Hi, I’m Carolyn. My husband Marshall and I started Pinecone Home in 2013 when it was just the two of us. Five years later our Pinecone Home team has grown, and so has our family.
On the hunt for the perfect accents for our wedding reception in a historic art deco train station, I was introduced to Etsy and amazed by the incredible range of unique products being created by everyday people. That initial introduction to the maker movement changed the way we looked at the products we encounter every day, subtly at first, but then dramatically.
Fast forward six months later to our honeymoon on the Big Island of Hawaii. After a meandering hike through lush Hawaiian jungle with a soundtrack of waves crashing against the rocks, we sat on a boulder and pondered our future. Surrounded by beauty, we felt inspired and hopeful for something more than jobs with meetings about meetings for the next 30 years. Joining the maker movement and being our own bosses felt right, although we were unsure about what our contribution would be.
Marshall has been described as practical to a fault by his friends, so he deemed making something that could only be enjoyed for your wedding day was “stupid”. Unique and functional became the goal for the first Pinecone Home product ideas, and that goal hasn’t changed since.
A few short months after our Hawaiian honeymoon, we quit our safe corporate jobs, moved home to Cincinnati and started Pinecone Home in our basement. Those early days were a mix of hopeful brainstorming sessions and cursing at the CNC router when we ruined another piece of wood. Eventually, we were happy enough with a few prototypes to launch our Etsy site in October 2013.
The Etsy app makes a “cha-ching” sound with every sale, but those early cha-chings were followed with sighs as we realized it was a friend or family member. About a month after our online launch, I was grocery shopping when Marshall called me asking if I knew a Jennifer that just ordered a Texas picture frame. I racked my brain – was this an old high school friend that I didn’t recognize their married name? After double checking with a Facebook search, I called Marshall back to confirm I didn’t know a Jennifer in Texas. Our first stranger order!! I picked up a tub of ice cream to celebrate.
Some of our earliest customer feedback raved about our quick turnaround. They didn’t know we could make it that fast because they were the only order of the day, they were just happy to get their order quickly. As the cha-chings of random strangers started to build over time, we always kept in mind the importance of keeping our turnaround time as short as possible.
The proverbial road less traveled wasn’t without its bumps. Early on, too many of our state shaped frames were arriving broken. Unique products are a lot harder to package than something like t-shirts. After testing a few ideas, we eventually settled on making custom box inserts that protected the states and doubled as hanging templates. There were more bumps along the way, but each presents an opportunity to improve the overall experience.
Momentum began to build as we added more products and continued to refine our processes. After a year, it seemed like this crazy idea might actually work. In 2015 after the business had taken over the entire basement, two bedrooms, the living room and the garage, it became clear we needed more space to keep up with demand. The additional space would also allow us to ship faster because we now had the space to store inventory. We found a building in the heart of our township that needed a lot of TLC, but would give us room to grow and the ability to open a brick and mortar retail store.
I blame HGTV’s Fixer Upper for our foolishness of how quickly we could transform our new workshop, but after months of renovations, we opened our retail store in November 2016. Meeting our customers in real life gave us the opportunity to learn about what they valued in a way that is hard to do online. It’s helped us to better anticipate the needs and wants of everyone who can’t make it to Cincinnati.
Early on, we learned customer service creates loyal repeat customers. I take time every day to answer every email, convo, Facebook message and phone call. I think our commitment to being available for our customers is more responsible for our five-star rating after more than 10,000 sales than anything else, and that’s what we’re most proud of as business owners. The drive for happy customers keeps us motivated – we know without happy customers we’d be in corporate jobs having meetings about meetings only daydreaming and doodling about creating unique gifts. So, thank you.
- Carolyn & Marshall