Today we are introducing you to Chris, custom-made woodwork and computer creator who has turned his talent into his own small business, KV Workshop in Adelaide SA.
Chris started his small business so that he could do something he loves while working in a way that accommodates his autism and ADHD. He uses his connections in niche markets such as the medieval markets and online games to make connections and get custom orders for his products. Chris uses the custom orders to learn what is popular and this guides his decision on which products to create and stock at markets.
“Sam, my Many Rivers business coach, helped me structure my finances. Even though I can work with crazy numbers all day, as soon as there is a dollar sign in there, my brain doesn’t want to know about it. I’m a lot better now at my business’s finances now.”
Read more about Chris’ business journey so far.
I make custom woodworks and custom computers. The majority of my products I create from orders that I receive, which tells me what there is a demand for. I learn from this and make more products to sell at markets. I find markets are a marketing experience, and I get a lot of orders and contacts at markets. Some of the products I make include bowls, plates, cups and crochet hooks and yarn bowls.
I also make custom-made computers; I have been making them since I was 8 years old! If there is a particular budget and requirement someone has for a computer, I will create a computer for them and work towards that budget. For example, I had a customer last year who needed a computer for a game design university course, and she had a budget of $5000. I was able to create the computer that she needed and saved her hours on her assignments. In other instances, I will help someone transfer all the files on an old computer to a new one, or if their computer dies, often I am able to save the files.
My best markets of the year are the medieval fairs, and there are four of them each year. I have been working there for 3-4 years now. They usually lead to more custom orders. I have a custom sheet on my table, and it is a much better way to solidify the relationship with the customer than just flyers.
I also post in online gaming groups, and I often get many sales through there. I also meet all sorts of people through all works of life who will ask about my services and will buy some of my stuff. I take advantage of the communities I’m in rather than push myself into places that are uncomfortable for me.
Starting KV Workshop
I have been a jack of all trades for most of my life. I worked at some internet companies and for the government in IT. Most recently, I was doing tech support for the Courts for five years. We helped design solutions for remote Courts for people in remote locations.
My work in the Courts was high stress, and I got burnt out. This was also when I was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. I also had a back injury by this point. So, trying to enter the workforce again, I quickly realised that a regular job wasn’t going to work for me anymore. Some people suggested that I start my own business so that I could work in a way that suited me.
Working with Many Rivers
To be honest, initially, I was sceptical of Sam and Many Rivers because it was a not-for-profit organisation. I had all these business ideas in my head, but that is only 5% of what I actually needed to think about to start a business. It’s the process of refining your idea, which makes it work.
Sam helped me refining my idea into structured processes which make the business work, as well as guiding me to learn the areas of business that I was lacking in.
Sam helped me focus on what advertising will and won’t work for my business. He recognised avenues that suited me as a person while also tapping into other communities that I have access to, such as the online communities and the medieval markets. It was a learning process for both of us.
He helped me structure my finances. Even though I can work with crazy numbers all day, as soon as there is a dollar sign in there, my brain doesn’t want to know about it. I’m a lot better now at my business’s finances now.
There are times when I don’t hear from Sam for a while, and then he will ring out of the blue and his timing is always impeccable, because it’ll be exactly when I need to hear from him.
The key part was when he and I were at a point where we understood each other. He helped me set goals and asked for updates. He would give me some helpful milestones to aim for before we met next time. If I’m just working at home and for myself, there is no external pressure. I would just never do it!
I nearly got shut down because a neighbour put a noise complaint in. Now I have soundproofed my shed with insulation to meet council noise requirements.
My biggest success has been the medieval community and how well I have been accepted there. In the first few hours of the first fair that I attended, I made more money than I had ever made and sold most of my stock. In saying that, markets are still a marketing tool, and it leads me to so many more sales.
The biggest problem I had as an employee was my job was to fix things. But now the only person who can break things is me! My stress level is a lot lower, and my satisfaction is so much higher. The biggest change is enjoying life rather than coming home and feeling burnt out and then waking up the next morning and doing it all again.
Basically, to just keep going. I don’t need to expand my small business. I just want to keep it at a sustainable and enjoyable rate that allows me to enjoy my life. There is a long-term dream to move away from the city because I get worried about making noise and annoying people.
One of the other things I realised is that I am out of sync with the rest of the world; 9 – 5 doesn’t work for me. If I was out of the city, I wouldn’t have to stop making noise at 5pm because no one would be able to hear me. Sometimes I need to just go with the flow, the structure of the rest of society doesn’t work for me. If I get inspired at 11pm, I want to be able to go to my shed and make something.
Thanks Chris for sharing your business journey. Your story will inspire people who are looking to take their next step towards creating their own business. If you would like to stay updated with Chris and his journey as a small business owner, follow KV WOrkshop on Facebook or Instagram.
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