Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Modern, Custom Furniture
Design and engineering a thing of beauty for Mark Wadsworth and custom furniture manufacturer Wadsworth Design.
Wadsworth Design will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. But the business nearly stayed a hobby except for the vision of the owner’s wife, Kerri Wadsworth.
Mark Wadsworth, owner and founder of Wadsworth Design, drifted in and out of art specialties until he found his niche.
“I grew up in Las Vegas and had an amazing art teacher,” Wadsworth says. “I really learned the fundamentals of art and design. But I still milled around a bit. I had a scholarship at UNLV in sculpture but just hit a wall there. I did not feel it was the right path. I transferred to Brigham Young University (BYU) and studied graphic design. While there I decided I wanted to be a furniture designer. My professors really supported me as I shifted gears again.”
As part of his senior project, Wadsworth designed several furniture pieces. “And my professor saw what I could do. He had clients who needed pieces and asked my brother and me if we would help,” Wadsworth says. The same professor also encouraged Wadsworth to teach and helped him find a position at BYU which lasted for five years.
“But my wife said that if I really wanted to design and make furniture, I needed to get serious and do it. Her encouragement and financial support helped facilitate me as I made the jump,” Wadsworth says.
Everything manufactured by Wadsworth Design is custom. “We design it, engineer it, build it, and install it,” Wadsworth says. The focus of the business is to manufacture the best end result within the specified time at the lowest cost. Building on this mission, Wadsworth Design quickly extended its portfolio to include multiple catalogue items, particularly for salon owners looking for an edgy, modern design.
“One of our biggest clients is Paul Mitchell,” Wadsworth says. “They started their beauty school franchising in 2000, and we started at square one with them as they developed and added schools. We saw an opportunity to help them with their branding and created huge focal pieces for their schools.” Now that Paul Mitchell has over 100 schools, Wadsworth is well-known for his ability to not only provide quality pieces but also establish a brand look, particularly for franchises.
“We’ve worked in this industry for over 16 years,” Wadsworth says. “In the beginning, we paid cash for our tools and dumped everything we could back into the business so we could buy more equipment and move us into new specialties such as woodwork and upholstery.”
Wadsworth Design shops locally for the majority of their raw materials. “Our local relationships are great,” Wadsworth says. “We have sales representatives that always take care of us and are willing to show us new materials that our clients will be excited about. Working locally allows us to develop those relationships so we can stay on top of what is fresh and new.”
Wadsworth is quick to point out that manufacturing is only part of the overall creative process. “We design 95 percent of what runs through our shop. Sketching, designing, materials specification and engineering go into our shop drawings. Where applicable, programming is done to facilitate manufacturing. Even with the best planning we may find challenges with the materials we are using or the machine processes intended to manipulate those materials. Addressing those issues is a common challenge.”
The majority of Wadsworth Design’s programs are drawn in computer-aided design (CAD). “And much of it is modeled and rendered as form,” Wadsworth says, “which is as critical as the structure and form. A number of our machine tools in our woods and metal shops are Computer Numerical Control (CNC), providing accuracy and speed. Although we rely on technology for much of what we do, the touch of a skilled craftsman is critical to our success.”
Challenges: Delegating. With his name on his company, Wadsworth admits he takes on too many responsibilities. “I wear too many hats. I have an amazing team, but I do not delegate enough and need to empower my employees so that less is contingent on me being at work,” he says.
Opportunities: Wadsworth is expanding outside of the salon world. “We’ve had all our eggs in the beauty world basket,” he admits. “Our local business died on the vine because we had to keep up with Paul Mitchell. But now is the time to grow locally and get back into the residential and commercial market.” Wadsworth is also working with some new franchises. “Diversity is great but franchises are key to providing stable workflow.”
Needs: Talent. Utah has a low unemployment rate and Wadsworth knows new talent is hard to find. “A few years ago I would advertise and get 20-30 resumes. Now I just get a handful. Everyone is employed.”
Alicia Cunningham is editor for CompanyWeek Utah. Contact Alicia here to inquire about having your manufacturing or supply-chain business profiled in CompanyWeek Utah.