Hobby Turned Successful Startup – Dowel Jones

Meet Dowel Jones. A young design agency based in Melbourne, created by study-buddies Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch, focused on simplifying design essentials to create aesthetically appealing everyday furniture. This is their entrepreneurial story.

What was the catalyst for starting your own design business?

We met whilst studying the Associate Degree in Design (Furniture) at RMIT in 2010 and then went on to study Industrial Design directly afterwards. We founded Dowel Jones in the third year of Industrial Design where we’d then worked together for three years.

We began Dowel Jones without a business plan or any real assumption it would become our full-time jobs, it was more of a reason for the two of us to continue collaborating on commercial projects. As we were reaching the end of our honours year in Industrial Design we had to discuss what we would be doing with the following year, and we both decided to try treating Dowel Jones as our full-time employment.

The real catalyst for starting our own design business was the lack of furniture, object and lighting jobs available at the time that we were interested in. As we both wanted to continue to design and produce, Dowel Jones was the perfect avenue for us.

Where does your inspiration come from?

We work on a variety of projects ranging from furniture, lighting and accessories to site-specific installations and most recently a mobile roving bar unit for a brewery. Each project takes inspiration from a variety of places, but we have always worked by simplifying elements to their bare essentials. Over the past 4 years we’ve been working as Dowel Jones, we’ve learnt how our design processes work, and a lot of the time our inspiration will come from adding some type of humour or playfulness to an industrial product eg. we’re currently working on upholstered furniture pieces with cats tails with a Danish textile company.

How important has it been for you to have a mentor?

I have two mentors. They have been there and done it, so to ask their opinion and to listen is truly invaluable. I wouldn’t have jumped out of my comfort zone and taken risks if it wasn’t for these special people in my life.

One of those mentors is my father. He has been a business director for a very long time and learnt the ropes from his father. I have learnt so much from sitting around the family dinner table, especially how to stand up for myself and have inner self-belief. It’s important to have a mentor that you feel comfortable with contacting on a whim. I feel assured that I can pick up the phone and hear my Dad’s sage advice when I’m having a bad day. Everyone needs a mentor, one that aligns with your ethics and keeps you in check. I now feel that it is my duty to delve into helping the next generation of undiscovered talent.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a business in furniture design?

We believe thanks to communication tools becoming much more readily available and cost-effective (non-traditional advertising: social media), we live in a much easier period to reach a broad audience. One of the most important things when starting a business in furniture design (probably any creative discipline) is that we live in a large community of practitioners. It’s quite easy to feel isolated when starting a business, especially if you’re starting it alone. From meeting designers/ creative practitioners over the past 7 years, we’ve found the community to be incredibly helpful and supportive, so we would suggest reaching out and meeting those practising in similar creative fields!

Who has been your most memorable client to work with?

We’ve worked on a broad range of projects, but the most memorable moment would have been our recent collaboration with Local Design on a project for Kozminsky jewellers. We were given a completely open brief to produce what we liked, and had Kozminsky’s rich history (founded in 1851) to work with. Our project ended up being a timber pedestal to present an Australian South Sea single pearl, called Pedestal For A Pearl.

What are three of the best tips you can offer to anyone wanting to start their own business in design?

  1. Connect with as many people as you can and ask as many questions as you can. The design industry isn’t made up of thousands of individuals, it’s made up of communities.
  2. Those that produce your product are just as important as you are – relationships are incredibly important.
  3. Surround yourself with those that can give you advice, and listen!

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