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Cliff Spencer Furniture Maker

American Made Since 2004

Leigh and Cliff Spencer

Marina del Rey, California
We design & manufacture, wood furniture, cabinetry & objects of beauty of the highest quality, with resources that are overlooked & undervalued.

Tell us about your business.

Cliff refined his skills from talented professionals he worked for in Los Angeles, Manhattan and Aspen. In 2004, he ventured out on his own. Low start-up capital honed his resourcefulness in finding unique materials. The birth of his son accelerated his commitment to eco-friendly materials. Each project is bench made to order. Even with pieces we make time and again, the customer approves a drawing and receives the opportunity to visit the shop and/or get samples they can touch. Quality craftsmanship and sound design are sustainability at it's core. While cabinetry is the current gross of our work, call it the bread and butter, designing and making furniture, from sustainable and unique wood, is the driving force. Our growth goal for the business is to increase the marketing and distribution of our furniture designs, via partnerships and a stronger web presence, while continuing our custom work on boutique cabinetry and millwork projects as a more narrow and focused element.

What makes your business stand out?

Some people adopt stray animals, we acquire stray wood. Often a customer or professional collaborator encounters wood headed for landfill. They call us to see if we can give it a new life in one of our projects. Others come to us looking for a unique vision, a material that hasn’t been co-opted by a mass market machine. Cliff picked up a truckload of oak, reclaimed from wine making on a whim. Now our wine oak doors and furniture are shipped all over the country as showcased contributions to homes and designer projects. A carob stump sat in the entryway of our shop for two years, until we pitched it to a fashion designer as the base of a mirror in her retail store. Creative solutions attract adventurous clients who desire a home that is uncommon, of refined design and sustainably sourced. We create artisan goods in a professional setting. We comply with the laws for the work we do. Many artisan woodworkers do not. This protects our clients and adds to our ability to grow.

What's the best business advice you've received?

I tried a lot of iterations for this question, and I keep coming back to "Hire slow. Fire quick." It’s a common business phrase, but for a good reason. A business takes on risk. You have to be clear on what works and you have to protect yourself and the people that depend on it. When I heard this years ago, I thought this would never apply to me. We only had a couple of employees... And we are really nice and everyone gets along. Our business is cool and hip and fun... The phrase is now my mantra for being decisive. I say “no” to jobs that aren’t good for us, even if the person on the phone is really nice. It helps to let go of employees that aren’t a good fit, but firing can refer to a ending a relationship with a problematic customer (endless scope creep) or a vendor (raising their prices without informing you). Recently, we severed ties with a sub-contractor who let his license lapse. We like guy, but he lied. He doesn’t get to make decisions about my business. I have do.

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