We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew DePalma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrew, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My answer to this question may seem odd based on the fact that I am a small business owner but I am naturally risk averse. I am a planner and a saver and have a natural bent to mitigate risk as much as possible. This has been both a positive and a negative in my life and tends to be the same in my business. On the positive side, I believe that my conservative nature has kept me from making rash decisions that could be detrimental. Conversely, I sometimes feel that I have missed out on opportunities or grown slower than I would have wanted to when I dreamed up starting my company. It took me quite a bit of time to make the decision to quit my very corporate insurance career and start a new one building furniture. The time I took to make that decision allowed for planning and to really define why I was going to start a business, which has been valuable during the very challenging periods you inevitably go through as a business owner. I naively thought that after you take that one big leap, you are mentally done taking big risks. But what I have realized is that when you run a business, you are constantly making decisions and evaluating new risks and many of those seem as consequential as the first leap of starting out. Moving out of my garage into an actual shop, hiring my first employee, and even hiring my second and third employee all have been calculated risks that I have had to evaluate. I think it would be false to say that it gets easier to take risks but you do start to develop a process to evaluate them and gain a familiarity with the discomfort that is involved with the process.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have actually been thinking a lot about the question of what sets Open Door Furniture apart from other custom furniture companies. However, when I think deeply about it, the “what” is actually driven by the “why” of my business. Before settling on what kind of business I was going to start, I really thought hard about why I wanted to start a business. Most of this answer could be boiled down to a desire to create a product that was the best version I could possibly make and to compromise as little as possible. If you are an employee of someone else, it is not your vision and right or wrong, you don’t really get to make those decisions. But when you are taking on the risk of starting a company, you earn the privilege to try and shape it the way you want. So I chose to build something tangible, custom furniture. And I chose to continuously make whatever came out of my shop the best version it could be. This inevitably lead to me saying no to a lot of requests to build furniture for people at a lower price point that would naturally drive down the quality. This has been incredibly difficult at times but I think it is paying off. Our customers come to us and decide to pay for our services because they are looking for something that is special to them and trust that we will build the best version of that piece that we possibly can.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When friends come into town, it is a great excuse to go out to eat. I love sandwiches…Deli Llama and the Cheese Shop in La Jolla are two of my favorites. I would take one of those sandwiches and visit Mt soledad or kate sessions park for some of my favorite views of the city. Then…the beach…obviously. I love south mission. Watch amazing volley ball and go cool off in the pacific when the sand gets too hot. Afternoon coffee from Hawthorne coffee. Then pizza from Buona Forchetta in south park and then a walk around the neighborhood. Literally the perfect day.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh I absolutely love this question. If anyone asks me about starting a business, one of the first things I like to bring up is all of the help you will need to do it. The people closest to you are going to have to sacrifice a lot. My wife Lindsay has made huge sacrifices to allow me to chase a dream. To name a few; Our family’s financial trajectory looks wildly different than it did when I was in my insurance career. The late nights I have had to work to hit deadlines where she has picked up slack for the family. Dealing with a very tired life partner. The stress of the business that carries over into family life. Having to hear way to much about the process of building furniture. The list can really keep going. All in the name of chasing a dream that we don’t know how it ends. I am forever grateful that she has stepped into the risk of this venture with me. Without her emotional support, advice, and love, I am positive that I would have quit a long time ago. Another would be my first employee Erik Holland. He interned for me for free and then pushed me to hire him by quitting his job and trusting that I would find a way to pay him. It scared me to death but that push was what I needed to make my first official hire. He worked with me for 3 years and was a critical part of my growth. Mentors of mine to name a few, Jacques Spitzer of Raindrop Branding and Advertising who helped me create my first set of marketing materials, connected me to so many helpful people, and has been an advocate of mine since the beginning. Tracy Lynn of Tracy Lynn Design Studios who is an incredible leader and is always willing to stop what she is doing to give me advice and direction. Danny Mckee, my father in law who was a successful business leader in the corporate world who gives me life and business advice. My family, my sisters and my mom for all of their prayers, love and belief that I am capable of doing something that at many points has seemed impossible. My church men’s group all past and present members. You all are my lifeline. You challenge me, hold me accountable, and provide support that I long for everyone to experience. I could keep going but I think you get the point. You need a lot of help to make something like this work.
Andrew Ruiz Photography, Betsy McCue Photography, Taylor Allen Creative Photography