Selling Custom Wood-Working Items (Butcher Blocks) through E-commerce – Nils Wessell of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 52:12)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Nils Wessell of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks shares the story of selling his custom-made high-quality wooden butcher blocks through e-commerce. A great case study on how non-traditional businesses can utilize e-commerce to find non-local customers.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: Poor Charlie’s Almanack.

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Nils Wessell of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks

00:00Introduction
01:11Story
05:12Selling woodworking items via E-commerce
09:01Products
12:25Getting first customers
14:25Selling E-commerce
17:13Custom made items on E-commerce
20:51Pricing
23:22Sales Channels
28:54Driving Repeat Purchases
32:04Advertising
33:59Shipping & Fulfillment
38:32Customer Service
41:09Team
43:10Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned
44:01Rapid Fire Round

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Nils Wessell of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks

  1. One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2021 and why? (Response: Poor Charlie’s Almanack)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current eCommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Metaverse)
  3. A startup or business and eCommerce retailer tech that you think is currently doing great things (Metaverse)
  4. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Boomerang for Gmail)
  5. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Just dump in the s&p 500)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Hey there entrepreneurs My name is Deshawn and welcome to Trep talks. This is the show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today, I’m really excited to welcome Niels Wessel to the show. Neil says the founder of Brooklyn butcher blocks, Brooklyn butcher blocks creates fine kitchenware, from cutting cutting boards to countertops. And today I want to ask Niels a few questions about his entrepreneurial story, and some of the strategies and tactics that he had used to start and grow his business. So thank you so much for joining me today. Trep talks.

Nils Wessell  

Yes, thank you. It’s great to be here.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So your business is really unique. I mean, you know, I would assume many people, when they think about starting a business, they don’t think about like starting a butcher block kind of a business. So can you share a little bit about, you know, what really motivated you to start this business?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah. So I, it’s kind of a few, I guess, backstories, that sort of lead to it. What in the moment that had me start this business was that I was actually working for knifemaker. And he was sort of people were paying attention to him, he was ending up. Very fortunately, getting pressed in some, like at some big organizations. You know, he was like, in Bon appetit. For example, I think when is one around the time I found them. He’s also in New York Times. And so while I was working for him, it was becoming clearly evident that I didn’t have the best skills as a metal worker. And this is sort of like a bit more of the backstory. But I was taught a lot by my uncle and my now deceased grandfather, just about general woodworking more like sort of construction based sort of skills. And a lot of that I took to college, and I was majoring in art and sort of use what they had taught me. So I figured, you know, I have some of these are basic woodworking skills. What if I sort of, instead of trying to fully emulate this knife maker, whose name is Joel Berkowitz, and his company’s called, is cut Brooklyn just thrown out there? Yes, a shout out. Yeah. I decided to sort of trying to fully emulate him. I decided, you know, what, if I sort of took sort of what I know, and sort of what is a little more of my craft, and what if I tried to hone it in the same way that you know, he honed his unsteady side is sort of like a parallel move, moving over to the side and then traveling sort of with him in the same direction. And that’s sort of like how that started to determine. So I was working on my own in the basement, actually honing my woodworking skills, I made a few things, small pieces of furniture, and also some cutting boards. He was giving me feedback at the time, and there was this show coming up in the summer of 2010. And it’s called the on Fancy Food Show. So sort of like a play off of the Fancy Food Show that’s, you know, been going on for decades. And he liked what he saw my work and he said, Hey, why don’t you come to the show? And show some your wares? And you know, to see how it goes. And it went? Well, it was really positively received. You know, I was drawing some interest from William Sonoma, and then a couple other sort of smaller food theme startups. And I just sort of rolled from that. So it was all that basically just sort of showed me like, it’s all just like lit a match on okay, like, Let’s lean into this I sort of bouncing around and now like, let’s commit a little bit more.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So how do you describe yourself? I mean, this is a business. It’s an E commerce business. But to me, it seems like you are actually making the product every day right? You’re doing the woodworking you’re you’re you’re the Craftsman creating the product. You’re just using E commerce as a way to get it to people who may not be living in the vicinity of where you are. How do you how do you see this because, you know, usually a business are a real business person would want to outsource their, you know, product manufacturing so that, you know, they’re more focusing on the business building growing the business itself.

