It is always a good thing when the knife industry gets favorable press in the broader media sphere. As a small business owner myself, I find hearing about the commonalities shared by entrepreneurs regardless of industry to be particularly interesting. We shared the Crain’s Cleveland Business piece on Rick Hinderer a short while back, and now our friend Sean McWilliams has been profiled in the manufacturing magazine Company Week.
We first introduced TTAK readers to Sean when we featured him in our 5 from the Grinder series. Since that time we have brought you reviews of both his Model 1 and his Ranger 4. He has also been a regular contributor to our comment section, both answering questions and providing snark and levity when appropriate.
Some things I like about the Company Week profile are that it talks about some of the unique technical aspects of forging stainless, the challenges of being a long-established smith yet needing to stay current on modern internet marketing, and shares some interesting biographical background on an eclectic and well-respected knifemaker (including his “coming back from the dead”)
From Company Week:
McWilliams cites two current challenges for his business: finding U.S.-made supplies and marketing to a younger generation. “The abrasive situation is continually rubbing me the wrong way,” he says with a chuckle. “Abrasive manufacturers have virtually departed the U.S., and much of the stuff that I used to use isn’t even available anymore. I’ve had to adapt.”
He has done so in several ways, from modifying his forging methods to require fewer grinding belts per knife to even making some belts on his own. “I make a lot of the belts that I use to finish and shape the knife handles,” McWilliams explains. “They load up really quickly and instead of spending $4, I can spend under $1 to make my own. But it has still gotten almost impossible to find belts that I can do that with in bulk.”
Opportunities: While marketing is a challenge, McWilliams also sees it as an opportunity and has enthusiastically embraced the Internet and social media as a tool. He has taken courses on social media marketing at Colorado Mountain College and debuted his shiny new website on March 1.
“The next thing I have to do is get up to speed on Instagram,” he says, “but I do have a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and a YouTube channel. I did some blacksmithing videos with a Russian student last fall. Some of those videos came out narrated in Russian. My Russian traffic is huge!”
It is a crazy, interconnected world. In knifemaking, like all business, you need to adapt to survive.
(btw- I suggest reading the whole piece. It is really quite good, and fairly amusing to boot.)