Meet Aaron Van Holland, one half of the husband and wife duo behind M.F.E.O.. Alongside partner Claire in their California studio, he creates furniture, lighting and other housewares with a focus on sustainability and a respect for utilitarian design. Below, Aaron talks a bit about their background as a small business, some of their hopes and goals for the future and a few of their favourite ways to take some time out to enjoy the little things in life.
Little Observationist: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
Aaron Van Holland: M.F.E.O. (Made For Each Other) is a Los Angeles-based husband+wife studio specialising in locally crafted furniture and housewares.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
AVH: The newest M.F.E.O. collection is currently being designed with a focus on maximum efficiency and longevity. We’re designing for homes where fewer, better things is the ethos.
LO: Share a bit of background on yourself and your business.
AVH: Repurposing vintage furnishings as a hobby eventually evolved into a desire to create a series of furniture and housewares. A stroke of serendipity presented us with an abundance of reclaimed wood when my grandfather offered us a dilapidated, century-old barn from his retired dairy farm.
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well invested? Any tips for newcomers?
AVH: Visual platforms tend to be more applicable to our industry. We’ve spent a lot time with Instagram because we enjoy sharing the day-to-day activities around the studio, but it’s difficult to measure its true ROI. Our social media platforms came in handy when we had to go public with Urban Outfitters’ design infringement of our Troika mirror. Many of our friends, colleagues and followers helped by reposting our story. We were able to make enough noise through social media that U.O. decided to finally remove their knock-off from their e-commerce properties.
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today? And your favourite resources for small business?
AVH: As a small, independent business owner it can be tempting to try to do everything yourself. While it can be useful to introduce yourself to the various aspects of running a business, the reality is that you’re not going to be an expert in the numerous areas that require expertise, nor will you likely have the time. In order to successfully scale a small business it’s critical to determine what you’re not so great at and delegate that to specialists. That may be a combination of hiring staff, outsourcing contractors and utilising web-based services. The E-myth Revisited is a great book that covers this topic.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
AVH: The biggest challenge for us has been trying to scale manufacturing while keeping it local, sustainable and affordable. Today’s global market can make it very difficult for local makers.
There’s just as many rewards as there are challenges. It’s important for a small business to celebrate the victories both great and small. Simply knowing that our customers have chosen our work to be part of their home is really the best reward.
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
AVH: We’re currently in the midst of a relaunch with new branding, website and overall creative direction. Our goal is to better tell our story, share the brand’s values and align it with the new collection’s aesthetic.
Our long term goal is to eventually purchase a piece of property where we can both live and work. This will lower our overhead while providing a bit more balance in regards to time management.
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
AVH: Time is the most valuable asset especially as a small business owner. Finding the time to put the work aside often provides much needed clarity. On a daily basis, we enjoy cooking dinner, yoga or a quick hike. If time allows, we’ll get out of town and do some camping. Nature always has a way of rebooting the brain.