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, um, so, you know, that’s always a little like, I often find myself in the same boat, I’m not really sure what to introduce myself as sort of, amongst my friends and everyone, you know, they all sort of know me as Oh, you know, that’s Mills, he’s a woodworker. And yet, I do, and I’m not saying I’m any, you know, ecommerce expert, or anything, but I spend a good deal of my time, sort of researching that and figuring out okay, you know, what, can I change here? You know, what, what? What apps? Should I maybe like, add onto my Shopify store? What should you know, the Meditite look like? What social media platform so be dedicating more time to, and I’ll research it, the great thing, it’s always about being a woodworker is that, you know, your your brain is, I mean, you certainly have to use it, but there are certain steps where I mean, you know, if you’re used to the certain actions, or the muscle memory that you have, and what you’re doing isn’t dangerous. If there’s a step that’s not dangerous. I mean, honestly, you know, I turn on YouTube on, like, a series of topics and things I want to learn about and understand better, and I just let that roll for eight hours. So yeah, I think, I think in the past couple of years, the journey starting maybe five years ago, particularly in the past two years, I definitely think I’m starting to feel as though you know, saying, you know, like, I operate an e commerce Store is equally as appropriate as saying, you know, like, I’m a woodworker, you know, it’s really, almost butting heads.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

But But do you think that you create the products because you just love the craft? Or do you think that, you know, someone else can create the same quality product, or, you know, in a certain point who you would want to maybe hire an apprentice, and, you know, start teaching them the craft, so that you can free up your time to do other things? Or maybe even you know, spend time with your friends and family or something?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, so certainly, like, in the past couple years, this is where some of that changes happened. I’m still misses, you know, kind of a, you know, a common problem with business owners who fail know, when to sort of let go. And I’ve had like more help in the past couple of years, whether it’s people sort of coming directly under me to do like, certain tasks, some of the some of the stuff is a little easier to sort of pick up, or, you know, I technically I work in like a little Co Op, like, that’s where my shop is located. You know, there’s like, 510 1000 square feet or something, there’s much about the woodworkers there. I mean, we have always sort of helped each other out, you know, one of us has a big job. And for the past couple of years, I’ve been the one needing a bit more help than others. So you know, that that’s definitely being able to step back a little bit, it’s hard. But it’s also been, like, definitely a growing experience.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So can you share a little bit about the products that you sell? Like, you know, what are the main products that are yours, that are your best sellers? And sure, what is unique about those products? And, you know, why do people buy it from you? Like, what problem? Is it solving for people?

Nils Wessell  

Sure, right. Um, too, I want to I realize I missed part of your last question, um, in terms of sort of like the quality. Definitely, like, as I pulled away, I’ve had to sort of make sure I’m watching more a little bit to make sure that quality is maintained. And while I admit, I think there’s been a slight drop in quality, I think as a response, customer service has more than doubled, tripled, quadrupled. And also stuff does get out faster, too. It’s just sort of the question terms, like the problem that it solves. I think there’s a few a few things. First off, is that people are sort of have a habit of associating cutting boards with just breaking apart frequently. And particularly, I think Do you know like Gen Xers and and third gen xers did a boomer generation, they’re accustomed to sort of buying something in the store that van basically churned out and broken them almost immediately and there was poor customer service, I basically am the opposite of that. I offer pretty extensive customer service, I respond to people very quickly. And also, you know, our boards tend to last a bit longer, we have a much lower split rate than sort of what the industry standard is considered. I think industry standard is like 3%, or like a 1%. Split rate. So, there’s that aspect too. But I think there’s also a little bit of a cultural aspect that actually doesn’t exactly circle around solving a problem. And I think it’s just a love of well made goods. And I saw that a lot with, you know, the knife maker that I’ve been working with, you know, if your problem is that you need to cut something, I mean, there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of knives you could buy that are 60 bucks and below. And you could say, well, you know, I want a knife that cuts really well. And that’s, you know, and that’s true, that’s gonna cost you more money. But even in that problem, the range that exists there, you know, you could talk about maybe $150 knife that was imported from China or Japan that, you know, will do the job. But then, you know, you have American makers who are selling knives for like six grand. So I think there’s little bit of a cultural element there as well.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Cool. So yeah, I think quality definitely, you know, there’s a group of people or in every industry that there are people who are looking for, like, well made really high quality products. So when you started your business, what you know, it is it is kind of a generic product or industry, like, how did you go about getting your first customer? Like, how did you know that? Okay, I can build this product, but there’s people who are willing to buy and then it motivated you to go and start creating more of these products.

