Editor note: this is the first post in the business owner of the month series, where Incfile highlights a different business owner from a variety of different industries. These owners will share their insight to inspire other entrepreneurs. To make your own entrepreneurial journey successful, consider getting your LLC with Incfile.
Brothers Erik and Adam Bublitz are leading the makers' scene in California with their unique custom laser cutting, laser etching and LED lighting projects. From Uber's holiday party to Slack's laser-etched name tags, SoulMind Studios based in Emeryville, CA has been hired by some of the Bay Area's best tech companies to produce workspaces, signs and more. We interviewed this passionate duo focused on manufacturing 'at home' in the U.S. and progressing America's rich history with industry and fabrication to learn their insights on being entrepreneurs.
1. What made you decide to start your business? What need did you see it fulfilling?
EB: Laser engraving and CNC milling was something that I took on as a hobby, working out of TechShop, a former maker space in San Francisco. I have always been into building and math and always wanted to own my own business so it seemed natural to start here. It is also a way to really help other people, which is something I always need in my life. With our skills and technology, we have been able to help a lot of people and small businesses bring their projects and artwork to realization.
AB: I have been interested in my own business and knowing the inner workings of how large operations function. I have always wanted to make a positive impact on my surroundings and work on creative projects that were beyond the scope of just one person. When Erik came to me with an opportunity to work on projects with the latest in fabrication technology, I was very interested in the chance to help bring the access to the people with large ideas. I see this business fulfilling the need for everyone to have access to the right tools and knowledge to see their projects flourish.
2. What has been the hardest challenge as business owners and how did you handle it?
EB: The hardest part for any small business, I think, is employees. Employees are always in motion, living their own lives, dealing with their own passions and problems. So, remaining flexible and supportive with our employees, while also growing and expanding, has been my biggest challenge. We have been lucky and have had an excellent team for quite a while. I understand that the business is Adam's and my dream, and we can't exactly hold people to making this business their dream as well.
AB: I would add to Erik’s comment that the hardest challenge that I have noticed is to keep making logical and rational decisions in an ever-changing environment. The lifecycle of a small business is amazingly diverse, not just with the totally different tasks that make up the day to day agenda, but also with the structural changes that can shift the business focus in a totally different direction. Small businesses have to be very nimble and flexible to be able to gain ground on some of the existing and larger competition. Keeping a calm mind and not letting obstacles affect your decisions is an ongoing process that we continually strive to achieve.
3. What has been the best parts of owning your business, besides working for yourself?
EB: Besides working for myself, it has to be that the constant sense of purpose I feel, knowing that we are helping people with their art and dreams, while fulfilling our own. The fact that I have a focused goal that I can work on every day gets me out of bed every morning.
AB: The most surprisingly good part of the business that I see are the connections with others doing similar projects which make up the community of builders and makers. Once we decided to pursue our dream, it was amazing how many people came forward to help resolve some of the issues and worries we were having. We are lucky to be in a collaborative space with others like ourselves that we can discuss both good and bad ideas and determine the best way to handle any obstacle.
4. How did you handle growing large enough that you needed to start hiring employees?
EB: Through exhaustion. It got to a point where we couldn't meet the demand, and that is when we started looking into hiring help. We have always, since the beginning, had people interested in helping out and learning what we do. So, we were able to choose the right people for the right job. We look for the type of people that can wear many hats and like to learn. And as I said before, we have been insanely lucky with our people.
AB: It was definitely a change of attitude and transition period for us as a company. We basically came to the conclusion that one person running our fabrication machines could only, realistically, accomplish so much in a day. At that point, we were constrained by our labor much more than our machines and it was obvious we had to bring on more help to help with all the support roles that we need. Hiring employees is a very exciting and nerve-wracking step in the process of growing a business — primarily because they introduce a whole other set of complexities that were avoided up to that point. Not only do you want to hire the right worker with the skills needed for that position, but you also need them to integrate with the current personalities on the team. As Erik said, we have been very lucky in this regard and looking forward to growing as a team together.
5. What advice would you give to new business owners?
EB: So many things. Just go for it and remain flexible. Problems are going to arise and are always a constant, so just go with it. While it's really challenging, it's also very rewarding at the same time. Do something that you are passionate about. It may be tricky to honestly figure out what your passion is, but in the end, you can't take something that you don't enjoy doing very far.
AB: Since such a large venture as opening your own business might be way too large to think about as a whole, start to break it down into smaller and more manageable sections. This is very useful for focusing attention when there are too many little things to think about as a whole. Maybe it is too much to think about every task needed before launch, but you can think about the types of customers you will try to acquire. If your view is still too large to think about as a whole, go ahead and break it down even further. Do this until you are comfortable with the full scope of your view and start making actionable items. Finally, try not to worry about anything outside of the current view until your next planning session.
If you are looking to have a creative idea turned into a real-life work of art, SoulMind Studios can help you brainstorm ideas as well as take what you’ve envisioned and manufacture it using acrylic, wood, high-density polyurethane, leather, medium-density fiberboard, metal, modeling foam, paper, plastic, or glass. You can also find SoulMind Studios on Facebook, Instagram and Yelp.
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