Fort Collins, Colorado
Like many makers and manufacturers, Stefan and Amy Sasick started their metalworking company in their garage. Eleven years later, they're moving into a 15,500-square-foot space.
The couple had relocated from Austin to Bellvue, where they thought they would continue doing landscape design. They got their first job from Stefan's mother in Winter Park, and forged a basket for an outdoor fireplace. Soon, they were making other metal objects because they couldn't find a company that would make the things they were dreaming up.
When builder Brad Smith of Terra Firma Custom Homes saw the basket, he asked the Sasicks to do some work for one of his projects. "That house won all the awards that year," says Amy. "The metal work was really highlighted. We just kind of went with what we thought was beautiful."
The Sasicks also created a line of fire features for Smith & Hawken, a garden lifestyle brand that sold its products in upscale retail stores, online and through catalogs. The company went out of business in 2009, just as the couple had signed a contract to provide the line and moved the business out of the garage.
Today, Raw Urth's focus is on the kitchen. The company makes countertops and wall paneling from steel, but its specialty is range hoods, which are shipped across the United States and Canada. The company even shipped a hood in Moscow, Russia.
"They're the centerpiece of the kitchen," says Amy. "The thing people come to us for is the patina work. We are a custom job shop, and we'll continue to be that way. Everything is made one at a time."
It's that personal touch that draws customers to Raw Urth's products.
"The more hands that have touched it and the more human energy that goes into it, the more people like it," Amy says.
Raw Urth's emphasis on hoods started during the downturn in the real estate market, at which time the Sasicks expanded the company's sales nationally. They set up a booth at the International Home Builders show in Las Vegas in the company of large national brands like Kohler and Delta.
"They all had full crews with vests on," says Amy. "We drive up in a pickup truck with a trailer. We built our booth of wood and metal. Everyone else had the ones you throw on the ground and they pop up. It stood out. Everybody wanted to be in it. We're all drawn to those things that have a human touch."
Challenges: Tight quarters present Raw Urth with its biggest challenge. For three years, the company has been searching for suitable industrial space, which is scarce in Fort Collins. The Sasicks purchased a purchased a piece of property near their current 4,200-square-foot shop and are building a 15,500-square-foot facility complete with a showroom. They hope to be in the building by this summer.
Opportunities: Amy envisions designing a line of products that are not custom and can be sold at a lower price point. "We could have a builders' line and we could sell 30 of them to a new condo project or vacation home," she says "We're really hoping to fine tune our manufacturing process while being flexible. It's a perfect balance of doing it with Lean practices in mind, as well as putting the human touch on it."
Needs: With a solution to its space challenge on the horizon, Raw Urth needs to hire more people and buy more equipment. "We can't cast bronze, we have to take everything to foundries," says Amy. "Getting extra tooling will give us the opportunity to add another level of customization."