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, you know, I am started on the street, basically, there was this, you know, it was just a street market. This particular one was called on the New Amsterdam market it closed recently. Actually, not recently, maybe that’s like, already been five years ago. But I would just pack up my bags in like a suitcase, you would take to the airport, I’d shove it full of cutting boards, I take it go go down the way on a subway, and go all the way over to Manhattan, haul them back up the stairs. And then, you know, after eight hours, I go back home. And, but a lot of people would show up at that. And including press. This was this was you know, right around sort of the 2007 to 2011 12 period, where I think there was a real food scene in New York. And you could argue there always is, but there were a few people that were always highlighted. And it just seems like you know, the New York Times couldn’t get enough, there’s something involving food happened in Brooklyn, they were covering it. And if you could kind of find a little niche in that press would just you know, pick you up. And also, any note, obviously, that would lead to other sales. And this is true with a few media outlets, they all have some kind of hub here in New York, you know, if they want a sample of something, I mean, I can literally throw in an Uber, and it’s gonna get to them in an hour. So I think there’s also a bit of sort of convenience that really helped the business sort of thrive. So press in contacts.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And so you didn’t have the digital presence at that time. what point did you actually create a an e commerce website and what motivated you to get into the E commerce?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, I actually had a some web presence. Not Not much, but I did have a website. Um, and it honestly just seems so natural. Like I like you know, you have a business of course you have a website. Okay. It wasn’t until a few years later that I talked with someone who was like in their mid 50s They’re just so impressed like I had a website and they did business through it and to me, it was just kind of like you know, no duh. But now you know, I feel so old fashioned way because I look at these kids you know, on tick tock or YouTube, like you know, like yourself, for example, And, like, you know, they’re there. They’re doing business. And I try sit there figure out how to make it work, you know, and it’s sort of well, anyway. Sorry, I went off a little too much there. What was the question again?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

When did you transition to e commerce?

Nils Wessell  

Right? So a friend had put up, you know, another website for me sort of improved, the one I had, and I kind of circled back within a year or two later, it’s like, you don’t want to be selling things off of this. Can you make me something? And they did. And after that point, after they made me that, I just started working on it myself. And that’s basically just how it happened to me.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And no, no, 100% of your business is ecommerce. No, you’re not selling like in trade shows? Or?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, I rarely go in person to anything anymore. It’s just even, you know, pre pandemic, and it’s a little more difficult now, I think, probably the family and frankly, I’m a bit more tired. And I love doing but most most of our business now is Yeah, absolutely. Like e commerce, people will either find a website, click and buy there, or they’ll want something custom. Usually, it’s like a custom countertop. And people will find me there either through the website or on Google Maps, which has we then absolutely, like immensely helpful.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I think one one unique thing about your website is that you are offering custom made products so you know, when someone adds the item to the cart, you know, you have the the fields there, they can enter the dimensions that they want. And I think that’s probably the value add also that the product that you’re offering that is you know, people can customize what they’re looking for. And do you also use like, custom wood? Or you know, the product itself? Is it like some something different? Or is it is it what’s usually available in the market.

Nils Wessell  

So, um, you know, really just about anything, if you want something in the market, basically, you just have to pay enough money for it. Actually, to in the North America, things are at pretty much in terms of hardwoods, I don’t know about soft woods in terms of hardwoods about as much that’s taken out of the forest is you know, replanted and is growing you know, it’s a similar rate. So in terms of sort of what I offer, you know, I take customer requests, but the primary things they offer or cherry maple and walnut, you know, they just the three of them just have such a rich history in furniture making and they’re just like, it’s like those are like the top three with everyone you know, gets they just love those woods for whatever reason. And there’s some some importance to of course, you have to select, like some woods would not be suitable for a cutting board. There are a few general rules of thumb like if a nut or a fruit or something, you know, grows off at the tree, it’s probably pretty good. So that’s usually you know, what happens in terms of what, you know people sometimes people want to select individual pieces of wood effectively, you know, they’ll say, you know, I want walnut, but I only want the brown part, I don’t like the blonde ish part. And it’s like, you know, more often than not, I tell people you know, it’s just part of the deal. It’s, that’s just what I offer. Some people probably would accommodate that. And sometimes I do depending on how much someone wants to pay but typically I try to veer away from that because one it means more waste which means perfectly good was just not being used which seems kind of weird to me. And two, it is difficult to it’s easier to get the client to understand that wood has a range and that’s like this need to select when they want to get something so that way if they don’t want a wide range you know do this pick a wood that doesn’t have that. The issue is is when they do want a wood there’s a wide range but that’s the one thing they don’t like about it it has like the color or the color it can potentially have it becomes difficult to communicate in words you know what someone wants what someone might say, Hey, I only want the light brown no dark brown, no blonde Well, you know what’s light brown to me might not be light brown to them. It can become a very involved and heavy process. So that’s why why I’ve set the things up things set things up the way I have

