Carl Williams, Royal Men Solutionskatiesmith
Custom Commercial and Residential Furniture, Chicago, IL
Organizations: Defy Ventures
Services Utilized: Develop Ideas – Create Business Plan, Increase Sales – Join Accelerator, Capture Wealth – Update Pitch Deck
Carl Williams grew up around woodworking — his grandfather and father were both carpenters. As a child, Carl followed them around the house and mimicked what they did.
Carl founded Royal Men Solutions, a custom furniture company, and became a third-generation carpenter through an unexpected path. Carl joined the Defy Ventures Illinois Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and Business Accelerator programs after his release from prison to get help with launching his business. Carl says that once he joined Defy, he found the tools to help pursue his dreams. Defy’s programs provided assistance with his healing, communication skills, and education. Carl describes Defy as a business resource that empowered him to support not only himself, but also his family and community.
Carl started making custom furniture because he wanted to make reliable and affordable furniture that clients could pass down to their families. “I wanted to build bookcases so that kids, generation after generation, would be pulling books down from that bookcase.” Carl considers himself a co-creator with his clients in bringing their artistic visions to life. “There are so many things you can do with your ideas,” he says. “It starts with you.”
Carl started his business building one bookcase and now makes an array of custom home and office furniture. He named his business “Royal,” because for him it means, “being honest, building a business of character, and building relationships in the community.”
Even though Carl spent much of his life in prison, he doesn’t want to waste any more time on resentment or regrets. He is excited to build his business where he mentors and employs other young carpenters. He speaks with them about mental health, higher education, and supports them in their dreams and vision for the future.
Carl says that beyond just teaching the skill of building, he wants to create the next generation of carpenters. “Your life is not just your life. It’s a shared life,” Carl says. “You can encourage and inspire others to invest in themselves and create a business for their family and community.”
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We asked Carl to walk us through the steps he took to develop his business idea. Visit our Develop Your Idea page to complete your own business checklist and follow along with the video.
Develop Your Idea – Royal Men Solutions
1. Identify the Opportunity
What problem am I trying to solve?
A lack of unique custom furniture for the everyday consumer.
What is my product?
Reliable, affordable furniture that fits a client’s personal style. “Generational iconic pieces” that are high-quality and handmade.
How will I price it?
Carl researched other companies’ furniture prices. He asked, “Do they sell solid wood or do they sell MDF fiberboard? Do you have to put it together yourself?” For his products made of solid wood, Carl figured out the price of the wood needed and then he factored in the time to build the piece.
2. Define Your Ideal Customer
How would I describe my customer?
Customers looking for unique, reliable furniture. Anyone from the age of 20-80. Those who are looking for unique pieces for their home and want to see “the beauty of their idea” created.
What are their interests?
Customers who are creative, inspirational, and joyous. They want to see beauty and elegance in their furniture and have it “feel like a masterpiece.” People who are open-minded about their art.
3. Prepare to Sell Your Product
How will I market my new idea?
“It started by word of mouth,” Carl says. “I built one piece for a client. The client was associated with different stores and other business-people.” He built the piece according to client’s ideas and vision and asked them to show the piece off. He told the client he would build them a new piece for free if five customers came in for a furniture consultation and three ordered custom pieces.
How will I make my first sale?
Carl built interest in his furniture pieces though word-of-mouth. His first sale included two bookcases for an office space in a client’s home. “The next piece was a kitchen table and a European style desk,” Carl says. After that, nine clients asked Carl to make custom kitchen cabinets. From there “more bookcases, desks, you name it!”