I wanted to introduce you to another company that insists on Made In America, is downright fanatical about quality, and whose CEO has a Vision Board above her desk of images of who her customers are, and asks every day if she is giving them what they want. And to borrow from our phone conversation (which went happily from sprint to marathon) – “Your readers are my customers.” Now, that isn’t to say she has a picture of SE or Whiskeydent or Mitchell or Nevada up. I think she is speaking in broader terms.
But I never clarified that, so if you are reading this, you might be on a wall somewhere.
If you are reading this, I am sure you are on a wall somewhere.
Here. Meet Susan Dench.
Everything on her site is American made. She insists on that. It was one of the three things during our two hours on the phone that she was serious about. We talked family, she has a pretty decent-sized one, and the need to make that time. “If there is anything positive that we can make from the last two years,” she said, “it is that it is an opportunity to reinvent and redirect some things. It would be a waste if we didn’t at least take a look at our lives and assess for a minute. I know I did. I binge-watched Netflix and I took a look. And I became more committed than ever to the idea that time with people, relationships, family, has to be intentional. If you wait for life to give you a window for that, it may not. You have to make it. Our products and designs are meant to make that time and window look as valuable as it really is.”
The second thing she was serious about is staying in her lane. Beautiful things that create opportunities to put down the phone (NOT YET if you are reading this on a phone) and enjoy some life. I said about Vineyard Vines (and as an aside, I LOVE Vineyard Vines and wear it all the time in the summer) that the company turned directions when it moved from “Our customer is people who buy these ties,” to “Our customer is people who wear ties.” Ms. Dench is very well aware of that transition, and is set on avoiding it. There is an aesthetic here, and she will not waiver.
But she has also created a lab (like experiment, not like dog) at her site. There are opportunities all over the place to personalize the products. It is kind of a unique spot, where you have the opportunity to be creative but you have expert guard rails to help.
The third thing she is serious about is quality. Of her products, and of life. “I know there are places you can buy ten plates for ten dollars, but that isn’t my customer. My customer puts more emphasis on the look and feel of things, and is willing to pay something for that. My customer is not extravagant by any means, but they are willing to buy things that are both casual AND important,” she said. “The cornhole boards I am making you, those are furniture quality.”
Good, because that’s a drinking game and people might end up sitting on one.
The takeaway is this. This is not a person looking to build a company. In fact, if you go to the site the company is kind of beside the point. Their branding is super discrete. The product and the aesthetic are forward-facing. The muddy dog is there, but you gotta look for it. Instead, this is a company located in Maine, making beautiful things in America, and dedicated to a lifestyle that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the soul.
The website is www.themuddydog.com, if you are so inclined go have a look. I am buying the phone case with the fountain pen on it because it looks like mine. And the rest of my family has a wishlist we are working our way through.