Entrepreneur forgoes desk work through furniture start-up
One of Clemson sophomore Steven Kasay’s biggest fears is being in a career that would have him working behind a desk. Given a sedentary workday doesn’t sit well with the mechanical engineering major, Steven is in the start-up phase of a business that will have others sitting well.
The 20-year-old Charlotte, N.C., resident said his business idea was actually borne out of a need for his sister’s high school graduation party. “We have a big family and needed tables for her party, so my brother and I started building farm tables with benches,” said Steven, who has been mechanically gifted for as long as he can remember.
“The night of the party and the next few days after, I had a lot of interest coming in for the tables and other custom requests. When we started tallying up the orders, I thought, ‘holy cow, this might have some potential’,” Steven said. So, he and his brother started constructing, sanding, staining and sealing other custom pieces of furniture.
Today, they have a backlog of orders, not just for the farm tables, but for coffee tables, and custom home decorations, including kitchen beams and bar tables constructed out of a variety of exotic woods. Most of the orders are from a Charlotte contractor and an interior designer, who caught wind of Steven’s fledgling operation being run out of his father’s garage bay.
He is attempting to whittle down that backorder list by setting up a satellite workshop in Clemson, but has been unable to find affordable space. He is contemplating creating a mobile workshop by using a utility trailer, which can serve as his workspace both in Charlotte and in Clemson.
Whether that happens, or not, Campfire Collective, LLC, is in the business of custom furniture construction. Although Steven is an adept craftsman, he admits needing help on the operational end of the business.
He went to John Hannon, new director of Clemson’s Living Learning Community for entrepreneurs housed in the Stadium Suites, and lead instructor of “The Entrepreneurial Mindset.” It’s a class that introduces students of all majors to entrepreneurism and falls under The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which serves as Clemson’s hub for entrepreneurial learning.
“Dr. Hannon has been a great mentor on aspects of business I know little about, things like insurance, OSHA certification, accounting and profit margins,” Steven said. “He’s made me aware of some of the real-life issues that come with establishing a business.”
Steven’s parents, John and Laura Kasay have been very supportive of Steven’s efforts to build the furniture business, but they are even more approving of Steven’s decision to major in mechanical engineering at Clemson. If the name John Kasay sounds familiar, it’s because he was an NFL kicker for more than 20 years, having spent most of that time with the Carolina Panthers.
Steven sees a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson as being highly valued by those who hire in the engineering world, but he is undecided right now about his career direction.
“I really don’t know what I want to do yet. I’d love to continue growing the wood working business. But I could also see spinning that into an architectural design business, building custom homes, woodwork design, or some type of freelance engineering company,” Steven said. “My brother, Christopher, is an incredibly creative person. I could see the two of us moving on to something bigger than building farm tables and other furniture.”
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