The Krenov School has been a foundational part of Fort Bragg culture for more than 38 years. As a fine woodworking school founded by the internationally known woodworker, James Krenov, its students hail from all over the world. Two of those students are starting a wooden clog business, called Ande Clogs and they just took second place in Startup Mendocino.
Jennifer Andersen worked in visual merchandising for Nordstrom, and in reality TV on a show on the DIY network called Freeform Furniture. While she knew a lot about design, she wanted to, as she put it, “make actual tangible things.” In 1999 she enrolled at Krenov and graduated in 2000.
Brian Newell has been a woodworker his entire life, starting out in the field by being a pattern maker for model cars. He graduated from the Krenov School in 1990.
The two crossed paths briefly throughout the years as Newell settled in Fort Bragg and made a name for himself as a fine woodworker. In 2016, he bought and gut-renovated a massive old dairy barn on Cypress Street, turning it into a woodworking space where graduates from Krenov could land, post-grad and rent bench space with access to woodworking machines. Anderson is now an Assistant Professor of Furniture Making at Palomar College where she’s been since 2006.
Backtracking a few years, Anderson recalls how she fell in love with a magical shoe while in college in Sweden. These shoes were clogs “and she fell so hard for her first pair that when she tried to toss the worn out pair out, she found herself crawling back into the dumpster to get them!” This ignited a lifelong love of the shoe and planted a seed that didn’t come to fruition until Startup Mendocino came along.
As Brian tells it, “Jen kept showing me all of her clogs, and I kept thinking, with our fine woodworking skills, we can make a far better version.” Brian and Jen set to work making prototypes, hand carving the base, or sole, of the shoe and hand lasting the uppers. For awhile, it was just a fun project. But then, Jen would wear her red clog high heel sandals out and about and, “Everyone would ask me where I got them!”
When they saw the notice for Startup Mendocino, they decided to apply. “We were kind of ambling along, but Startup really lit a fire under us and fast-tracked our idea,” noted Newell.
Newell and Anderson put together a compelling pitch, and went on to compete in the final five live pitch competition August 26th. With a strong presentation outlining the massive market potential, low cost of goods and high profit margins, and highlighting their experience, they came in second place, taking the $5,000 prize home from Adventist Hospital.
“We were absolutely thrilled to compete in Startup,” says Anderson, “we had to put our idea to the test and really refine what it is we wanted to achieve.” After going through the 12-week training, the pair had a solid idea of their business model, potential revenues and the market for growth.
This training and the prize money fast-tracked their idea to the next phase. They are currently in a six-month research and development phase, refining their production skills, sourcing lasts and materials and pricing out the CNC lathe that will bring their clog bases to life. “After Startup, we actually realized we can more cost-effectively buy our own lathe for our first smaller runs,” noted Anderson. “Our prize money will go directly to a down payment on the lathe, and once we have production refined, we’ll be launching our first Kickstarter to actually take orders.”
“Clogs are such a hot shoe right now, I mean when they are featured in Vogue, you know they are not going anywhere!” says Anderson. Newell adds, “We’re so grateful for West Business Development Center to putting on Startup Mendocino, without that we might still be at the dreaming stage instead of the doing.”