Woodland Park, Colorado
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Handcrafted lighting and decor
Founder Jeff Musgrave creates one-of-a-kind lighting from nature's renewable bounty.
When Musgrave moved to Colorado to work as a motorcycle mechanic, he never imagined he'd wind up crafting elaborate chandeliers out of shed antlers.
"I really fell into it by accident," Musgrave recalls. "I worked as a Harley mechanic for about six months before I started moonlighting building bikes in my garage. I worked on a guy's bike who had a business building antler chandeliers. He was looking for help, and I was looking for a little extra cash. I started working with him and found I was a natural at it."
Seven years later, Musgrave decided to step out on his own and start Peak Antler Company in a 1,200-square-foot shop he built at his home in Divide. Sales have steadily increased since, and he was able to double his square footage with a move to Woodland Park earlier this year.
In the new 2,400-square-foot warehouse space, Musgrave and his team handcraft chandeliers, lamps, mirrors, sculptures, and furniture from a sustainable resource: naturally shed deer and elk antlers collected by pickers who comb the forests of the Mountain West.
"Deer and elk shed their antlers every year," Musgrave explains, "and I buy antlers by the pound. I have guys from Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana who pick up white tail deer, mule deer, and elk antlers. Occasionally, I work with farms that raise deer to get in exotic antlers like those from fallow deer."
Musgrave says that 90 percent of Peak Antler Company's sales are chandeliers and other lighting. Every order can be customized by size, shape, color, and number of lights.
"We think of ourselves more as artists than manufacturers," Musgrave says. "No two antlers are the same, so there can't be any two chandeliers the same. For me, these are giant jigsaw puzzles. I work to create symmetry so that each piece is balanced and looks like something very artistic rather than just a pile of antlers."
It's a very hands-on process. "I haven't found any computer software that can help," Musgrave continues. "I have 50,000 pounds of antlers in the shop right now, and when we're designing a piece, we're picking through the pile to find antlers we like to piece together."
After designing a chandelier, Musgrave and his team have to engineer the lights. "All of our wiring is internal," he adds. "We drill through the antlers to add the lights and connect everything in a safe manner."
The biggest chandelier Peak Antler Company has created to date was eight feet by 10 feet. "It was for a house in Texas," Musgrave says. "We had to build it in pieces, take it to the house, and then assemble it. It was too big to ship. I sell a lot more five- and six-foot chandeliers than two- and three-foot chandeliers. The bigger stuff is our specialty. A lot of other companies don't want to mess with it."
But "big" is what Musgrave's target demographic -- homeowners with "big" homes in the Mountain West -- are after. "They need something to fill a space," he says. "Something that makes a statement. Something that is impactful. I've been around for so many years now that my name and reputation has grown. Every year, more people know about me and have seen what I can do for someone else."
Now, he says, they want him to do it for them.
Challenges: Musgrave says sales at Peak Antler Company are up 25 to 30 percent in 2019. "It's kind of like drinking from a fire hose because it's coming at me really fast," he chuckles.
More help would be nice, but it presents another challenge. When he hired another employee earlier this year, the training process was time-intensive. "I can't just train someone in a week, and there's no school to go to if you want to learn how to do this," Musgrave explains. "I have a three-year training program, like a mentorship, where they work under me and learn piece by piece how I design, create, and think."
Opportunities: Musgrave says that exports are a big opportunity for Peak Antler Company. "I'm doing a lot of bids internationally," he continues. "Last week, I shipped a chandelier to the Philippines. This morning, I quoted one for a job in Barcelona, Spain. And next month, I have a lady in town from Sweden who wants to do a big project there."
Needs: Musgrave needs more time for the hands-on work he loves. "My people are working, but I'm on the phone, doing emails, finishing up quotes, closing out bids, doing paperwork, and all that kind of stuff when I really wish I was building," he says. "I enjoy being in the shop; that's why I do this."