Upper Cut Woodworks

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Blog entry by Matt (Upper Cut) posted 12-30-2009 09:39 AM 1823 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well guys, I’m doing it. Even though I have a full time job and a family, I am launching Upper Cut Woodworks.

LLC filed: check
Business banking: tomorrow
Customers: yes, already asking for custom baby gates
Logo: in progress on
Website: in progress at

Let me know what you think of the website, it needs work I know.

This will just be a part time gig for fun and vacation money.


-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

8 comments so far

View georgethegoat's profile


17 posts in 3406 days

#1 posted 12-30-2009 10:40 AM

i like that the site is clean and organized.

i would switch from wordpress to joomla or drupal. i saw that you work for microsoft. don’t know how tech savvy you personally are but making this switch would allow you to get rid of the blog feel (which maybe you’re shooting for) and make the site seem more commercial and consumer oriented.

that being said i actually like that you deliberately say that you’re not a high production shop.

these may be things you already know but the about section is still the default wordpress content and the link to shellac does not go where it should.

congrats on embarking on a great adventure. i took a fair amount of entrepreneurship classes in school and have since shied away from it but would love to start something small like this someday.

happy travels in the world of business

-- george

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3559 days

#2 posted 12-30-2009 01:02 PM

Nice website., clean and organized as George said….and looks cool and soothing…!
Franklly and sincerely, my first impression it’s a herbal based kind of supplementary food/medicine the entity is offering. Just a wild suggestion, (the present picture looks really cool) but add picture that reflects what you are doing/making. I don’t know, I might be wrong.

Anyway congratulation and wish you good luck!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 4374 days

#3 posted 12-30-2009 03:57 PM

A brave guy you are. I like brave guys.

In the words of Sam Maloof, “Never give up, never give up, never, never, never, never give up.”
(Spoken at the Western Design Conference, Cody, Wyoming, September 2006)
(the longer summary of his speech is posted here)

Personally, with a one-man artisan company, I like the homey feel of a family oriented website, and “blog” and a glimpse into who “You” are. I’m not into websites from one man shops that try to play off a bigger, commercial tone, like there are lots of people standing around working and waiting to answer the phone. When the truth is known, your customers will come to your shop and see you, and they will quickly know whether your advertised “image” matches your truth. If you want to be an artist, stick with the direction you have, but if you want to someday manage a bunch of workers and do commercial work, listen to someone else’s advice other than mine.

When I list my phone number, I listed it as “home phone”. We only have one phone, only have one employee (me), and a small shop, and I can only do what I can do. A technical upgrade in 2009 was to add an extension phone out in the shop behind the house. But, most of the time my wife will answer the phone in the house, and ask you to hold just a minute while she steps out the back door and whistles for me to grab the phone. It’s just the way it works, so why try and hide it? So, I prefer the folksy approach to a website and blog. I would offer this advice especially, if you are not full time at this new business.

I also suggest not doing what I did, and that was to quit a good day job. I’ve done that twice, and both times it was a hard thing to do. The first time I didn’t have a shop, nor tools, nor customers (that story is told here). The second time I quit, I waited until I had a two year, full-time schedule, back log and customers complaining about how long it was taking. Then, it was still tough to make the decision and pull the trigger, and say “Hey boss, I quit.”

For my business, custom furniture just died out completely in 2008. Not my choice, just nobody wanted much after Prez. Bush gave his “we are in deep doo doo financially” speech. I saw it coming in 2006 and 2007, and worked hard to market smaller things that people might really need, or really want for gifts. I stayed completely away from anything having to do with contractor construction projects, which helped weather this home foreclosure storm, which by the way, I don’t think is even close to being over with yet.

So, until people start asking for furniture again, I’m still staying “open” by doing smaller things. I don’t expect 2010 to be any better really. I sold four silver jewelry pieces in December, just another avenue to keep the DeCou Studio sign hung up (actually there isn’t a sign, never got around to making one).

I also suggest that you get a small group of friends who love you, care for you, and will be honest with you about what you are doing right, and wrong in your business. Then, listen to them, and don’t just defend everything you think is best to do.

Working for a large corporation could honestly be the WORST thing a guy can do who wants to start a small business. There is no intersecting experience you’ll gain from a corporate job, to apply to your small business. Working for a family owned Cafe resteraunt or bakery would be better experience for you I feel. I worked for two companies that were some of the largest corporations in the world at one point in my career, and both did NOTHING but handicap my mind in how to run a small business. It took awhile before the entitlement mentality that I picked up in those corporations to work themselves out in reality. No, there is no paid vacation, no sick leave, no benefits, no 401K they’ll put money in for you to lose in the stock market, and no other benefits.

