Happy Anniversary Brandon Built!
After moving back to my hometown of Kearney, Nebraska this summer, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many amazing makers right here in my own community. One such business that I’ve enjoyed watching grow right alongside my own business, is celebrating their first anniversary!
I recently sat down with the co-owner, Isaac Mertens, to learn more about their story--in hopes of celebrating their success and inspiring other makers! So here goes:
Once upon a time...
In late winter 2016, three friends (Brandon Hotz, Brandon Rohr, and Isaac Mertens) were hanging out together and got to talking about the homes they’d each recently purchased.
Each was working on outfitting their first-time abode with basic furniture and not finding what they wanted (or wanted to pay for) at furniture stores, and each had become drawn to the idea of tinkering around to DIY things.
Another similarity came up: each liked the industrial style of galvanized pipe that was popular in home design (and on Pinterest.) Surely a table with four pipe legs and a wooden top could be easily made, right?
Thus, before they knew it, they were in the early workings of creating Brandon Built.
After successfully making a few items for themselves, the group then began to wonder if they could make things other people would be willing to buy. Isaac had helped his mother set up an Etsy shop previously and was familiar with the platform, so figured they could easily do the same.
Brandon Built opened for business on Etsy on February 23rd, 2016.
The rest of the story goes like you might hope to expect. Things grew slowly at first--their first order was a $14 towel rack, then they got a $140 shelf order, then more consistent orders began to come in.... But what you might not expect in this modern-day Cinderella story is what the group was doing with its proceeds.
Since the very inception of their business, Brandon Built has given away almost 100% of their proceeds. *Jaw drops.*
Yes, when Brandon, Isaac and Brandon formed their company, their primary goal was to be able to bless others in the community of Kearney. In fact the company's tagline is:
Building Industrial Furniture to Build People Up.
Their giving is also done in a rather untraditional way. Their first proceeds were given out to an individual neighbor whose car battery had given out and was unable to get to work without the needed repair. The group then formed a relationship with one of the school psychologists at Kearney Public Schools and partnered to give out hygiene items and school supplies to elementary children in need.
One day they bought and delivered $3000 worth of hygiene items for an elementary school--all items were given out by school nurses within two days.
Said Isaac about why taking such a unique approach to business, “We just want to be a blessing to others, to lift off weights so individuals are able to find success. Plus, I just want to make cool things and be a part of cool things.”
And a part of cool things they have become indeed. As of just a few days ago, Brandon Built made its first overseas sale: a shoe rack to an individual in London. (The buyer paid four times the cost of the item in shipping costs!)
Shoe racks have actually become the top-selling item for the company. Depending on the day, searching “shoe rack” on Etsy brings up Brandon Built as the top result!
Finding success in creating products like their top-selling shoe rack has come mostly through trial and error. Isaac said some other things he’s found beneficial to their success today include:
- Being able to source products at wholesale prices by finding better distributors
- Creating products for every room of the home so buyers are able to cross-purchase items.
- Staying on top of trends and search results within Etsy and putting their spin on products that appeal to those interests.
- Providing impeccable customer services which has lead to great reviews.
- Testing out promoted listings and making sure to include top keywords in their product listings.
Today Brandon Built is continuing to grow at a steady rate and is also doing more and more custom orders. They just finished a full-kitchen shelving unit for a buyer in Arkansas. (Because they use industrial piping, the order can easily be disassembled and shipped.)
Reaching the One-Year Milestone
Isaac has a lot of things in store for the company and yes, has finally has started to take a moderate salary, though they still give the majority away and plan to always do so.
With the incredible, and frankly unplanned success Brandon Built has experienced over the past year, they are committing to making their side hustle an actual/legitimate business (like registering with the state of Nebraska as an LLC, fun stuff like that....) The company is also in the process of moving out of Brandon Rohr’s garage and into their own shop!
They're excited for what lies ahead, consistently adding new products to their shop, building partnerships within the community, and actively looking for ways to bless the people.