|Where old meets new|
|The design problem|
|Making a living|
“I find that customers don’t necessarily know what they want. Sometimes the best way to give them ideas is to build stuff, to give them ideas, to give them something to think about.” But more important, this retail line will allow Yousef to pursue ideas that might require more development time than a consumer of custom work would be willing to underwrite. The idea, Yousef says, is to “push those boundaries a little more.”
Making a living
Yousef has not taken the conventional approach to the acquisition of customers. He has, for example, done no wholesale or retail shows. Instead, he has embraced the power of the Internet to get the word out to potential customers, using a Web site that offers visitors a photographic review of his work, as well as a summary of his philosophy as a craftsman.
Some customers find him after first visiting his Web site (the Franklin Park Conservatory commission came to him in this way), but he sees the site “primarily as a marketing tool for my current customers. Just having a Web presence adds an air of legitimacy.”
The most important component in his marketing program is word-of-mouth, one satisfied customer telling friends and neighbors about the work produced in Yousef’s shop, but he recognizes that word-of-mouth alone is not enough to feed his business, that he must continue to develop a robust approach to selling.
Yousef’s father, a successful college professor, was surprised when his son opted out of a career in mechanical engineering, a career for which he’d prepared during four long years at Ohio State.
“At first he thought it was kind of crazy,” Yousef says. “But over the years, as he’s seen I can make woodworking a profitable thing, that it is a viable option — that’s all he really cares about: that I can support myself.” n