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

it Now, one thing that’s kind of interesting about your business is the pricing of the product itself, I guess, because I think in one day, you can only create so many different wooden boards. So how do you price your product where, you know, it’s almost like your pricing, you know, the hourly rate of your, of your craft, right? And the number of boards you can create in a day, then, you know, you also I guess you have to buy the word itself. Can you share a little bit about the thought process around that? And then do you really think that, at the end of the day, it really becomes kind of a service based business where you’re, you know, really, the profit that you’re making is really the the hourly rate of your craft is that.

Nils Wessell  

So when it comes to the custom work, it’s it’s absolutely service, in fact, it’s almost been difficult to manage, like, you know, they’re on the same website, but really, the customs part and the product part, operate totally differently in for years, they were constantly fighting for time and space in the shop, you know, like, we have a small take the square footage we have is not that big. So things really have to get completed and then replaced by something else. And it took a long time to kind of figure figure that out. So I would definitely say at the custom part, that’s a service business, it’s so much a service business, and now that they are separated better. There’s there’s some huge benefits to it. Certainly, like, you know, right now, the service business seems to be up and product businesses down a little bit. Now that, you know, we’re kind of past. I mean, we’re not fully past, you know, COVID. But I think a lot, the worst is behind us. On the product part. Usually, we’re nowadays, we really tried to do those in bulk, we try to sit down focus and try to do them bulk so that way, you know, we don’t work it out so much as our I mean, technically we do, but like what we really try to think about in terms of weeks. And because if you focus too much on the hourly it, like I initially tried to do that, and it was just too confusing. Between think about the other tasks that need to happen around the shop that helps support the product. Yeah, the product pieces. So we just look at in terms of weeks, usually, the wood can be about, you know, 25, almost a 20 25% of the cost, depending like right now, it’s things used to be a little easier, obviously, like prior to inflation. But it I had a system worked in to account for wholesale right now. I mean, wholesale orders. You know, basically it yeah, there’s no profit to be made in it right now. So the remainder that basically, you know, ends up with rent and labor and, yeah.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So which channels are you selling? And which channels work the best for you? If I know you have a website? Are you also selling on like, Amazon at fee other places?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, so our website is number one, by far leagues and bounds after that, you know, Amazon, but it’s really iffy. It’s difficult for us to work sort of by the schedule they want. And so, you know, maybe I’m getting like 12 orders there a year, or something? 1220? I don’t know. But it’s not much. And then on Etsy, oh, it’s almost like once in a blue moon or some very minor. These are in those two channels. You know, this is like I was talking about before, you know, my doing woodworking e commerce? Well, the E commerce side means like, I really want to start thinking how to build out a system for something like Amazon and or Etsy to try to compete in those spaces more.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So I guess, I mean, with a product like this, it’s really about you know, the when the customer is purchasing, like, you almost have to really communicate the value proposition of your board, because I’m sure there’s so many other boards out there that, you know, people who are just looking for a wooden board like they wouldn’t wouldn’t want to go for a higher price point, I guess. How do you how do you actually do that? How do you attract people to your website? Or how do you communicate that value proposition so that the people who are looking for that high quality product actually come to your website and buy it?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, I think you know, it’s a little bit of, I think, in some ways, the pricing also serves as a form of elimination. You know, it’s like To someone who doesn’t want to spend $100 on the cutting board, well, they’re not even, they’re not even looking around, I think most of the people are looking at me. Like, the only reason they would ever click a link to find me, is because they weren’t intimidated too much by the price. So, in some respects, it’s really I think, telling the story, I think actually showing my face, the first thing you see, when you go to the homepage, I think that helps. And I think the fact that it’s, I’m at a market, I think even that helps, because it’s kind of like, people are used to doing that. It’s