Gerald Reinink hears it a lot.
"You're just a kid," customers say when the 22-year-old owner of HD Threshing Floor Furniture walks into the Toronto offices of a major company like Nestlé Canada, the fancy confines of a Muskoka cottage or an upscale house in Uxbridge, where many of his customers are found.
"No, I'm a man, c'mon," responds Reinink whose company sells high end boardroom and dining room tables made of floor boards rescued from old barns.
Yet what the youthful Reinink has been able to accomplish in the short space of one year is truly adult in magnitude.
Fuelled by a dream he's had since his teen years to run his own company, the son of an Alma-area broccoli and pig farmer has turned his barnboard enterprise into a full-time business with orders booked solid until February.
How has he done it? Marathon working days and a salesperson’s bravado, to name two reasons. Last year the Conestoga College management studies grad blew away the competition, including teams from area universities, to finish in the top three at a business pitch contest that attracted more than 50 entries. (View Gerald’s profile below)
Those marketing talents won him an invitation to appear on the high-profile Dragons' Den TV show this season, but Reinink was simply too busy running his business to go.
Then there's his embrace of all the high-tech sales tools on the market today, including an iPad to showcase his products and a website marketed by Google Adwords that negates the need for a retail store.
Also factoring into his formula is a lean management style. He financed the startup himself, grew it through sales that started on Kijiji, does deliveries himself and uses the front room of a supplier’s house in St. Clements as his showroom. Viewings are by appointment only.
But the real key to his success is as simple as a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. Reinink believes he has a great product to sell.
"Art that is practical" is how he describes his tables made from soft pine and hemlock to showcase all the gouges, cuts and hues made by horses, tractors and threshing activity on the barn floor.
The wood is cut, kiln-dried and run through a sander to adjust the thickness and smooth out the roughest spots, then coated with an epoxy to fill in the cavities and seal the surface. The result is old and full of character, but durable and heavy duty, hence the HD name.
"A lot of science goes into it to get it exactly right," he says.
Although he takes credit for the idea behind the epoxy finish and pulling the whole enterprise together, Reinink didn’t just dream up all this stuff by himself. He started working for a reclaimed wood company in Chatsworth south of Owen Sound that was selling tables made from barn board on the side.
In the fall of 2009, when the company realized it could not sell the low-volume, custom-made tables wholesale, it offered the business to Reinink. "I ran with it," he says.
He went to furniture builder Edgar Beringer near Elmira and finisher Sonny Michalofsky in St. Clements, who already had their own customers but switched to supplying HD full-time when sales started to take off. The company also makes chairs and hutches, but trestle and harvest-style tables starting at $2,400 are its big seller.
For raw material, Reinink lined up firms in Fordwich and Dorking that specialize in dismantling old barns.
Although sales appear to be taking off, he's happy to ride the momentum he has at the moment. Asked where he wants it to be in five years, Reinink says, "not too far from where it is now."
Above story originally posted by The Record on November 03, 2010
By Chuck Howitt, Record staff
Photography by David Bebee/Record staff
Gerald Reinink Profile, 2009
Owner, HD Threshing Floor Furniture Elora, Ontario
What do you do in your current position?
Own/operate a company exceeding $50,000 sales monthly.
How did the B.A.M. program prepare you for your career?
Gave me a solid general business background for what I currently do
What were the best aspects about Conestoga and the B.A.M. program?
Faculty, the latitude given students to get creative/innovative with projects, and a "to the point" approach with regards to instructed curriculum
Why did you choose the B.A.M. program at Conestoga?
Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but knew I was entrepreneurial. It seemed like a great starting point.
What advice would you give to current and future B.A.M students?
School will give you information. It’s up to you to use that information to be successful. The program gives you tools; it’s up to you to use those tools. There’s no such thing as handouts no matter what you do in life.
What is your fondest memory of your time in the B.A.M. Program?
The friendliness and accessibility of the faculty and the fact that there are a lot of projects.