As he likes to say, Jason Lutz is the creator, founder, designer, and sole manager of the Vermont Cedar Chair Company
, built his company on an idea and a self-described passion for natural materials spawned by a charity mission to Jamaica.
In 2007, the summer after his fourth year of college at Ohio State University, Lutz had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica for charity work.
It was here that Lutz discovered his passion for natural materials.
During his stay, he became enthralled by bamboo, which grows abundantly in Jamaica, and its potential as a material in construction.
Inspired by the people he met and the island’s atmosphere, Lutz created his first prototypes that summer.
Lutz, who spent his time at Ohio State playing lacrosse and studying engineering, had little to no background in business.
But he did believe in the innate beauty and usefulness of cedar.
As he readily admits, Starting the Vermont Cedar Chair Company alone, not to mention transferring ideas formed in Jamaica into plans in the States, was an uphill climb.
At the moment, Lutz is the sole manager of his business with few employees.
In the future, he sees himself taking a step back, redefining himself in a “founder/designer”role, but he’s in no rush—the growth and establishment of the company and its employees comes first.
“It’s all about timing and finances,”Lutz says. “We need to continue our growth so that we can round out our team and bring people into different roles that fit their abilities.”
Lutz attributes his success “to our product as well as our level of customer service. If someone has a problem with our product, we just have them snap a picture of it and we send them a new one. That is unheard of in the outdoor furniture industry. Therefore, word of mouth is spreading quickly. We also did several years of focus group testing through craft shows. They are a great way to refine your product. Someone will tell you a lot in fifteen seconds at a craft show if you’relistening.”
Growth, in this case, includes expansion to bigger cities, such as Boston and New York. Despite (or perhaps because of) the products’natural, earthy style, the Vermont Cedar Chair Company makes a lot of sales in urban areas.
Lutz is currently working on expanding his retailing network to reach these areas, as well as the company’s trade show and direct show presence, which Lutz attributes much of his success to.
That being said, Lutz does not plan on relocating himself or the business headquarters to Boston or New York. “We will probably always manufacture our line in Vermont,”he says.
Lutz’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to “be patient. Don't jump after the first idea that comes your way. A lot of time and energy can be spent going down the wrong path.”
What’s next for the Vermont Cedar Chair Company? “We’re currently revamping our online presence,”says Lutz. This includes not only a central website but social media accounts.
Jason Lutz’s success is a testament to the power of an idea fueled by personal passion and the empire one can build with it. “When you have your idea that you’re passionate about, you must be willing to go all in. I joke around with people when they talk about going to the edge of the cliff. I firmly believe you have to go over the cliff and have faith there is a soft landing.”
By Sofia Felino