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Earlywood

American Made Since 2011
2014 Design Finalist

Brad Bernhart

Red Lodge, Montana
Earlywood designs and handcrafts heirloom-quality hardwood kitchen utensils and cutting boards. Every single Earlywood item is made in Montana.
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Tell us about your business.

In 2003, in a freezing lawnmower shed in Bozeman, MT, I made my first wooden spoon. I was making spoons as an escape from the structured world of mathematics and laws inherent to the mechanical engineering program I was in. Ever since the days working in that shed, my goal has been to start Earlywood. Now, 11 years later, my designs and my manufacturing processes have come a long way. I start with original and intentional designs, gather the best woods available and make sawdust until I have a beautiful and functional utensil to sell. I make every Earlywood utensil myself. Spoon making is not common enough to be able to go buy spoon making tools, so I have invented tools, customized tools, and re-purposed others to make Earlywood possible. I see Earlywood evolving into a nationally known name synonymous with heirloom-quality kitchen utensils and I make daily decisions with this in mind.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

When I moved to Red Lodge 4 years ago, I started renting shop space from Nick Kosorok, a local woodworker who has been building custom furniture for over 30 years. Nick comes with years of experience, jigs, and tools. I come with the perspective of and the lean manufacturing training of a mechanical engineer. Our skills complement one another well. We share tools, space, and ideas. The 30' x 40' two-story shop is in the "town" of Fox, Montana. Fox has no businesses and no downtown. It is just a grain elevator, a creek with some great fly fishing, and a few houses. Our closest neighbors are two horses in a field. From the shop, we have beautiful views of sunsets over the Absaroka Beartooth mountains and the local ski area, Red Lodge Mountain. The other half of Earlywood's International Headquarters (my basement and garage) is where I laser engrave, oil, store, and ship every Earlywood product.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the fact that every successful business started with one or two people and an idea. I am also deeply inspired and motivated by the fact that Earlywood may become one of those well-known and successful companies. I am also inspired by the town I live in and the people that live here. Red Lodge's elevation is higher than it's population, but lack of quantity doesn't mean lack of quality. There are many other entrepreneurs here with dreams and plans that expand way beyond the city limits of this quiet mountain town. Engaging and brainstorming with these like minded entrepreneurs in my community motivates me to grow my business. Lastly, the following quote is my inspiration when I am designing: “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty........ but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

What makes your business stand out?

I am a mechanical engineer. Before starting this business, I worked as a design engineer for 8 years. I apply that experience and knowledge to each of my product designs and each of my manufacturing processes. I don't make wooden spoons that look like wooden spoons just because wooden spoons have always looked like wooden spoons! I design utensils that first and foremost work well in the kitchen. As a result of that, my products are unique to Earlywood (see the components of our best selling item, the Earlywood Trifecta) and function at a level that others simply do not. In addition, I choose to use woods that naturally stand up to the day to day rigors experienced by utensils in heavily-used kitchens. Also, before selling one spoon, we started and committed to our "100 to 1" sustainability policy where we plant 100 trees for every 1 trees-worth of wood that we use making utensils. This ensures that the forests of our world are in better health because of us.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

#1 Do something you can be proud of. #2 Give it 110% #3 Constantly be analyzing where you are, where you want to be, and how you think you can get there. #4 There is no way that you can know everything... and even if you do, you won't have the time to apply it all. So get help when you need it.

What does American Made mean to you?

To me, American Made is a long-term investment in the future of the USA. It means keeping jobs local, buying from USA suppliers, buying American Made tools and materials to make American Made goods. This is all in an effort to, in the long run, increase the greater quality and well-being of our country, it's people, and the overall happiness of our population.

Comments (1)

  • Jsp00ns 31 Aug, 2014

    There is a wonderful roundness to these spoons, the handles are in perfect balance with the bowls. They are at The same time fresh and new while being the definitive wooden spoon shape. Magical colors of natural wood make these spoons very exciting. Thank you

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  • WINNERS ANNOUNCED
    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winner and Audience Choice Winner announced.

    See past Award Winners
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    Nov. 7, 2014

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    Nov. 8, 2014

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    Nov. 15 - 16, 2014

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