When starting a business, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit some bumps along the way. How you handle those obstacles is what can make or break a business. We asked our Founder of the Month Jeff Noll from Plum High School about the struggles Simple Rick’s Woodshop faced early on, and he was quick to point out the quality control in a classroom environment can be a real challenge. Simple Rick’s creates cutting boards and walking sticks made from different wood types, such as maple, cherry, and poplar. Maintaining product consistency and quality are essential for any successful business, and here is how Jeff’s class handled it:
Simple Rick’s WoodShop strives for perfection. One of the early issues we faced was the nature of our cutting board wood. We’re using mostly donated or repurposed materials, and we found that many pieces were full of physical or cosmetic imperfections. We decided to hold class discussions to figure out how we may be able to continue using the material given its conditions. We could not afford new wood and we did not want to change product lines, so the students suggested we re-brand. We brainstormed ways to convey that our handmade cutting boards would have imperfections. The class decided that labeling our products as “rustic” would set the right expectation! When posting products on our website, we also tried to choose images that show the variations of grain prevalent in the Maple.
After students cut the wood and laminate the faces, the attention to detail begins. The boards are cut to length based on extreme issues with knots and/or rough wood. Each cutting board is cut to allow the maximum size with the best quality. Students then apply sandpaper, sealer, and waxes. Some boards are routed on a particular side to designate an “up” side. The quality of the seams on the “bottoms” of some of these boards make them one-sided, while other boards that are clean on both sides can be sold as double-sided.
Some wood types are more aesthetically pleasing, while others are better for avoiding liquid absorption. Balancing the different varieties to make cutting boards that are both practical and beautiful can be a challenge, but our students are managing this well. We’re excited to see what the future holds!