Day 72

Day 72

I think that every business will succeed if the owner feels like there is no stopping it.

— Peter Buchanan-Smith

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Peter Buchanan-Smith returns to Kern and Burn for the third time. On Day 21 we talked with him about how designers make great product people. On Day 60, we told our story about the importance of just getting started. Now, for Day 72 we’ve asked Peter to get to the heart of the business-side of Best Made Co., and what keeps him passionate about crafting great products.

The idea for the axe really originated with Peter’s desire to make something real, something that would see the light of day. The axe existed before the Best Made Co. brand, and Peter’s dedication is what allowed the business to develop.

He was invited to contribute some products to a gallery in New York, and he decided he didn’t want to make something in a way that he was used to or comfortable with, he wanted to make a real product. He painted 12 axes for the show and they sold pretty much instantly. Peter said, “I just put two and two together. My inclination for everything is, ‘Oh, we can start of a business out of that.’ So, rather than just keep painting axes, I decided, that no, this was an excuse to start a real business that’s going to sell products in addition to the axes.”

After the show, he photographed the axes, built an e-commerce site, and within two to three weeks Best Made was up and running. We asked Peter what it was like to realize the potential of an idea, start a company the next day, and how he had the courage to take a risk, and just start—without a plan. All he had was a passion for the product.

He said, “I spent the first three years of Best Made Co. totally flailing around with what I would consider the backend stuff, the stuff that no one ever sees. But I had my hand on the pulse and worked very hard to craft all of the stuff that people do see. I don’t want to sell the business end short, I think it’s hugely important. It sounds stupid, but as long as you’re making money, that’s the most important thing—you may, because of your lack of business skills, lose it— but if you’re a good designer, you can make up for that. Looking back, I sort of feel like I’ve spent the last two or three years building my business plan in real time, and I think that that’s a good thing.”

Best Made has become a household name for what people see—the details, the craft, the story, and the heart—the hard work is evident in the end product. We asked him about his idea of success.

He said: “Let me just say that I think that every business will succeed if the owner feels like there is no stopping it. The only way to get to that point is to basically just be so in love with what you’re doing that there is no such thing as failure. I said, ‘Well, if this project just ends up becoming: me, painting one axe a month for a friend, and mailing it to them, then it’s still a success.’ A lot of people would consider that a total failure, but I remind myself of that. Once you wrap your head around what you think is the worst possible case scenario, everything else is so easy. It becomes really simple.”

Peter said, “As a kid growing up on a small farm, I had to sort of self-entertain. The obvious activity that I gravitated to was to make things. Or destroy things. One or the other. I think that was really where the seed was sown, and I still feel like that’s what I aspire to do, to just make things.” To Peter, it’s enough to make products that people appreciate and enjoy. We think that’s wonderful.

So many great things to come in the book. It was hard to condense the conversation to just these quotes (Peter should really take on motivational speaking as another side-project). We’re inspired, and we hope you are too.