almost like they’re sort of virtually entering like a market in a way. And I think, too, I think my store may have already mentioned it, but if I didn’t, the story helps. And plus, plus two, I mean, I think I do a good job articulating sort of the benefits of the products that we have. Like, for example, like the endgrain board, there are a few minor things that we do that are I think, are big bonuses. So one of them is that the particular pattern we make. One, I think it looks kind of aesthetic, to it’s not actually too showy, which I think that reserved quality actually like appeals to people. And lastly, it’s structural. So basically, if you go to Brooklyn butcher blocks.com, and you look at our end grain cutting boards, you’ll notice they have a pattern that simulates a brick wall. And that’s actually done so that you know, you have sort of one brick holding two more bricks together, right. And so as opposed to doing like a checkerboard pattern, where a glue line is made meeting at a specific point, it is, you know, theoretically assumed that that point is, you know, a gun is going to be weaker than like doing like a staggered pattern. And then lastly, you know, what is it, I think it was Test Kitchen on YouTube actually, maybe debunked this, but the history has been that with an green board, your wood fibers are pointing upwards, so when you’re cutting, you’re cutting down in between the wood fibers. And so as a result, your Nerf your, your knife, your knife stays sharper, longer. And the wood fibers actually heal back up a little bit. And then right, that’s less of an area for bacteria to reside in, etc, etc. And that actually is true. Across the board. Pardon the pun, versus plastic and plastic actually can really harbor bacteria in a way that I’m would particularly angry and can’t. And I suspect to like with on the test kitchens, while the test that they did they performed, I would be curious if they would get the same results if they were using a knife that was more in the 200 or 300 $500 range. Just because those knives are usually made so sharp, that they’re literally cutting at a cellular level. So I don’t know, I’d like to see that test done again, with some different different cutting equipment.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Interesting. So I think the one interesting thing about your business maybe that you know, because you’re catering to more of a high end client, maybe there’s an opportunity for you to sell another product to them. Right so do you have like so cutting board as your main product? Do you have other products that you try to upsell to them after they purchase the product and make it more of a you know, repeat purchase kind of thing?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, that has been really tricky. The best repeat business so far has been a people buying more gifts in that’s actually been you know, for for compared to other businesses that are structured Of course they have repeat customers and I’m not doing as well as they are for repeat customers. But for what I do actually have a pretty good repeat customer rate, I think. But the number one thing has been care products. I mean, you know all these cutting boards, they need oil, they need wax. And so people you know people come back for that I also have like an annual subscription for people. So that’s helped. In terms of selling like other wood products, it’s been really tricky because it’s just because of the name itself. Brooklyn butcher blocks it tells you know where it is and what it is. You know, people are looking for a chair like I tried selling some chairs and I tried selling some other things. And you know, I got one or two sales over The course of a few years, but it’s just that has not been the thing to, to really grab people what is work better, has been even just directing people to my other website. So I think on the upper right hand corner, I say there’s like custom furniture and something. And that redirects you to Neil’s Walker designs.com. And people can scroll through there. And I’ve gotten a little bit more. I’ve gotten people reach out a little bit more over that. And last thing they’ve really been trying to Well, one thing I’ve currently been trying to make work has been offering kitchen islands. And I developed that this last summer. You know, I admit the website, that area website, it needs more work. But because I was expecting to still though get like a sound bite or something. Nothing’s really happened there. So I think the issue bears, right now it’s set up like it’s a custom modular. Start clicking by situation. And I think that’s almost too complicated. I think I just need to make a small kitchen island, they can just click by and it’s done. You don’t select anything, it just is what it is. So I’m actually working on that now. And then in the future, what I have planned is I’m actually working on making a variety of finishes for and like care products for other items. Like, in particular I’m working on. It’s a soap and then a particular oil for some cast iron products.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

