In this week's edition of New Year, New Man, we feature Jesse Isenberg and Jordee Williford of Stinson Williford. Stinson Williford is a custom millwork shop based in our hometown of Richmond, VA, fueled by the desire of creating unique and captivating environments. The team’s work is incredible and we’ve collaborated on a handful of projects – most recently, the interior design and build of our Georgetown Pop-up Store. Shortly after the holidays, we caught up with Jordee and Jesse to find out more about their business and what’s on the horizon for the upcoming year.
How did Stinson Williford get its start?
Jesse: I started my own business five or six years ago. It was kind of a one-man shop doing a lot of architectural signage, remodeling and different things like that. Jordee and I knew of each other, but not directly, because we used to work for the same company, but at different times. They were a small design-build company. I had already left by the time Jordee had started. When Jordee left, he also started his own business primarily with the design aspect of the job. We eventually met up, stayed in touch, got to know each other and worked on a few projects. After a couple of successful projects working together but still independently, we decided to combine our businesses and start Stinson Williford.
Jordee: The thing about when Jesse and I met each other, we weren’t looking for a business partnership but it was more about us getting to know each other. By reaching out and us getting to know each other, we quickly realized that we think similarly, but also differently. This has been beneficial to our company. Through the early projects that we worked on together, we realized that this was something that we could partner up and do together.
What is the workflow process between you two?
Jordee: I’m mostly design, engineering and figuring out the details of projects. Most of our work is collaborative though, and Jesse gives input on the designs that I do. We work as a team.
Jesse: I think what’s interesting about our process is that we’re both pretty universal. If I’m building something, he can jump in and help me. If he’s designing something, I can jump in and help him. I think because we used to own our own small businesses, we have that small business mentality of getting the job done as efficiently as possible.
Over time, it’s become easier for one of us to have a concept and the other to help produce that idea. If Jordee’s working on conceptual ideas, as the builder I can come in and say, "Well that angle is impossible." That way, when we present something, we feel extremely confident about it because it has both an engineer’s and designer’s input.
What is Stinson Williford offering that other design-build shops are not?
Jesse: We spend a lot of time helping the client come up with a vision. The development process is most important in whatever the end goal is, because you want the customer to be excited about what you’re doing. We put more emphasis on the upfront conceptual idea and vision creating, so when it comes down to production, it’s easy because we, as well as the client, know what we’re doing. Where most companies are extremely profit-driven, we’re more passion-driven. Our end goal is to make something more special than what our client thought possible. Efficiency is important but we’d rather take the time to execute the job well.
With Ledbury, we return to you guys time-and-time again because we know you are going to deliver beyond our expectations. What is the value of repeat customers in this industry?
Jordee: Repeat customers show that they were satisfied and you’ve met their goals. It’s flattering for someone to come back to you for work after you’ve completed a project with them before. It reiterates that they believe in what you’re doing and that they trust you with a project. I think it’s just building that trust overtime with the customer as they continue to come back.
Jesse: What’s fortunate about working with Ledbury is that I feel like we’ve developed that trust. When it’s a tight deadline, we don’t have to work out all the fine details, you all just trust us to take care of it. For us, that’s when the work is the most enjoyable. You work with the customer on the concept and then once you’re on the same page, you just go. We want to hit the deadline but we like the freedom of being able to try new techniques because we don’t feel boxed in.
In addition to creative freedom, what other aspects of the job are the most rewarding?
Jesse: What we really enjoy doing is the full vision. Sometimes this is hard when there are a lot of different companies working together – one guy is making furniture, one guy is doing this, one guy is doing that. We enjoy taking it all alone because we try to point all the details to one cohesive direction. What we’ve really enjoyed lately is the entire architectural fabrication . In addition to a build, we’ve enjoyed making custom furniture pieces that really work in the environment that they’re in – as oppose to a stock item. This has been our passion and what we’ve been pushing lately. Furniture is a different industry than what we’ve been working in, but something we’ll be doing a lot more of in the upcoming year.
Jordee: Seeing a finished product in a space being used and seeing how people interact with whatever the project might have been is the most rewarding. For me, that is what gives a project value. Not necessarily the value in price, but in the way people are using something and what’s happening around it.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
Jesse: I play in a bluegrass band, Sturgeon City, so that’s a pretty heavy commitment. My wife and I recently bought a house so there are a lot of projects going on at home right now. My wife and I spend a lot of time in the community, at church, and with our friends.
Jordee: I love working out and I try making this a constant in my life . . . although I haven’t been too good with the holidays just passing. Also spending a lot of time with my wife, she’s recently pregnant and we’re going to have a little one in a few months. I’m also a big football fan. I went to the University of Georgia so I’m a huge Bulldogs fan. Jesse hears a lot about that.
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in the new year, both business and personally?
Jesse: This year is going to be an interesting year. I mentioned that we’re moving more towards furniture and this really has us looking at business a little differently. We understand that this isn’t going to happen over night, but we would like to start positioning the business more on those pieces – slowly building collections and being able to market them well. For the company itself, that’s our goal.
I may be speaking for both of us, but within the company, our hope is that we can start building a new routine about our job roles. We both do a little bit of everything but I long for the routine of, ‘this is my ownership in the company,’ and Jordee has his things.
We look forward to building the company. Once we get some traction in this new direction that we’re going in, we want to start taking the steps into bringing in new people, whether it’s production, marketing or whoever it might be. We look forward to building a team.
Jordee: Personally, I’m just really excited for 2014. This past year was the first solid year in our news space. We had a really great year and couldn’t have asked for anything better. In the new year, I’m looking forward to us growing on what we’ve built to this point, changing up a few things as far as our direction and where we’re headed. I’m excited to jump in see what happens.