So you’re in your twenties and you want to be an entrepreneur. A Mark Zuckerberg. A Steve Jobs. A Bill Gates. After all, you devoted four years studying for it, another five years (or longer!) paying back student loans. And if you do start a business, you’re probably taking out another loan to kick-start it – and then spending another bunch of years trying to pay it back. Considering the options, a 9-5 job doesn’t sound so bad.
So who in their right mind would walk out of a stable career and risk everything? Well, me. And lots of other crazy, foolishly fearless people like me, who find risk and freedom an irresistible pair.
In 2009, Sim, my then boyfriend, and I launched MOD Restoration, a high end furniture restoration company, exactly five days before the market hit rock bottom. What did we know? We were both 24 years old and thought we had it all figured out. We went out into the world, hustled and landed service contracts with many large furniture companies to do in-home warranty repairs for their customers. If you bought furniture from Crate & Barrel, Jonathan Adler, Ethan Allen or Ralph Lauren Home and submitted a warranty claim between 2009 and 2011, you likely had a MOD Restoration repair technician come to your NYC home.
But try as we might, we could do nothing right in these customers’ eyes. If we successfully repaired their furniture, they hated us for ruining their chance for a receiving an exchange for a new piece of furniture. If we determined that their claim wasn’t covered under warranty, they would call the furniture company, yelling and screaming, demanding justice. Many customers even tried to bribe our repair techs with gifts and tips, in hopes that we would report their damage as a manufacturer’s defect to be covered under warranty.
Veneer Panels That Were Once On The Drawers
I vividly remember this particular story like it was yesterday. One consumer claimed that he woke up one morning and found all six veneer drawer panels lying on the floor. The furniture company sent us to his home to do an inspection. Just to give you some perspective, the odds of six independent panels falling off a dresser at the same exact time by itself is probably as likely as me winning the NY Lottery. Pretty slim :) The panels were warped and bowed, a clear symptom that the veneer got wet and/or was exposed to direct heat, such as a blow dryer or steamer. When the consumer was informed that his warranty would not cover the damage, he called MOD threatening to bring us down if we didn’t change our inspection report.
Don’t get me wrong, of course there were the legitimate claims, like a sectional arriving with the wrong size seat cushion or the foam seat cushion flattening prematurely.
Seat Cushion Too Small For Sofa (Left Side)
Regardless of the scenario, no one seemed happy. The customers wanted new furniture. Our technicians actually wanted to do the repair and get paid. Naturally, the furniture companies wanted to pay out the fewest claims possible. Negativity surrounded our business from all sides, on a daily basis. It was simultaneously exhausting and depressing.
There comes a time in life when we give ourselves a choice. Do we continue doing something just because we’re used to it, or do we break away into the unknown and try to start all over, in the hopes that it would actually give us genuine pleasure?
I’ve personally given myself that choice a dozen times throughout my life. In 8th grade, I decided that my Hassidic school wasn’t for me and got myself thrown out. When I was 19 and married to an ultra-religious man, I found myself yearning for a different life and gathered the courage to get divorced. The older I got, the more I found myself fighting the “norm” in a quest to do what I thought would make me happy. And again with MOD, after 2 years of building a reputable business, I found myself in that same predicament. The inability to ever make customers happy, the physical intensity of the work, and the grueling hours left me with no quality of life. The hundreds of thousands of dollars we were making wasn’t worth it. It certainly wasn’t enough. So in typical Hanny-style, I woke up one morning and fired every corporate client we provided warranty services for. I wanted to start over again.
If I had spent too much time worrying about those critical next steps, I never would have gotten out. I was positive that whatever our “next” would be, it would be more rewarding. It had to be. I wanted the opportunity to make customers happy, to provide a service that they actually wanted, and to be compensated for it, emotionally and monetarily.
I wanted to combine all the things I was passionate about. Fashion…Furniture…Fabric…Flair. It hit me. And at age 26, I decided to reinvent MOD Restoration as a reupholstery company. I wanted MOD to be branded as the “fashion for furniture” shop. And I spent the next many months turning MOD into just that.
Original Saarinen Womb Chair, 1950's
Today, people come excited to our beautiful 3500 square foot Brooklyn studio to have us reupholster their furniture. Our clients are eager to watch us as we transform their pieces into one-of-a-kind masterpieces. It’s an amazing feeling to help them choose the perfect fabric and to see the incredible evolution of each piece, once it’s reupholstered and refinished.
People rarely tell us that it’s OK to change our minds. If we do, we’re considered flaky or indecisive. But I disagree. I believe that the ability to change status quo truly is a gift. It got me to where I am today. At 28, I am passionate about what I do. I love how happy our clients are with the finished product. And I am surrounded by incredibly talented and creative craftsmen and women who make MOD the great environment that it is. Not to mention – we make more money doing it, which I believe is a by-product of doing what you’re truly happy doing.
Womb Chair Reupholstered By MOD
Have you thought about or already made a big break in your business? I’d love to know how you made the pivot and how it changed your business and your life.