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Daily Inspiration: Meet Elliot & Leah Lahn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elliot & Leah Lahn. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Like a lot of woodworkers, our story started in a garage building furniture for our own family! Elliot built his first piece for his oldest daughter’s nursery about ten years ago and never looked back! In fact, that first dresser just went to live with a new family this year so it is pretty cool to think that, ten years later, there is still plenty of life and value in it!

Woodworking stayed a hobby for Elliot for years while he worked his day job on the executive team of a local non-profit. During those years, demand for products started to outpace his ability to keep up and he and Leah started to discuss what the future might look like if they took the risk and dove headfirst into this full time.

That conversation became a little more urgent when they welcomed their youngest daughter, Blaire, into the world in November 2017. Blaire was born premature and with a whole host of special needs. Elliot’s work with Kansas City’s homeless population made visits to the NICU more difficult because of concerns about germs and the high-risk nature of many of the babies at Children’s Mercy.

In 2018, those concerns, coupled with growing demand for their furniture, led Elliot and Leah to start their first official custom furniture business out of the one car garage attached to their home. They quickly outgrew that space and built a larger shop behind their house. It didn’t take long to realize that this space wasn’t going to be enough either. Despite a global pandemic and so much uncertainty, they started looking for a permanent home for their growing business. Something that would allow their business to grow and could accommodate the influx of requests to come see their furniture.

In 2021, their love of the inner city pushed them to look for something in that area and it didn’t take long to find the perfect spot in the Historic West Bottoms.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The short answer is no. I am not sure that growing a young business while also growing a family could ever be described as smooth! Add the special needs dynamic to that with the dozen or more hospital stays and surgeries and it has been an interesting ride!

According to Leah, “balance is the single biggest struggle that comes with raising a family and growing a business. It is so easy to lose sight of priorities but we have a real solid team around us that makes sure we actually punch out when we need to.”

The business side of owning a business can be a struggle too according to Elliot. At the beginning of 2021, Elliot and Leah brought on two additional partners who could focus on the business end of things like marketing, accounting, etc. Elliot said, “the biggest hurdle to scaling a small business into a larger one is getting over the idea that you can handle everything. Trying to do too much on your own will keep your business from reaching its potential 99 out of 100 times.”

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We own 8th & Mulberry Furniture Company located in the Historic West Bottoms. While we have built a whole host of furniture over the years, our passion is really dining room tables. Every piece we design is meant to tell a story and create a space for people to gather and build relationships. This is why we focus so heavily on tables.

We feel that so much has been lost to convenience over the years and providing a space for friends and families to pause and come together is something we are incredibly passionate about. We want to help bring back family dinners and big breakfasts…game nights and puzzles. Its probably sounds a little bit cringy but I think we are ok with that! Community and relationships are so important to us as individuals and as a business so we focus heavily on the part of the home that encourages those things.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Get yourself a board of advisors. That probably sounds strange but do it. Find three people that you respect, that will be honest, and that are available. Schedule time each month to talk to these three people about what your business is doing well, doing poorly, and where you see yourself going.

Don’t be defensive, just listen to what they have to say. It is impossible for small business owners to be objective and that is ok…it is normal. Once you realize this, having an objective advisor board will be critical to your success.

Finally, you have to be your biggest fan. Get over self-doubt and get out of your own way!

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