Welcome to the launch of a brand new series: Small Business Breakfast. I’ll be chatting with entrepreneurs and featuring an inspiring small business every other Sunday morning. So pour your coffee or tea, prepare your fuel for the day and enjoy.
I’m kicking it off with my creative dad, Pat Sadler, the craftsman behind Sadler Garden Collections. I have childhood memories of slipping my small feet into a pair of his oversized boots and trudging out to his sawdust-coated shed to bring a warming cup of tea. His small business has grown over the last few decades and, while his popular wood nesting boxes and Tivertons still feature, he also works with PCV. Constantly bringing to life a steady stream of new product ideas means you won’t find anything quite like his in the shops. His business is successful because of this, but also because of his strong work ethic and pride in both acute attention to detail and excellent customer service (just check out his Etsy shop reviews!).
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Give us your (approximately) tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
PAT SADLER: I make a variety of decorative lawn & garden products using PVC & wood. The profiles make excellent holders for flowers, bird food & battery candles.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
PS: I have a very unique business. My product line has developed from my hobby and my day job. For the last 36 years I have worked in the PVC fence industry as a pioneer and manufacturer which has given me vast knowledge of the workings of PVC. I have also been involved in the marketing and selling of the products and this has given me knowledge of how to promote my products.
I have been a woodworker for many years and, as a hobby, I started to build things from wood and PVC.
Some of my ideas and designs have been inspired by my British heritage, such as my Tudor accents.
My business today has developed from a few simple cutout designs that are used for feeders, planters, battery candle holders, to birdhouses and feeders made with PVC and wood, as well as larger items such as patio planters, flower towers, lawn signs and mailbox posts.
I often hear people at craft shows say: “That’s that railing material; I could build that.” Well, that is how the PVC industry has developed over the years. When I first started, nobody knew what the product was. Now with the presence of big box stores everybody knows about PVC and its maintenance-free aspects
I expect some competition in the near future, but I have acquired a lot of tools and machines over the years that I hope will keep me in the lead.
To enter into the business is quite costly for the return that you are able to get. Hence a lot of plastics are molded and mass-produced. I still prefer the hands-on approach to a personalised, customised product.
LO: Share a bit of background about yourself and your business.
PS: I was born in London, England, a long time ago and came to North Tonawanda, New York (a suburb of Buffalo) in 1979. My interest in woodworking developed shortly after.
I developed a passion for PVC in 1984 and decided to make and sell my own products in 1993. I enjoyed selling my products and supporting my business through these sales.
My first small business was called “Across the Miles” because of the British influence in my designs. I ran that until 2003 when I closed it down because my day job needed more of my time. Across the Miles was making money, but not enough to raise a family on, so I put all my designs on hold. I still continued the hobby of designing products and testing them in my own garden.
I started Sadler Garden Collections in 2011 and hope to continue it well into retirement.
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well-invested? Any tips for newcomers?
PS: The beauty of starting a business late in life is that you can draw on the experiences of the people around you.
My son and daughter have been a great help to me. It’s tough enough to run a business, make products, and try to sell them, so when my daughter offered to make me a website, I jumped at the opportunity. She also told me about Etsy for selling and helped me to get that started.
So, today I have my Etsy site which I call “My Retirement Gig” where you may browse and purchase my products. You can also read the reviews that our customers have written. I also have a website where you will also find my blogs and the stories behind the products. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, all thanks to my daughter for her help and experience.
My wife maintains the Etsy site which is a time consuming venture, but worth it when we hear the cash register ring on the iPhone to tell us we have another order.
My only social media tip to newcomers would be to keep it active and up to date; if you let it drop, so will your sales and exposure.
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?
PS: Quality and service, quality and service. This was drummed into me for many years by our old sales and marketing manager. Do the best you can and if it’s not working then figure out how to do it better. Read the reviews from your customers, listen and act on them. Be the best you can be and don’t let your customers down.
I think my favorite resource for small business is listening and asking others about their experiences: my son for his business plan writing, my daughter for her social media skills, discussions with my wife and with fellow crafters.
If I had more time, I would write more blogs.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
PS: I have several challenges as a small business owner, the biggest being time management. I am still working a full time day job that has pretty heavy travel demands, so when I do have some free time at home, I have to juggle the must-dos with the nice-to-do projects. It’s hard to decide between admin or creativity. I love to be creative, so all the admin stuff usually ends up in a shoe box until deadline time. My wife has started to try to organise my admin stuff so that is a huge relief.
My greatest reward is when I sell a product and receive a 5-star rating on Etsy. It means I have a satisfied customer and a product that people want to own.
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?
PS: My short term goal is to learn to run my CNC routing matching that I bought 5 or 6 years ago. Once I am fluent with operating it, it may steer my business in a different direction as I will be able to do a lot more personalised projects.
Long term, I am not sure. I don’t typically set goals unless I have a vision of a goal and then I will work on how I am going to achieve it.
At the end of the day I want to run a profitable business with a great reputation and a ton of new and repeat customers looking for quality-made products at affordable prices.
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
PS: I love to travel and spending Christmas in London with family and friends was definitely a luxury.
Peace is a luxury, and I find that in listening to music or sitting on my front porch with coffee and a good book.
Going salmon fishing with my son in Oregon was a recent luxury, and actually catching one made it even more special!