The Business Life Podcast #020 - Sam Unruh, Unruh Furniture

Unruh Furniture - bed and dresserA couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of purchasing a custom-made desk for my home office (see further down in this post!) It’s the absolute favorite part of my office. Honestly, I look forward to going to work each day partially because I have this big, beautiful desk to sit at. It makes work fun!

I have Unruh Furniture to thank for my desk! Unruh Furniture is a custom furniture making company based in Kansas City, with a location in Dallas as well. My wife and I discovered their company back when I was looking for a new desk, and have been huge fans ever since. It was during our tour of their shop that we became fascinated with their approach to building custom furniture: their business model was incredible.

We’ve watched their company grow over the years and love seeing the story behind every piece of furniture they build. So, when I had the opportunity to interview the founder and owner of Unruh Furniture, Sam Unruh, for my podcast, I was thrilled! Take a listen at how Sam turned his hobby of furniture making into a full-time, scalable business!

About Sam Unruh and Unruh Furniture

Sam Unruh - owner of Unruh Furniture

LIKE MOST GOOD STORIES MINE STARTED WITH A GIRL.

I married Hayley with all kinds of dreams in my heart and she gave me the courage to walk them out. I am from Kansas City and she is from Texas, and in college we met at a camp called Barnabas. It took her some time to catch up to my feelings but as soon as she did I married her. Today we have four kids, twenty employees, and all kinds of joy.

When she was pregnant with our first she talked me into quitting my real job so I could attempt to make furniture for a living. We started out in our little detached garage outside of Kansas City. After a year in the backyard we bought an old house to fix up into a shop.

We quickly grew into a bigger shop, and then a bigger one after that. I hired my first employee, Robb, back in the blue house, and by the time we got into our third building I had seven awesome employees.

In 2015 I was again in need of a bigger shop, and desiring an even bigger adventure. So I bought a 100-year-old church in the heart of Kansas City. I had learned by this time that the people who bought furniture from me were fans of a good story, and I knew this old church would be just that.

It was a massive undertaking. I first had to petition the City and the neighborhood in order to get permission to build furniture inside a historic church, located inside a residential neighborhood. It was a big ask, but after nine months of being a politician I got the approval.

Once I finally bought the building in November, 2015 we spent the next year renovating it out from top to bottom. There was no heating and cooling, no electrical, no plumbing. It was a huge renovation, but so worth the risk! We started constructing furniture inside the church in October of 2016.

And in the summer of 2017 Hayley (Texan) and I (Kansas Citian) decided it was time to expand the operation to Dallas, TX. We flew down in June to look at showroom spaces, and decided on the Brake & Clutch Warehouse in Deep Ellum. It too was a big renovation, and in January of 2018 we loaded up two box-truck’s worth of furniture and created a new showroom.

Our plan is to make the Kansas City & Dallas furniture inside the church until this summer, when we hope to open a separate manufacturing space in Dallas so that we can handcraft the Dallas orders locally.

Right now there are around twenty of us here, and I can say with great sincerity that we all really like what we do. I am very much hoping our story is still in the early chapters. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as we grow.

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • How Sam got started with custom furniture making as a hobby and the journey into a full-time, growing business.
  • How Unruh Furniture’s business model has allowed them to both scale their business and stand out in the industry.
  • Sam’s insights for lifestyle and work habits that has allowed him to run a successful company.

Andrew’s Desk Built by Unruh Furniture!

Isn’t this the most beautiful desk you’ve ever seen?

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