In terms of marketing, how, like do you do paid advertising? Do you do email marketing? Do you if most of your traffic really organic search engine optimization? Is it social media? Can you share a little bit about you know, what kind of how do you attract people to your website?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, first off, it’s organic. That’s number one. I’m usually from links where, you know, we’ve just been featured, you know, New York Times, serious eats. There’s a list there simply so like, you know, organic. And then Instagram is pretty, it’s been pretty decent. For me. I admit that, you know, again, this is another arena where I need to focus more on and I’d love to serve breach more insists are YouTube and Tik Tok. And I would say those are like the primary ones in terms of paid advertising. I have. I took a class on that actually, in 2020, just to try to better understand it. And I tried a few things. And I was getting a little bit of attention, some clicks, but not sales. And I think I have like a hypothesis as to, you know, what wasn’t working. And the short version is I think I’m just a little too niche compared to other competitors. And I’m too pricey, you know, it’s like, it’s like, those are two cons. And I think that’s one too many, at least. But I, the guy who actually did the class, I think I’m going to reach out to him. Sometime soon. I’d like to get their feedback on it. So yeah, that’s sort of where I am right now paid advertising. I’m kind of more interested in doing organic on Tik Tok and Instagram. I guess.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

From an E commerce perspective, I think one one interesting facet of E commerce is really the shipping and fulfillment aspects. You know, of course, the wooden board, I’m assuming that it has a decent amount of weight. Do you charge customers for shipping? Do you offer free shipping? How do you manage that?

Nils Wessell  

Um, so I charge customer shipping. But I also do offer sort of like, you know, Flash Free Shipping opportunities, you know, for customers. It’s definitely a, an issue. It’s also like, it’s, yeah, it’s an issue because it’s heavy, but it’s also the size relative to the quantity we’re selling. It makes it difficult to go to a third party logistics company, which I’ve really wanted to do and but it’s like, you know, the amount of product I’d have to store, like how much space I would take up, it would just it just makes it. It just makes more sense to do it in house and that was my thinking for a few years. Instead, what I did recently, sort of over the term of the pandemic, is I sort of set up my own third party logistics company so I found someone that I trusted. And I talked to them, I said, Hey, can I sell you, you know, our product, all that stuff, I said, Bring, can I ship that to you in bulk, and then give you orders to fulfill. And you know, I’ll pay you for your time doing it. And that worked out great. And it also was like a great, like creative problem solving opportunity to take on because it was like, it was getting really hard for us to do in the shop, it didn’t make sense to do it with a proper third party logistics company. Well, you know, what, I just paused and thought, you know, what is a third party logistics company? Really do? I mean, if we’re gonna be such a small part of that puzzle of theirs, it’s like, any person could do this out of their garage, you know, just do that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I think I think, you know, there’s probably a need for that, I think there’s a lot of small business owners, you know, they would much rather just hand over their, this part of the business to someone else, which is not a big company, you know, so that they’re still getting their data attention. And they can focus on doing what, you know what they really do best?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, it’s like that was, I mean, it was just, like, That’s the worst part. It’s like one of the worst tests like any, everyone in their lives must have put a box together. At some point, if you celebrate any holiday involving gift giving, like, you put a box together, anyone can do it. So again, you know, like, you don’t necessarily like you’d use a proper third party logistics company, right? Like, that’s kind of what I just heard demonstrates, like you, I think people sometimes always thinking I have to go to a lot of what’s one of the blue big ones, son, Shopify, what’s it shipbob or something? Yeah. It’s like, you know, don’t you know, like a family member, or someone who’s in high school, you know, slip a little more money. I mean, yeah, maybe it’s a little more expensive than you’d like to pay. But it gives them something to do with someone, you know, you can trust someone that you can get on the phone, you can set up your own system with them. And, and the flip side, too, is that, you know, giant covenant like shipbob. If you have some dislike little technical errors, when you’re printing your shipping labels, and you don’t feel like fixing it, you can literally just, you know, change it just by writing something down, right? Instead of having to go through your whole system, you know, find out what you need to change manually, right, and you can still hand it over to your relative, you know, that in some ways, it’s way easier than dealing with, you know, something like shipbob Maybe?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah, a lot of the times like the big three PL companies are, I think there’s more mistakes made, there’s less called quality control. And a lot of the times businesses regret working with them.

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, Reddit doesn’t have many favorable reviews about a lot of Yeah, yeah. And it’s important to do I mean, you know, like, a relative isn’t gonna do it perfectly, either, obviously, or a friend or whomever. But so part of that you have to accept that just handing it over. Right? It’s like you have to you have to work that the cost of that air into your costs, you’re not charging enough.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah. Now, one thing that you mentioned is the strength of your business’s customer service, can you share, like, what kind of customer service issue that you usually get? And like, why why is that a strength for your business?

