnDeck because they were really easy to work with.
Why did you choose OnDeck initially?
I saw OnDeck pop up a few times on my Facebook page as I was skimming through there. I knew that we were going to be needing a line of credit here soon. I filled out an online form and received a call back promptly. My rep Justin was a very easy person to work with. I have a busy schedule so sometimes he would call me, and I would have to tell him, I couldn’t talk to him right now, but could you call me back in an hour or so, and he was always prompt with the call backs and that made it really easy to deal with. That lets you know that he’s paying attention and that they wanted our business. I’d say that was a main point in us landing on them. And the ease of when we need to request funds from them, it’s a simple couple clicks on my iPhone app and the money’s in the bank the next day. And, you know, I couldn’t really ask for it to be more fluid than that. It’s awesome.
What has been the most measurable results for you on your ROI?
Well, as far as return on investment, in our business if guys are standing around with nothing to do, it’s burning up capital quickly. Having this OnDeck money available has allowed me to purchase materials when I may not have the cash on hand right away. The materials show up, the guys are busy, nobody’s standing around, there’s constant production. The money is making us money at that point. Whereas if we would’ve had to wait for a client to pay an invoice to be able to order the next batch of material, guys wouldn’t’ve had anything to do, and then it’s just burning up capital. Having that access to buy materials ahead of time has really kept the flow of work good in the shop.
How has flexible financing been to achieve your goals?
We’ve been able to say yes to more jobs knowing that I have access to capital and knowing that I can order the material for clients. I can keep the payroll up to date and keep the guys working. I just tend to feel freer to take on jobs. A lot of times we don’t ask for deposits from clients because it’s more of a handshake and we start your job. But that takes me having the money to order the material to start a job. Again, having access to this capital lets me feel a little freer, and say, “Yes, we’ll build your dining room table, and I’ll get it started and you can get me a check, you know, next week when you’re back in town.” So, it’s let me take on more jobs and see more income for the business, for sure.