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, itâ€™s students hail from all over the world. Two of those students are starting a wooden clog business, called Ande â€“ 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, â€œmake actual tangible things.â€ 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 sheâ€™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 â€“ and she fell so hard for her first pair that when she tried to toss the worn-out pair out, she â€œfound herself crawling back into the dumpster to get them!â€ This ignited a lifelong love of the shoe â€“ and planted a seed that didnâ€™t come to fruition until Startup Mendocino came along.
As Brian tells it, â€œJen kept showing me all of her clogs, and I kept thinking, with our fine woodworking skills, we can make a far better version.â€ 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, â€œEveryone would ask me where I got them!â€.
When they saw the notice for Startup Mendocino, they decided to apply. â€œWe were kind of ambling along, but Startup really lit a fire under us and fast-tracked our idea,â€ 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 home the $5,000 prize from Adventist Hospital.
â€œWe were absolutely thrilled to compete in Startup,â€ says Anderson, we had to put our idea to the test and really refine what it is we wanted to achieve.â€ 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. â€œAfter Startup, we actually realized we can more cost-effectively buy our own lathe for our first smaller runs,â€ noted Anderson. â€œOur prize money will go directly to a down payment on the lathe, and once we have production refined, weâ€™ll be launching our first Kickstarter to actually take orders.â€
â€œClogs are such a hot shoe right now, I mean when they are featured in Vogue, you know they are not going anywhere!â€ says Anderson. Newell adds, â€œweâ€™re so grateful for West Business Development Center to putting on Startup Mendocino â€“ without that, we might still be at the dreaming stage instead of the doing.â€
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