09 May 2013

Happy 15th Anniversary to our biz!

Fifteen years ago we received our official registration for StoveKeepers and our business was born.  We had just moved to New England and one night had a friend of Art's over; he saw that we had a selection of mailers on franchise businesses.  He said he had a better idea.  He was a pellet manufacturer who had just lost a dealer in the town we were now living.  He said start a stove shop and I will give you the support you need and introduce you to industry people you will need to know.  I worked on our business plan for months and secured financing.  We received our registration in May, attended trainings all summer, and opened a shop with five stoves and several big plants (thanks Mom and Dad!) to help "fill the space."
Our first location was cozy and the landlord was very flexible and let us choose our terms.  SBA, who provided our financing, did their best to mess with our plans but we needed them initially so we did what we had to do.  We ran an ad and opened our doors September 1, 1998.  We did make a sale that day :-D, sadly it was on credit card so I could not frame our "first dollar."  Still, we were thrilled!  When we took a vacation to Colorado for Christmas that year we left a clipboard and a couple tons of pellets out back and let people take fuel on the honor system.  We worked really hard those first couple of years with Art working another job, me taking small computer jobs in between, running the store, doing trainings, installing, delivering and every other task in a day.  We were exhausted but having the time of our lives.
Not every day was a joy.  I still remember having a week to come up with $20,000.  I never thought we would make it and was terrified!  Somehow it all worked out.  After two years going solo we hired our first employee.  By 2003 we had three others and at that point I stepped out of the shop to tackle the bookwork that we had previously outsourced.  We grew every year for the first ten years and received top ten awards from Harman a few times. We won a cruise to Alaska with other high achieving shops and Harman employees.  That was a trip of a lifetime.  A train and cruise tour from Fairbanks down to Vancouver.
We have had three locations in our fifteen years, as well as an off-site warehouse.  In 2009 we were able to purchase our own property.  We took two years where we used it as a warehouse and fixed up the showroom, paved the parking lot, and put up a fence before we moved.  It was risky.  We were moving two towns away!  The move was stressful but within a year we had a record setting quarter which eased our minds about our move.
We now have five full time employees, one part time, Art and myself.  The industry is a roller coaster.  It is not for the faint of heart.  One year can see a 20% increase and the next 30% down.  Cash flow is my main job now.  Art's main role is managing the employees and vendors.  We are a good team and both agree that we couldn't/wouldn't do it without each other!
It is a good technology and I think I will say that we have done more good than harm.  We have done our best to provide a good and fun job for our guys with stability and perks.  I think our guys are also proud of not only the products we sell but the work they do.  Hoping for another ten successful years and possibly beyond!

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