|| Print ||
|Articles - September 2013|
|Monday, August 19, 2013|
Page 4 of 4
Eighteen months ago, Schoolhouse Electric employed 26 workers; today the staff count is 56, and by the end of the year it will be 65. The company recently hired two marketing associates and a warehouse manager and is searching for a human resources director. About 100 orders come in daily, up from 50 just two years ago. “It’s crazy!” Faherty says. He declines to reveal revenues, noting only that the Schoolhouse website accounts for about 60% of gross revenue and that 30% of sales comes from the trade market, including stores and hotels.
The company’s rapid growth trajectory means the business side is getting more complicated, and Faherty is quick to say he’s much better at making money than keeping track of or managing it. (He doesn’t own a checkbook, and an accountant pays most of the household bills.)
Friends and colleagues say the Schoolhouse founder is too modest about his business acumen. “Brian has a knack for evaluating both the home and lifestyle market and identifying where the holes are, then trying to fill that need,” says longtime friend Lance Marrs, a realtor who worked with Faherty on several revitalization projects the two men co-own, including the Commodore Hotel in Astoria and the bSIDE6, a Portland office building.
It was during the recession, Marrs adds, that Faherty had the foresight to reposition the company as a lifestyle brand.
Faherty is a visionary thinker, agrees Sarah Culbertson, Schoolhouse managing director. She cites as an example a recent decision to redo the New York showroom. The team didn’t hire an architect and designer to build a new store, Culbertson says. Instead, Faherty decided to remodel the showroom entirely from pieces culled from the Schoolhouse Electric building and Faherty’s old house, using everything from old flooring to parts from metal bookcases.
“He’s a risk taker,” Culbertson says. “He comes up with an idea that seems way out there but turns out to be a pretty ingenious way to make sure the brand vision is present throughout.”
Today Faherty’s strategy for preserving the Schoolhouse brand revolves around “managing growth while maintaining our values: how we manufacture and how we innovate.” With the help of a consultant, Schoolhouse is reorganizing factory production to be more efficient, moving away from what Faherty describes as an individual craftsman approach to a clustered or “cell” structure resembling an assembly line. He wants to bring more manufacturing in-house — he recently brought in a sewer for textiles — and open additional retail stores, perhaps starting with San Francisco.
Here’s where Faherty’s critique of local business policy enters the picture. Grappling with growth, he would like assistance from the city — with workforce training, with taxes, even help developing vendors, many of whom are struggling to accommodate Schoolhouse Electric’s growing demand.
On the one hand, the timing seems right. In the past few years, small-scale local manufacturing has been making a comeback; witness the launch of Portland Made last year, a collective of local designers, goods retailers and builders. And several Oregon-based manufacturers recently moved their operations from China back to the United States, including Handful, a sports bra manufacturer, and Trellis Earth Products, a maker of disposable bioplastic plates and garbage bags. On the other hand, despite the forward movement, public policies still tend to ignore smaller, local manufacturers and assemblers such as Schoolhouse in favor of larger firms such as Vestas “that then fail,” Faherty says. “It’s a real blind spot,” he laments. “We’re small so they look at us like, ‘You’re on your own.’ I’d like to see some fresh thinking: what can the city learn from successful manufacturers, and how can they help ones like us sustain our business?”
Faherty is in his office, not the digital-free room but his primary workspace, which contains an original grid map of North Portland’s Holy Redeemer Parish before the I-5 freeway was built in 1964. That stretch was called the Minnesota freeway because it ran through a street by that name, he remarks. “Isn’t that funny? I love looking for old stuff.”
A designer and renovator interested in the provenance of things, Faherty isn’t a politician; he isn’t the CEO of a big company. But he is part of a new generation of businesses that are quietly becoming a cultural and economic force in Portland and Oregon. Whether he’s retooling lighting, clocks or local manufacturing, this creative director and small-business owner is helping lead a decidedly modern movement: making everything old new.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Companies can benefit when they use software to meet staffing requirements and address employees' family and life commitments.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
The recent tragedy in Philadelphia has called attention to Amtrak and the nation's woefully underfunded rail service. Here are six facts about the Amtrak Cascades corridor between Eugene and Vancouver B.C.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
Friday, May 15, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is seeking input from businesses on a $5.5 million initiative to create a network of biking, transit and pedestrian trails within Portland’s central city.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER
There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.
|The Good Hacker|
|It's a Man's Man's Man's World|
|Short Shrift:The threat of just-in-time scheduling|
|Downtime with the director of Barley's Angels|
|Fighting Fire With Fire|
|Shades of Gray|
|Man for All Seasons|
|Two protesters chain themselves to Shell ship outside of Bellingham|
|PDX Carpet Adidas sell out in limited edition release|
|How to court millennials|
|Wal-Mart wants meat suppliers to improve treatment of animals|
|Scandal negatively impacts Tom Brady's endorsement value|
|John Kerry pushes TPP in Seattle speech|
|Big banks hit with $2.5B fine|
New conference aims to solve challenges, quell fears amid regulatory changes.
Tourism marketing supports entrepreneurship by attracting visitors to all corners of the state.
Beaverton firm's business intelligence platform rivals that of industry heavyweights.
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) will be presenting its third annual Entrepreneurial Summit on Friday, June 5 at Castaway in Portland, Oregon.
On June 13th Mayor Charlie Hales will attend nonprofit organization Dream Change’s inaugural Love Summit and will introduce one of its keynote speakers, Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency.
34 spots for food, 17 places to sip, and 7 sites to choose a brew beckon visitors.