Like many successful woodworking business owners, Kiersten Hathcock started out with a mission. But Kiersten’s mission was surprisingly modest when she began. She was a fan of Mid-century Modern furniture, and wanted to find a toy box in that style for her children. Her research produced very few options, and none that she could afford, so she made the bold decision to take matters into her own hands and build one herself. This decision was made in spite of the fact that she had virtually no woodworking experience.
The lack of available furniture in this style also convinced her that there was a business opportunity worth exploring. At the time, she’d left a marketing job in television to nanny two babies in addition to caring for her own kids. She figured if she sold one toy box a week, she’d earn what she was making weekly as a nanny. She bought a few basic tools, and did a LOT of research on how to cut and join wood. While the woodworking on her early pieces was basic, it was solid, and it allowed her exceptional design skills to reveal themselves.
She sold a few of her early pieces on Etsy, and continued to hone her designs as well as her woodworking skills. Soon her friends wanted a toy box, then friends of friends. It didn’t take long before word was getting out that Kiersten made the coolest toy boxes in Los Angeles, and celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Christina Applegate, and Rachel Zoe were contacting her to get theirs. Kiersten’s business, Mod Mom Furniture, was quickly proving its viability.
Kiersten possesses a rare combination of business acumen, jaw-dropping design skills, relentless work ethic and a level of sheer courage that makes Evel Knievel look like a sissy. She worked relentlessly to keep up with the demand, often placing her toy boxes in any open spot in her house so that she could apply finish in a dust free environment without slowing down production in her garage shop. Kiersten knew that she had quickly maxed out her limited production capacity, and meanwhile the demand was growing exponentially. She needed to expand, which meant finding a manufacturing partner. Her search led to an Amish furniture manufacturer in Ohio around the same time that the TV show “Shark Tank” premiered.
Swimming with the sharks. At her father’s urging, Kiersten decided to apply for the Season 2 of “Shark Tank”, and after a standout presentation she won bids from two of the Sharks. This seemed to be a life-changing opportunity, but to Kiersten’s initial chagrin, the deal that she won on Shark Tank never fully materialized. The “Shark” she chose decided, after filming, that her company was still a bit too small. She remained on the hunt for investment to grow ModMom, while simultaneously hustling to keep up with orders.
Growing pains. After reeling from the disappointment of her Shark Tank deal never materializing, Kiersten returned to work more determined than ever. She continued to delight customers with her designs and product quality, pushing her garage shop well beyond its limits. Then she caught a break when an angel investor approached her, offering her a better deal than what she was offered on the TV show, and a compelling partnership which has proven to be a great fit for Kiersten’s business philosophies. “After the Shark Tank deal died, I wasn’t sure I’d have a shot at another investment opportunity. About a year after my episode aired, a true angel in every sense of the word reached out to me asking if my deal had gone through. He told me that he believed in me and wanted to help me get to the next level. He continues to be a huge supporter, both of Mod Mom and my own personal well-being. I hit the jackpot as far as angel investors go.”
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation! Fueled by her new financial backing, Kiersten was able to secure manufacturing partners and retail distribution which have helped to elevate the ModMom brand to iconic mainstream status. And as the adage goes, success begets success. The ever-expanding visibility of the Mod Mom brand has raised the public’s awareness of Kiersten’s unique design skills. The momentum has most recently captured the attention of the infamous Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, where Kiersten is now designing a line of Children’s furniture for them. “This was surreal, to say the least,” said Kiersten. “Having taught myself to build furniture, I never in a million years thought that the foundation representing America’s most famous architect would want to partner with me—a mom who started out building furniture out of her garage.” The Frank Lloyd Wright furniture line is called PlayHouse by Mod Mom Furniture. The origin of the brand name was a drawing of the word “playhouse” Wright had created for a client project.
For those of us who have had the joy of following Kiersten’s story from her earliest days of building toy boxes one at a time in her “no-car garage”, her continued success has never been a surprise. I continue to follow along with great anticipation to see what she will do next. If you want to learn more about Kiersten, or follow along on her journey, you can find her on her business website as well as her social media accounts that are listed on her “About” page.