Profile of Success: Built to Last
Background: While working as a furniture maker and designer, John Economaki developed an allergy to wood dust and was forced to find a different outlet for his woodworking skills. When his proposal to design high-quality tools for a woodworking catalog was turned down because the tools would be too expensive, he took out a space ad in a woodworking magazine in 1983 to advertise two of the tools. The sales and catalog requests the ad generated convinced him to start his own
Biggest career challenge: In 2001, Economaki took a short-term loan to move his manufacturing operation to a larger facility. Although the company was forecasting its best year ever, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks decimated his holiday sales. Unable to immediately repay the loan, Economaki was forced to lay off most of his staff, leaving only key employees in manufacturing and customer service. The bank then sold the company.
How he overcame that challenge: After legal wrangling led to a member of Bridge City Tool Works’ board of directors buying the company from the bank, Economaki forged ahead to rebuild the business. He focused on his strengths — developing and producing well-made proprietary tools. To that end, he outsourced the business’s manufacturing and fulfillment, keeping product design, marketing and customer service in house.
Biggest current challenge: a shrinking marketplace. Economaki believes the decrease in technical education in high schools has reduced interest in avocational woodworking.
How he’s dealing with it: While most of his mailings focus on core customers, Economaki prospects with about 20 percent of his circulation. He’s gotten best response from compiled lists. He also says Abacus has enabled him to profitably prospect. He’s using e-mail marketing and plans to revamp the catalog’s Web site to drive Internet sales.