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Teaming up

Jim and Joanne Ploskunak, owners of Rocking Horse Wood Works in Charlo, Mont., have been working together to create wood products since 1997. Jim was retired when they met, and Joanne retired shortly after. They both had woodworking in their background - Jim as a hobby, and Joanne in her career in the power tool accessory industry. Together, they decided to open a niche woodworking shop to fill their idol time.

The rocking horse is used as a marketing piece in the company's booth display.

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"I was a teacher and an engineer ... I moved out to Montana when I retired and decided I had to have something to do. Then I started making things. I met Joanne and she added to it as far as making things and helping the business grow," says Jim Ploskunak.

The couple makes plaques and bases for sculptures, trophies and awards that are sold to engraving shops. The items are then sold to organizations, primarily local conservation groups such as the Elk Foundation and Pheasants Forever.

All too often, many entrepreneurs who dream of opening a business in a beautiful rural state such as Montana fail because of their isolation from customers. But the couple has succeeded by nurturing their relationships with current customers, adapting to the changing economic times and increasing their product offerings.

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The business had initial success producing bronze sculptures for a Montana-based company. "We probably made 8,000 to 9,000 pieces for them in the first few years and then, like everything else, they started going overseas and that put us out," Jim says.

Their product line also includes small furniture pieces such as lamps, clocks and home accents made from oak, pine, alder, maple and walnut. Each piece is handcrafted and finished with a durable clear coat to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. In addition, the company offers a line of decoys and wildlife sculptures, all reflecting a Western lifestyle.

Contact: Rocking Horse Wood Works, 51516 Herak Road, Charlo, MT 59824. Tel: 406-644-3325.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.

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