Nils Wessell  

So the first thing is, I’m usually responding, like, at the longest time period, that I’m having someone wait is like, 24 hours, and that’s rare. Usually, I’m responding easily within 12. Mostly within three. The other thing too, is I, I, I don’t give any guarantees. I don’t publicly give out any guarantees. That’s what I’ll say. Because I’m a little worried how that might influence people to buy in sort of and and also the degree to which people feel like caring for their board recklessly, I guess, you know, I’m a little nervous about that. But low key they do they basically have, you know, like a five to lifetime guarantee, like, tell clients is that you know, and customers is that everything is done under review. So really, I just want to see some photos and check out what’s going on and hear their story. And there’s only been two instances with both the products and with custom stuff, where I haven’t made good in some way. Either a they got a replacement, they got their money back. Everyone else there’s only two instances in the past 12 years or 13 years. And that is one person and literally just didn’t get back to me after they wrote me. And they were sort of upset because their cutting board didn’t look like butterflies. I don’t even know what that means. But whatever, you know, make it right. They just never got back to me another client, it was a custom order. And basically, they got one of the dimensions wrong. We had agreed multiple times what the dimensions were. And then they paid for an invoice that clearly stated the dimensions. And you know, they kind of came back and said, Yeah, but in the first email, I said this, and it’s like, that’s the first email, we have another five instances plus you paying the invoice, which is like, the most definitive thing ever. Like, we’re not taking back, you know, a two by eight foot, two inch thick piece of wood, cutting it up, re milling it gluing back, bringing it back for free. Like, that’s ridiculous, like, sorry. So, you know, otherwise, everyone else I can make good on?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

What have your team look like right now? What’s my team look like? Is it just you? Or are there other people in your business also,

Nils Wessell  

it’s, it’s, I guess, it’s primarily me in the Brooklyn shop, I have people who come in. And I have, once upon a time, I tried bringing people in full time. And I had difficulty with that. Just space wise, sort of getting in also to, for someone else to be really at their best was difficult because the work can be kind of grueling, if you’re doing the same task for eight hours. So usually, you have people now four to six hours, only might show up three days a week, but I might have three people who do that. So that’s actually pretty good overall, in terms of filling out that week. Then, other sorts of of my, like, team members are people just who also rent from the shop I’m in. And a lot of them have various backgrounds, like a lot of them do cabinetry. One of the guys, you know, is a little bit of a welder, but he’ll hop on or give me a hand or I might give him specs to make something at. Um, so the team is quite varied. You know, it’s not like an office, you have people come in at nine o’clock out at five. It’s definitely more flexible.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Now, in every entrepreneur, journey, there’s always, you know, some mistakes, made, failures, lessons learned, you know, in your entrepreneurship journey. I mean, I can I can see it from your face. Can you share, like one or two big mistakes that you made that you thought that you think, you know, you might have done without? And what can other entrepreneurs learn from it?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, you’re you’re it’s fortunate that you put a number on that otherwise, you’d be here for hours. Man mistakes, it’s, I think one of the biggest ones was not finding help sooner, you know, trying to keep on shipping in the shop. I think that was like, wish I’d done that ages ago. Figuring out this rotational method of people coming in to help, or just using, you know, my my network. You know, I should have done that years ago. I think not going full time sooner. I am already giving too many. I’ve already given three. But yeah, I mean, all those definitely qualify.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire round. And in this round, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in one word or two word. So yeah, really quickly. One book recommendation for entrepreneurs or business professionals.

Nils Wessell  

I’m going to recommend poor Charlie’s almanac from Charlie Munger, Charlie Munger, yeah. Mostly for his you know, the methods I forget the proper, you know, whatever he calls them be the different sort of thought methods he uses for decision making. Basically, that’s like imperative for people, mental models, mental models better.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And Charlie Munger is still sharp, really sharp. I mean, the third plus it’s funny. So in brief, yeah, yeah. An innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce, retail or tech landscape. Do you feel excited about?

Nils Wessell  

Oh? Boy. I think right now I’m pretty. I’m I feel pretty good about the metaverse. I think it’s interesting that this the past six months or something has become this like huge like, discussion. And I don’t think most people know what it is. And it frankly doesn’t even know quite what it is yet. But I think people who are selling that one short. I don’t think they’re on the right side of history. Okay.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I mean, to be honest, I’ve I haven’t seen it. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I shouldn’t.

