AUIYB: Piece of Work
We got all up in Les Baker's business. He and Jacob Stafford (left and right above, respectively) co-founded Piece of Work, where they are dedicated to salvaging and renewing the life of old materials to make meaningful, one-of-a-kind pieces like on-trend reclaimed wood headboards, porch swings, mantels, furniture and more. Visit Piece of Work to learn more about the empire these two are building. Did we mention that Les is a City of Charleston firefighter and Jacob is currently serving in the military? We have a soft spot for Jack-of-all-trade types, especially when they protect and serve. Thank you both for your service to our communities and country!
I encounter you in one of Charleston’s few elevators. In an effort to fill the awkward silence or drown out jazzy (yet oddly depressing) music, give me your elevator pitch. (Interviewer's note: instead of answering the question with Piece of Work's elevator pitch, Les' mind was transported to our imaginary elevator where he was already looking around for a story to tell. Creative with just a touch of crazy - like all good artists!)
The atmosphere in this elevator is so boring and generic. They should make it part of the “experience” and story of this unique building.
[Blank stare.] Mmmkay. Can you tell me how your business came to be?
Two good ole boys that worked at the fire department decided that we could provide custom furnishings that had depth and meaning while fitting the needs of the client. Unlike some companies we salvage most of our material and follow it through to the finished product. It is just as important to provide that connection with the client through the process.
Fascinating! As a child, what did you aspire to be when you grew up? Why?
Firefighter - I was always around the fire service growing up and was completely mesmerized by the glamour of fire trucks, the smell of the old station near my house, the sound of the air raid siren in my small town, etc. In addition there’s something about stopping whatever you are doing just to go help someone and try to help their situation.
As an adult, what do you consider to be your most important superpower? Why? (Let’s be honest, we know you have a few!)
Creativity - I love the creative process of working with people and simply figuring things out to make something meaningful and memorable. I enjoy the developmental process as much if not more than the build.
You are most interesting! Do you have a typical daytime routine that you follow? What does that generally look like?
My daily routine is too predictable. It starts with four scrambled eggs, three pieces of bacon and then work and the gym. As predictable as that is, once work begins there is no telling what the day holds. Whether its at the fire department or in the shop, the work day is very fluid and rarely ends as predicted.
We are now stuck on the elevator and running out of oxygen, so my questions are going to get a little crazy. If you were a box of cereal, what would you be? Why?
Fruit Loops! Fruit loops have stood the test of time and continue to provide excitement and joy to people of all ages. They provide an array of combinations and no one spoonful is ever the same, but truth be known the taste is very dependable because although there are different colors and “flavors” every loop is actually flavored the same. In addition it is the cereal that just keeps on giving. It doesn't leave you with a bowl of dull milk to be wasted. The wonderful Fruit Loop milk is an entirely unexpected and additional experience.
Do you consider yourself more of a hunter or a gatherer? Explain.
Hunter - When I was delivering the recruit training for the City of Charleston Fire Department I would demand 10000 percent. When questioned what that meant I would say 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. If I have an idea or concept I work tirelessly to make it happen. It doesn't matter whether its Piece of Work, fire department, extrication, gym goals, I like to get things done.
You’ve been extended an invitation to perform on The Voice. What song do you pick? Why?
Sister Hazel - Change Your Mind.
I like lists so lets number these.
Sister Hazel is my favorite musician or group.
Life sucks sometimes but it could always be worse.
It is your outlook that makes all the difference in the world
As Ken Block says before performing the song live, life is not always easy but sometimes its as simple as changing your mind!
Have the glow in life that affects others.
The elevator is moving again – yay! And look at that, we are getting off on the same floor! Crazy how these things work. Now I’d like to know what your favorite thing is about being a small business owner. Least favorite? Why?
I love the freedom and ability to make the most of what I believe in as a business owner. Take care of people, do good service, and the rest will fall into place. You don't have to be pushy or demand immediate results, you just have to work hard and fight the fight.
What advice do you have for aspiring small business owners? If it is short and catchy, we should TM that ish and put it on a t-shirt!
Be a "Piece of Work".