Eyes on the Prize

Trophy master turns hobby into a profitable venture.

Sports fans everywhere lust after Ed Reichow’s creations. With features like a solid walnut football including the Commissioner’s signature and Roman numeral veneering and three different types of veneered side paneling, wood edge paneling and wood for the base, it’s no wonder that Reichow’s trophies are highly coveted by fantasy leaguers.

Aside from being extremely talented in a woodworking setting, Reichow is a landscape architect and owns his own landscape company.

Reichow has been making the trophies for the last 10 years; however, 2008 was the first year they actually decided to throw some money behind it and really push the idea. Reichow shares more on his entrepreneurial experiences.

How long does it take to create one of your trophies? It varies, depending on how many options the customer customizes it with. Depending on the design they choose, usually it can take anywhere from 8 to 16 hours to create a trophy.

How did you decide on the particular materials you use for your trophies? The walnut we chose because it’s a higher end hardwood than oak would be, and the nice brown coloring worked well since a football is brown. Walnut is also pretty easy to work with and we don’t get a lot of chipping with it.

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur. Chaotic. It’s probably a personality thing too; I always have to have a million things going at once.

What motivates you? Besides the obvious financial motivators, for me the biggest motivator is being able to take something out of the air and actually make it successful. I can honestly say that my product didn’t exist before I made it and made it a success. Any kind of entrepreneur just wants to see their idea go and prove to themselves they can do it.

Do you believe there’s some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur? A good businessperson would probably say that yes, there is a scientific formula for success. I think you have to have your property capitalized, your p’s and q’s in order, your marketing down and mostly just be persistent.

What is your philosophy of customer service? I really try to strive to have customer service be the best part of my business. One of the reasons that we are able to make it through recessions and things like that is because we have such a strong customer base and we get excellent referrals from our customers. I wanted the customer experience to be as top of the line as possible and so I spent a good chunk of time and money on my website. Customers are able to log on to the website and build their own custom trophy, similar to designing your own car on the Volkswagen website. I also send multiple e-mails to my customers keeping them informed of where we’re at with the production process.

What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far? Patience. You feel like you want to take everything to the limit so fast. In order to stay profitable and not overdo it, it’s best to stick to your business plan and your budget.

What has been your greatest accomplishment so far? I’d have to say the fact that we’ve generated so much buzz. We’re designing a trophy for the Fantasy Football Open Championship, which awards a million dollar prize and a lot of other high-end stakes leagues have commissioned us to create trophies for them. As a new company, you’re hoping to go slow, but there’s been so much positive feedback and buzz and it just seems to be continuing and growing.

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most? From a local level, there’s another competitor of mine, Barkley landscapes, that I really admire. I admire people that can look at business almost like a science. They have almost a sixth sense of being able to understand profits at all times. As a creative person that part of my brain wasn’t developed quite as well as it should have been. I find it kind of fun to look at and emulate people that are both organized and creative at the same time.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur? I employee about 15 people at my landscaping business and it makes me feel good to be able to affect people is such a positive way. By creating jobs and creating revenue, we’re creating more than just a product. It’s a very exciting thing for me to bring people together during the creative process.

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