San Francisco, California
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Residential & Commercial Furniture
Born in Ohio but influenced by Bay Area culture, Pierce started his business with a welding rig and a saw. It's since blossomed from crafting small projects to outfitting entire offices.
"I like making furniture that's timeless," says Pierce. But that doesn't mean his methods aren't modern: "The furniture, as well as the manufacturing process, can both be efficient. For example, we use technology embedded in some pieces by looking at the way things are stored and how devices can be charged. That same type of efficiency is also a part of our manufacturing method. We think about Lean manufacturing and how our pieces will be used."
OHIO furniture is all about minimalist, efficient, and beautiful design. According to Pierce, it became sought after by numerous blue-chip companies including Samsung, which asked him to create all the office furniture for its headquarters.
While the pieces may seem like it took a long thought process to complete, Pierce actually has a very simple design philosophy. "We want wood where you touch and steel where it makes structural sense," he says. "We don't use fiberboard, MDF, or chemically bonded plywood. People simply want things to last."
While his passion lies in his design and love of natural materials, Pierce's business savvy is something he admits he's had to learn over time. "I was always testing, moving shops, and getting bigger tools," he says. "I discovered through reading the right books that you can make yourself a great job, which can lead to something much bigger. That's how I learned my aesthetic and how to do business."
Part of OHIO's success in business is due to craftsmen and workers who meet Pierce's criteria for making a great work environment. "I look for three traits in employees: curiosity, tenacity, and empathy," he says. "My employees are very important to me and I'm very conscious to keep them safe. I'm proud when OSHA comes by and says we've done a good job."
OHIO emphasizes sustainable business practices through its supply chain. "We source through various companies that work through forest stewardship," he says. "We also work with a timber mill and incorporate vertical integration. We believe working within small circles is the best way to building a very efficient system of manufacturing. Shipping material over the world does not make sense, especially where you can't see the supply chain. Fortunately for us, trees are the most renewable resource in the world, as well as steel."
In creating his furniture, Pierce also believes it should also be a part of something larger and provide avenues for giving back to the community. "The furniture we make allows me to teach entrepreneurship through various ventures," says Pierce. "Transparency is a growing trend. You have a choice to buy something made in factories where people know where the money is going."
Challenges: Real estate is always a big concern for SF manufacturers. "We're lucky that we have a good friend that we rent from, and he hasn't raised the rent," says Pierce. "But we're always challenged to look at the long term. We also have a warehouse in Oakland, but we want to make sure that when things change, we can afford to stay here in San Francisco."
Opportunities: "We're always applying creativity to the business side of things," says Pierce. "We're always thinking about new ideas and finding opportunities. There are so many things other than furniture that is not built creatively. How awesome would it be if your ironing board was also a work of beauty that you could display in your home? We want to figure out how to make those things beautiful and make it competitive in the market."
Needs: "With so much going on, we really need to find more good workers and outside vendors," says Pierce. "We don't want to take on a lot of debt. We just want to keep the ball rolling and get to the next level. We need more connections and have more ideas to talk about and share our perspective."