Today we’d like to introduce you to Jodie Davis.
Jodie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2006 one of the series I was hosting for the online channel for quilters, QNNtv.com, was sent to Europe by Bernina Sewing Machine Company to shoot an episode for the show. Since we were going all that way I thought why not shoot an additional episode?
Shooting a show is a fantastic entre behind the scenes, so I arranged to shoot at a cuckoo clock factory — a dream come true! When the cameras were about to roll I popped the question to the manager, ”Since this is a show for quilters could we turn this into a clock for quilters?” He bit. The hag wielding a rolling pin became a quilter with a rotary cutter and the beer drinkers turned into a kitty jumping up and down on fabric bolts.
To realize my dream of having a cuckoo clock I designed I had to import one-hundred Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clocks. Fortunately, QNNtv.com had been bought by a bigger fish which owned magazines in the industry. They ran the clock in the shopping section and voila! I didn’t end up with 99 cuckoos in my basement after all!
Fast forward ten years. QNNtv.com got eaten by yet a bigger fish and I needed to find another way to support myself and my horses. Quilters had been bugging me to import more clocks, so I ran a Kickstarter and sold 77 clocks. A business was born! I sold my clocks direct and placed them in catalogs. They sold very well. Time for new designs! I traveled to Germany and we worked on five new designs for the year.
Unfortunately, I waited over two years for both the Backyard Birds Cuckoo Clock and the American Barn Cuckoo Clock to finally arrive. I discovered that the industry simply wasn’t going to be able to produce the six new designs each year I need for my business. I had to have control over the new product or I had no business. The only solution was to become my own factory.
On to learning everything I needed to know — wood and woodworking, finishing, painting, and of course clock making — in order to make cuckoo clocks. I found a laser guy to cut decorative parts, a CNC guy to cut the cases the clocks are built on, a blacksmith to make my weights, hand painters, etc. and of course my friend who has guided me through my business, Keith Seabolt of Cleveland Georgia who is probably the best cuckoo doc outside of the Black Forest.
As did early Black Forest clockmakers, I assemble my clocks on my farm. The basement of my groovy mid-century butterfly roof house is my inventory room, my tack room in the barn I designed is my wood shop, and my living room is where clocks are assembled. See, I Am reinventing the Black Forest tradition, in America!
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?
Heavens no, not smooth! We’re talking gargantuan boulders! Being in the business, especially in uncharted territory, is all about brain management.
Right off the bat, the Kickstarter batch of clocks had to go back to Germany as they arrived without the animation of the quilter and the kitty. The amazing thing is that no one complained. But it stopped me dead in my tracks. With no clocks out there in happy hands and without a product I know is right I was stuck.
Then there was the first Christmas. Sales were fantastic. I was excited to finally pay myself. Until my accountant informed me that I owed thousands in taxes. What’s this about inventory tax? Since the bulk of my sales was through catalogs I hadn’t been paid yet so couldn’t expense the clocks. I wrote a check to the IRS and tightened my belt.
The biggest boulder was switching to become my own factory. It seemed nearly impossible at the time. but I had learned so much along the way I dove in. In the end, it took me a year to turn into a clock making company. Which is only half the time it took to get a new design out of Germany, so that put me ahead? Plus, now I can make just a few of a design and test the response. The ability to be nimble is great!
The American Cuckoo Clock Company – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My tagline says it all: The Black Forest Tradition, Reinvented in America
My clocks are traditional cuckoo clocks, powered by gravity, by weights. The heart of the cuckoo is the movement, made by Regula in Schonach, Germany. The weights drive the movement, the movement is connected to the bellows by wires, and the bellows drive the cuckoo and (most) animation.
My American made cuckoo clocks are constructed from poplar, locally sourced, which is much like the Lindenwood used in the Black Forest. The clockworks I use are the exact parts used in Germany. What’s amazing about the industry is that all the parts are still made right there, even the chains!
My clocks would pass the Black Forest Clock Association certification were they constructed in the Black Forest. I’m a stickler for that.
The problem with cuckoo clocks is that while enchanting, how many people want dark wooden clocks with beer drinkers and wood choppers in their homes? One of my first customers summed it up well. She said, “Your cuckoo clock design reflects my interests, and fit in my home.”
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Surprising my mentor Keith with the first cuckoo clock I built by myself. We had planned on me coming up and spending the day there to put the first ones together, but I arrived with it completely functioning, animation and all.
He didn’t say much at first, just looked it over with a growing smile on his face. Then he started taking pictures and said, “I knew from the moment I met you, you would master this. This is going to sell.”
That night I sat by the fire with the clock in my lap. I had made a cuckoo clock from sketches to a real, working clock, by myself, exactly as they do in Germany. I had become a clockmaker!
- Handmade, traditional weight-driven clocks range from $425 to $1000
- Website: www.TheAmericanCuckooClockCompany.com
- Phone: 8002720742
- Email: cuckoo@TheAmericanCuckooClockCompany.com
- Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/TheAmericanCuckooClockCompany/