Captains of Industry: Chris and Jason Angelini of American Bench Craft
There has certainly been an upwards trend in handcrafted, American made goods. The return of the artisan man, the shop owner, the leather worker has come about at a most unexpected time. Industrialization has become so commonplace that true craftsmanship is now a novelty, and perhaps more appreciated than it was during the 1800’s, as the “mechanized man” replaced the artisan; the unskilled worker replaced the skilled. That’s why I was excited when Jason Angelini of American Bench Craft reached out to me; Jason (right) and his brother, Chris (left), are exactly the kind of men that I want to remind us of. The entrepreneurial fire burns within most men, and when we have the opportunity to put our passion and talent into something we believe it, the result is often unmatched in both story and quality. It also provides us with an opportunity to learn from these men who have broken out of the expected mold of society to do something all their own.
- Captains of Industry articles focus on men with manly and interesting trades. They may or may not be wealthy, but they have had success, often going against the grain and choosing a unique path in life, and offer much to be learned. Read more here. -
American Bench Craft just finished up their successful Kickstarter campaign:
Tell us a little about yourselves
My brother Chris and I grew up just outside of Boston in Reading, MA. I’m married and my brother is engaged. Neither of us have kids…Yet. We both love the outdoors and are fiercely competitive. In the winters we ski and snowshoe, and in the summers you’ll find us surfing and playing beach volleyball by day and sitting by a bonfire at night. We also love camping, hiking, hunting and fishing.
You obviously have a creative streak in you to do what you do. Was this something that was part of your early life or did it come about at a later time?
Our great-great grandfather was a professional woodworker and he made a piece of furniture that was at one time displayed in the White House. When I was in college, I found his old tools in my grandfather’s garage, so I decided to restore them and try my hand at woodworking. I really enjoyed the craft and ended up making several pieces of furniture including desks, tables, and a wine rack. My brother, Chris, had a very different creative streak involving film and photography. He went to school for film and screenwriting. He’s a really good writer and great with a camera, so that’s been really helpful in marketing our products and company and story and getting ourselves in front of more people.
Was creating handmade, rustic, leather wares part of your original life plans or did this come about recently?
Not at all. 3 years ago, Chris was working at a law firm in NY and I was working as a civilian engineer for the Air Force. We were both unhappy with our jobs and looking for something more. We had the entrepreneurial bug but didn’t know what to do with it. One day, my wallet began falling apart and I couldn’t find a replacement that I liked online, so I decided to make my own. I came up with the idea for the original hammer riveted wallet a few days later and the rest is history. My brother and I both quit our jobs and started up American Bench Craft.
Working with any partner can come with challenges. As brothers, what do you guys both bring to the table for American Bench Craft (strengths & weaknesses)?
Business partnerships can be tricky. Fortunately for us, as brothers, there is no one we trust more and believe in more than each other. We compliment each other’s skills and personalities, and it allows us to make balanced and rational decisions on a day-to-day basis. And, the best part, we can scream and yell at each other one day and be back to best friends the next, because there is nothing like the bond of brothers.
What are the areas that have been the most rewarding in this new venture?
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that your products, that you handcraft one at a time, are carried by people all over the world. Hearing from our customers has to be the most rewarding part of this work. We answer all inquiries ourselves. We answer our own phones and we love chatting with our customers. In a day and age where most customer support lines are automated, people are extremely happy to be talking with us. We pride ourselves on good customer service and it’s rewarding to hear how much people appreciate that, because good customer service is definitely tough to come by these days.
What are the areas that have been the most challenging?
Running a business can get complicated. It’s very easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day operations. The real challenge is knowing how to manage and delegate these tasks so we can keep the creative juices flowing and continue expanding and improving your business and our products.
On your site you mention the inspiration of your grandfathers as a big influence on your work and style. Tell us more about that.
One of our grandfathers was a foreman for the railroad, and our other grandfather was a traveling salesman. The railroad foreman relied on rugged boots, coveralls, a durable belt, and quality work gloves. The salesman relied on sharply tailored suits, quality dress shoes, and a sturdy briefcase. Both of them understood the importance of quality products that are built to last and withstand everyday use. We keep both grandfathers in mind while designing and crafting our products and that helps to ensure our products are as rugged and durable as they are sharp, sleek and stylish.
Simplicity, Tradition, and Loyalty is what American Bench Craft is all about. Why do you think there is such a vacuum for those virtues in America today?
America is in a very tumultuous time in its history. We’ve been at war for over 14 years, we are trillions of dollars in debt, we are politically divided, and unemployment rates are at a high. People are fed up and looking to rediscover the principles that this country was founded upon. Small business is the business of America and people appreciate the businesses that adhere to a set of values they believe in.
Are there any lessons learned or advice you would give to men which has helped you with American Bench Craft?
There is never going to be the perfect time to do anything. You are never going to come up with the perfect idea and solution. Sometimes you just have to go for it. As Mark Twain said:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by what you did not do than by what you did.” (paraphrased)
Making quality goods by hand, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship…what does this mean to both of you as a man?
We believe every man should know how to work with his hands. Whether it be, building a fire, grilling a steak, swinging a hammer, or changing a tire, You don’t need to be a professional. Just know the basics and always be eager and willing to learn more. Entrepreneurship is an adventure and the ultimate test is being able to do what you love, with the people you love, and be happy every day.
Check out what manly wares Chris and Jason are making and follow along with their journey.
On the Web: http://americanbenchcraft.com