"Basically, all the biggest players in kitchen knives are 100-plus-year-old companies from Japan and Germany and even some in the U.S.," says Blake Hansen, wo co-founded Dedfish Co. with his wife, Mara. "They just haven't really done any innovation or design changes . . . especially when it comes to the design element and branding."
Hansen previously worked in sales and branding for Skullcandy, Polaroid, and other companies, saw an opportunity to bring those skills together with a lifelong passion for knives. He’s loved knives: "since I was probably four or five years old, which seems kind of weird that my mom would let me buy them . . . but I’d use all my allowance to just buy $6 to $7 super-cheap knives."
The lifelong interest led him into the kitchen knife space to shake things up. "I wanted to create a brand that people will be proud of," Hansen says. "The whole idea with this company is that I didn't want to be the best knives, I wanted to be the best knives at the price. There are a lot of expensive knives out there. I wanted Dedfish to be the next level up after you’re tired of the gifted set from a wedding, or the hand-me-downs that your parents gave you for college."
He continues, "Our knives, like the Damascus Chef Knife at $120, are the same -- if not better -- quality than most knives you'll see at retail, or even direct-to-consumer at $160 to $180. So we're 30 percent to 40 percent more affordable but you have that same top-tier quality."
Hansen says he explored numerous options to find a manufacturing partner. "I flew multiple times to Japan and China and visited different factories and met with different factory owners and brokers," he says. "I had samples from all over in Pakistan that were just beautifully designed."
Ultimately, Dedfish found a factory in China. "I've worked with China for 10-plus years doing various stuff, importations in South America, and various broker deals that I used to do on the side, so I kind of knew China," Hansen says. "There used to be a stigma that it wasn't good quality, but that's changed exponentially. Now it depends on what factory you use and what kind of technologies they have implemented."
The company's partner in China imports Japanese and German steel for the blades and Italian olive wood for the handles. "All of the processing and everything happens in China," Hansen explains.
The factory machine-forges blades with quality nearing that of a skilled blacksmith's work, he adds, but without the high price. "If it's hand-forged, it'd be about four times as much money for a knife."
Starting the company during COVID-19 had some challenges and rewards, according to Hansen. "There's been supply-chain issues and constraints, but demand for consumer products skyrocketed probably three months after COVID hit," he says. "For the last year people were cooking at home and preparing more meals, you know, more time on their hands and less travel. So it's kind of a pretty good time to start a kitchen knife company."
New products -- including a portable knife case that doubles as a cutting board that was funded on Kickstarter -- are on the agenda.
Hansen forecasts $500,000 in revenue in 2021, and says he hopes to grow the tally to $1 million to $2 million with a big sales push in 2022. That means the head count will need to increase as well: He says he anticipates contracting out the design work and hiring a few more full-time employees next year.
"We'll need a 3PL [third-party logistics provider] onboard in the next six months," he adds Hansen, noting that he's been using the garage at his house as a warehouse. "I'll still handle freight and everything overseas . . . until we meet $10 million."