So, why do it? Because it is a passion you can’t turn off. If that is true for you, you have a shot at it.

Oh, and listen to everything a customer says about you and your work. If it hurts, change that thing, don’t get defensive. They are correct.

Working your hobby job time as a business does not lend itself to what you can accomplish in a full time venture, but then again, you know you still have food to eat and health insurance. Don’t expect any rest for the next few years, it will take everything you have to give it, money, time, family help, friends help, and energy. I haven’t had my golf clubs out of the attic since I started this journey.

I believe that ultimately, the fancy logos, the fancy websites, and the brochures, and the long business plans etc., can be completely “trumped” by an extremely talented and creative artist who produces unique, original, and interesting pieces. If you can do that, you won’t even need a business card. I’m not to that point yet myself, so I hand out brochures and business cards at every chance.

Now, here is a big shocker to you web-tech freaks: Your personal website is probably a waste of time and money. Just post your projects on lumberjocks, do it often, do it well, and do some blogging. Use key words in your titles and text, and then get back to the shop and make something. The trouble with small websites is…....that nobody will see it. I haven’t updated my website in 2-3 years. Just isn’t worth the time. Nobody much finds the website unless they’ve found lumberjocks’ postings first. In 2008 and 2009, 93% of my sales have come from the internet, and I can attribute Lumberjock’s postings to all of that. Without lumberjocks, I would not be working in the shop now. Despite the thousands of business cards I’ve passed around, despite the hundreds and hundreds of brochures I handed out, despite the thousands I’ve invested in my little website. Just a fact.

Now, to be honest, in late 2008 and during 2009, I decided that I had to spend more time in the shop, so I slowed way down on my lumberjock posting and blogging. I post about 1/3rd to 1/2 of my projects now, and rarely blog. I enjoy “talking” with the keyboard, but I have to work, it’s the only thing that pays the bills around here. So, I don’t post anything these days that I don’t want to repeat in future orders over and over again.

In 2009 I started an Etsy Shop site to help manage all of the daily emails I would get from people asking for prices. But, the economy slowed that down to the point that the emails aren’t a burden anymore to keep up with.

Oh, one last piece of advice, don’t ever borrow any money you don’t have collateral for, and make sure it is collateral you don’t mind handing over to the banker. I’m debt free completely, and that along with gifts from friends and family and customers over the years, is how we’ve managed. If I was making a house mortgage, business debt, car debt, truck debt, and credit card bills every month, I’d already be saying, ”Hello welcome to our store, would you like a cart….how about a smiley face sticker for your child?”

Hoping for a good start in 2010 for you,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View SteveMI's profile


1092 posts in 3263 days

#4 posted 12-30-2009 05:23 PM

To save yourself some anxiety or a lot of grief later, make sure name you want to use isn’t already Trademarked and risk being sued or made to change it. Online check can be made at the Govenment Trademark site;

Just becauce you registered a domain name doesn’t mean anything if someone has a trademark on it. They can force you to give it up.

Consider what you have invested in the business. You can go naked and risk that someone will trademark your name or logo after you have established some business and force you to change it. Or, you can trademark each of them to “protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others.” That costs $325 for each name or logo.

There are urban legends of scammers that will search out successful business and then trademark the name with full intention of suing (blackmailing) you for the right to keep in business with the name. They will threaten reimbursement of money you made under that name from the time of trademark filing, which is a 3 month process. I call this an urban legend as I have not been able to find an actual account of this.


View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3908 days

#5 posted 12-30-2009 05:50 PM

Good luck Matt. I, for one, will be eager to watch your success.

-- Working at Woodworking

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3617 days

#6 posted 12-30-2009 06:00 PM

looks good. I like the cleanliness of the site.

good luck.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Matt (Upper Cut)'s profile

Matt (Upper Cut)

264 posts in 3782 days

#7 posted 12-30-2009 06:13 PM

Thanks for all the advice guys, I really appreciate it.

@woodworm yes the graphics right now are berries and trees, and need to be changed to be oriented to what I’m doing. Those graphics came from the wordpress template.

@SteveMI I did the trademark search already, lots of “dead” hits and 3 “live” ones, but they don’t use a space in Upper Cut, and the legal name we’re using in the LLC is “Upper Cut Woodworks, LLC”

Hopefully I’ll get some time this weekend to really update the content.

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3559 days

#8 posted 01-22-2010 10:34 AM

Visited the website today. It’s very impressive. I’ll be visiting as often as I can to see new things and the progress & developement. Good luck Matt Gradwoohl.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

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