Nils Wessell  

But I mean, do you play video games? Or have you ever in your life? No,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

not really. So maybe

Nils Wessell  

we did you already? You’ve seen Grand Theft Auto? I have? Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, a lot of what I associate the metaverse being like a year ago, before it kind of like popped like that was basically it’s like an online, I described, it’s an online space where you know, you’re each playing sort of as your little character. But you’re not necessarily gaming, you’re also just sort of hanging out. And, you know, you can buy like, Oh, if you’re renting space in the metaverse, you know, you can have a little apartment, you could potentially in the future I see, you know, buy like virtual furniture for your virtual apartment. And people already buy virtual clothing for their little, you know, avatars or whatever. But I think there’s a real potential there. Like, the way I look at it is in the next 20 years. You know, I’m not counting myself out. I also have to be realistic that to some degree. And at certain at some certain point, I’m probably if I’m not already, you know, in competition with Amazon, and you know, if I’m a betting man, you know, if I’m not me, and I’m a betting man. You know, I mean, the bet is on Amazon. So I look at it. So when I see the metaverse, I think here is a great new opportunity for small businesses to move into, as Amazon takes over sort of like the web browser space, that area of clickandbuy. And then people, small businesses move over the metaverse and they start growing there. And because you know, to like, where are malls today? I mean, most of them are sorry, this is supposed to be quick fire.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay, good discussion.

Nils Wessell  

The, you know, we’re malls going to I mean, at best, they’re becoming like many theme parks. So, I mean, obviously, I’m not a teenager, I don’t have a teenager, my kids like one and a half. But I sometimes sit around wonder like, What the hell do teenagers do with your downtime? That’s what I did. I went to the mall, they can’t go to the mall. So I just think well, you can go online and go to basically what is a virtual Mall? What do you do? What did we do when we went to malls, we spend money, we buy music? We buy posters? You know, we put those on her effing walls? Like I don’t know. I don’t see how teenagers is going to are going to stop doing those core things in commerce that are sort of connected to self expression. And I don’t know where else they’re going to do it together, like socially, but a place like the metaverse.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I’m going to I’m going to try it out. Or check out a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tip.

Nils Wessell  

So what is called Boomerang for Gmail, and Google Chrome, having timed emails, like deciding when those can be released are great. And it is it’s really changed my life

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

and startup or business in E commerce retailer tag that you can do you think it’s currently doing great things. Great things. Any, any other products that are that you would that you like?

Nils Wessell  

You know, I, again, tied to sort of like you know, the metaverse I wonder how Facebook is going to do with the metaverse in particular their 3d headset. What does that Oculus or something. You know, if people can get into that just enough. That’s a really that item is a good It’s a good price. Um, you know for what it does in yet. It’s also like a hits that sort of Magic Online pricing range for an item like usually like 100 to 200 range is like perfect for ecommerce. But what they’re doing, of course, they have like a very specific product. And law. Yeah, I guess just have to see where that goes.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Final question, best business advice that you ever received, or you would give to other entrepreneurs?

Nils Wessell  

I would get very involved understanding compound interest in investing in I would jump in to retirement as soon as possible. Even if you’re telling yourself I’m broke, I’m not making any money yet. Yada, yada. Do it, just do it, just do it. Just do it. The only thing you’re going to do is lower your tax bill at the end of the day, you know, you, you know, look up the fire movement. You don’t have to prescribe to the fire movement, which stands for was it the RT is retire early and financially independent, retire early. But you can still pick up on those ideas of how to save money and implement them and get your compound interest in your investments rolling. Just dump in the s&p 500. Don’t know anything about it. Just do that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah, that’s that’s a great advice. So thank you so much know, the those were all the questions that I had. You know, if people want to buy your product, where can they go and connect with you?

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, you can find this at Brooklyn butcher blocks.com. And we have my email listed right there. And you can also find this on Neil Walker. designs.com.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Perfect. Thank you so much, Neil, for joining us today. Trep talks for sharing your story for sharing, you know, the Beatles, strategies and tactics that you use to grow your business. So really appreciate your time today. And thank you for joining us today. Trep talks.

Nils Wessell  

Yeah, thank you. This is great.

Thank you.

Also, get inspired to Create a Profitable Online Business with Dinesh Tadepalli – Bringing Edible Spoons to Market to Reduce Single-Use Plastics


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