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Meet Carl Held of Ocean West Designs in Suwanee

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carl Held.

Carl, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Woodworking and designing projects was always enjoyable for me as I was growing up. Back in the day, when I was a kid, I would make cages for animals that I kept. During those times, the equipment that I used were the basic hand tools, so I learned on my own how to build with wood.

After graduating from college, moving into an apartment in a new city, I didn’t have the big moving van with all the furniture, including the stuff that goes with it. Just boxes filled with clothes and no furniture. At that time, I thought the apartment was big, which it was minus the furniture. So, I bought some DIY (do it yourself) books on furniture building and tools. Soon, I had a dining room table with chairs, platform bed, night stands, coffee table and other pieces.

As time continued, to relax, I would take pictures of furniture or other wood items that I liked, draw it on paper, add a few changes, then build it. That was more satisfying than running to the store and buy a mass produced product. Wood products that were different and had a design would always catch my eye.

Through this journey, my career has been sales; industrial, commercial and the real estate industry. Also, self-taught equity trader and how to be technologically savvy. This is all due to my drive to be creative and always thrive to learn something new.

Working with wood has been a great outlet for my creative side. I have been fortunate to have the aptitude to design, draw and build with wood. It’s a talent that takes time to develop.

At the end of 2014, my family and I moved from San Diego to Austin to begin a new chapter in a new city. As time went by, we just didn’t feel like this was the place that we wanted to live for many years. While we were there, I started planning, designing and put together a woodworking business building and designing furniture. During that time, my brother called and told me that the company that he works for, which is located in South Florida, had a Sales Director position available. He mentioned to the President of the company that he should talk with me. The President of the company called and wanted me to interview for the position. They have branches throughout the southeastern section of the U.S. Marietta was the location for the position. Prior to the interview, I did a lot of research of the Marietta and surrounding areas for schools, housing, etc. Also, knowing that the position could be located in South Florida, I did the same research. Prior to the interview, we put everything in storage, knowing that we were leaving Austin no matter what the outcome would be. So, we headed to South Florida for the interview. Staying with family, it gave me the opportunity to show my family the area where I grew up. Then, I have the interview, which went very well, because I was well prepared, qualified and had the skills to be successful in the position.

Now, to give a little background about the company, the previous President, who was released had chased many employees away from the company. The current President was trying to recruit some of those employees back to the company. Unfortunately, I did not get the position. The position went to a former employee that the President was trying to get back, who had less experience and was a lot younger. At that point, I had to make a decision to either stay in South Florida or move to the Atlanta area. The decision was to move to the Atlanta area. After settling in Suwanee, I took some time to evaluate what the next journey would bring. Throughout my life, I’ve done woodworking projects and had great satisfaction working with my hands, using my creative abilities. At that point, I decided to start the business building quality furniture, knowing that building a small business would take a lot of work, planning, guts and determination to succeed. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely road less traveled. The satisfaction of building a business that brings joy to your customers is well worth it.

People ask me where did I get the name, Ocean West Designs. As a kid, I grew up in the South Florida area, always spending time going to the beach, fishing and diving in the Keys. Later in my life, I moved to San Diego and lived near the beach, taking many walks and spending time enjoying the ocean. So, the ocean has been a big part of my life and that is how the name was created.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Building a business is never a smooth road. There are so many aspects of the business that you have to master. We all wish that sales and revenue would be knocking at the door from day one. It’s a journey that takes time, patience, determination and persistence. One of the keys to success is the ability to make adjustments, learning from mistakes, having an open mind and adapt to change. Another skill is listening to your customers and what the marketplace is saying. As for the operations of the business, you have to know your numbers.

There were days, when I didn’t know when and where the next opportunity (sale) would come. I had to be patient and try to create sales through social media. All my business has been through social media. As time passes, I always ask my customers how they found me. All of them have said that either through some form of social media or someone told them about me, who found me through the web.

Another challenge has been developing a system that works and makes each aspect of the business run more efficient. I started out with a simple system, but as I was building more furniture, I had to make adjustments, which does take time. Also, when starting, I didn’t have a big bank roll to finance the business, so finding ways to cut costs and keep spending in check was very important. Example, finding ways to cut the cost of supplies.

Time becomes a big factor in running a business. It has been a challenge to run every aspect of the business from sales, finance, marketing, building, buying supplies, delivering and many other tasks. There are only so many hours in a day. You can say that it is a good problem. I’ve learned how to be more efficient, but there’s always room to improve.

Overall, running a business has it’s challenges. The part that I enjoy is meeting the challenges, figuring out creative solutions. Thinking of ways to grow the business for the future. Also, delivery day is a great day, seeing the excitement and joy that the furniture that I build brings to my customers.

Ocean West Designs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Ocean West Designs builds custom, handcrafted furniture for the residential, office, retail and commercial industry. Using solid wood and dowel joinery for quality craftsmanship. We will customize a piece of furniture to your specifications.

Ocean West Designs listens to the customers needs and wants. We are proud to educate our customers in the techniques that we use to build their furniture. Also, communicating throughout the process of their build so they will have a great experience. Customers are the #1 asset of the company.

The quality and craftsmanship of the furniture that we build will last many years to come.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest and most rewarding moments is when I am delivering custom built furniture to the customer. They are very excited and thankful. Also, I have met many very nice people and have had great conversations.

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