By Angela Rose | Sep 21, 2020
Custom furniture, millwork, metalwork, and fabrication
When the Great Recession began in 2007, Hixson and her sculptor husband, James, were living in Florida. "He was making a lot of big pieces, but when the economy tanked, no one was buying them," she explains. "We had to think about a way to combine our building skills, creativity, and the arts into something that was more practical, functional, and economy-proof."
The pair eventually determined that custom fabrication was their answer, and headed west. They now work out of a 10,000-square-foot shop near Olde Town Arvada where they employ a team of woodworkers, metal fabricators, fine artists, draftsmen, and project managers to provide clients across the nation with custom millwork, metalwork, fabrication, and furniture.
"We work with a lot of big restaurants and hotels," Hixson says of the company's clientele. "We've also done a lot of projects for multi-family housing developments with clubhouses, game rooms, business centers, and all of those amenities. Our architectural steel and millwork are found in commercial spaces. For example, we just completed the second location of Avanti, the big food hall that will be opening in Boulder."
She calls Black Hound Design Company a one-stop-shop for general contractors, interior designers, and architects in search of custom solutions.
"If you're opening up a restaurant, hotel, or multi-family development, there's a lot that goes into those projects from the furniture to giant art pieces," Hixson continues. "Maybe you want built-in benches. You might need upholstery, cabinetry, and shelving. We're able to handle every single piece of that build out, which is a tremendous value for our clients. We make your life easier."
The team sources all materials from local Colorado vendors and suppliers. "We think it's really important to work within the Colorado community because we're helping each other," Hixon says. Black Hound Design Company's suppliers and service partners include Metal Supermarkets, Accurate Powder Coating, and Austin Hardwoods.
Hixson credit's the company's focus on rapid digital prototyping for its agility and ability to tackle a wide range of custom projects. "We do full 3D renderings, shop drawings, blueprints, and then physical finished samples for our clients," she explains. "Because what we do is always custom, we're starting from scratch every single time. It's really important to us that our clients can fully visualize, touch, and understand the components of the piece or pieces that we're building for them. This allows us to iterate really quickly as well. We can make tweaks, adjustments, and edits based on client feedback before going to the next round."
Challenges: Hixson says COVID-19 has required Black Hound Design Company to rethink processes, implement social distancing protocols, and enhance sanitation. "It has been a challenge to think through, plan, and execute on those," she continues. "We've also had to stay on our toes and look for new product opportunities, which has been tricky." So far, these efforts have been successful. The company is on track to hit $2 million in revenue for 2020 despite the pandemic.
Opportunities: Black Hound Design Company launched several new products this summer in response to the new normal of COVID-19. "We just shipped out a huge order of partitions to the Miami Dolphins' stadium in Florida," Hixson says. "Our revenues took a dip in March and April because we work with so many restaurants and hospitality groups. None of those projects were moving forward. We saw a need for social distancing partitions, and we're proud of the fact that we've been able to help other businesses re-open or stay open."
The company also launched a drink rail-partition hybrid. "Olde Town Arvada wanted to be able to allow restaurants to expand their patios into the street," Hixson says. "They didn't know how to do it, had a timeline of only two weeks, and a really tight budget. Within 24 hours we came up with a new design that satisfied all of their objectives. We were proud to be able to rise to the occasion and help out the community of Arvada, which is where we live, work, and play."
Needs: Hixson says she and her husband have always bootstrapped their business, purchasing equipment from yard sales and off Craigslist. "But along with that comes headaches and added maintenance because it breaks down," she notes. "We're always trying to get better equipment. It's a huge need of ours."
Hixson says that identifying new markets and new clients in the COVID-19 economy is also a need. "We've been really lucky to have done essentially zero marketing in our seven years of business," she continues. "We've always been referral-based, which has been really great. But because of COVID, our existing customer base has shrunk. We've had to really target getting new clients to knock on our door."