Another round of Nav’s Small Business Grant has closed. This round brought in more applications than ever before and presented the team with a bounty of deserving business owners, making it incredibly difficult to narrow it down to finalists, let alone select our Grand Prize winner.
After weeks of deliberation and follow-up interviews, the entire Nav team is pleased to announce that the winners of our most recent Grant round are Alex and Jenn Morton, Founders & Owners of Junk Star Handcrafted Furniture.
Junk Star, located in San Antonio, Texas, started as a hobby project for the couple in 2014, giving them extra income and the opportunity to show their creativity. In 2015, the couple took a leap of faith and rented a storefront, turning their side hustle into a full-blown brick-and-mortar business.
The Mortons’ application for the Grant recounted a wealth of personal setbacks and challenges they encountered along their entrepreneurial journey. They were brutally honest and completely vulnerable, which, in the end, not only ending up helping them win the Grant, but also brought them more business and the support of their community and customers.
Earlier this year, I surprised Jaron and Maggie Clayton, owners of Running Dogs Brewery, with Nav’s $10,000 Small Business Grant. Given the amazing reaction the couple had to the surprise, the team decided to repeat the scenario and meet up with Alex and Jenn to tell them the great news in person. After a few white lies and a flight to San Antonio, I found myself face to face with Alex and Jenn to ask a few questions and learn more about their business.
Between tears of joy (from me and them) and endless thank yous, here’s what they had to share:
How will you use Nav’s Small Business Grant?
We’re using the $10,000 to:
- Install new LED lighting and fix broken equipment
- Buy new tools like an industrial bandsaw
- Install an automated vacuum system to streamline our cleanup process
- Purchase laptop designated for business purposes and design software
- Invest in a trailer, allowing us to deliver furniture rather than outsourcing to a third party
What’s the inspiration for your business name?
Junk Star refers to our ability to make something out of what some would consider nothing – or junk. When we first started our business back in 2014, we would go to the flea market, look online or just drive around to see what others were getting rid of. Then, we’d take other folks’ “junk” and turn it into “star” pieces by giving it a little love and attention.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Having our own business allows us to spend time with the ones who matter most — each other and our kids. The minute our kids get out of school they come to the shop, seeing how hard we’ve worked that day; they’re learning the trade of woodworking alongside us. Specifically, we love owning a custom furniture business because we get to use our clients’ dreams as blueprints for crafting pieces that will become family heirlooms.
Tell us about one of the biggest challenges in running your own business.
We’re no different than any other business owner — cash flow and access to capital are our biggest pain points. It doesn’t take long in our shop for something to break or a customer to request a piece of furniture that requires use of special equipment that we don’t have. Because we do everything custom — and our processes aren’t automated at this point — we’re only able to take so many orders each month. It’s an endless cycle of money in, money out.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were first starting out?
We listened to our customers and let their product demands dictate where we invested our efforts and steered our business. When we first started Junk Star we were turning trash into treasure and only doing a few custom pieces at customer requests. As we begin to sit on inventory for the re-finished pieces, we realized that more people were interested in putting their personal style on the furniture pieces. This led us to focus more on the custom-building aspect of our business.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs?
Have patience with yourself and your business, especially if you’ve never been a business owner before. Owning a business is unlike any other profession: it takes a lot of knowledge and commitment. Give yourself the time and resources to understand all the different facets, and don’t ever be ashamed of asking experts for help.
What’s next for your business?
With the help of Nav’s Grant, we’ll be taking our business to the next level, streamlining processes and dedicating more time to the promotion of our business. Our first plan is to focus on adding interior design offerings for both residential and commercial clients. This will add another stream of revenue to our business and give us the opportunity to give clients a full-service experience.
Since launching the Small Business Grant program in 2018, Nav has given out more than $60,000 to small business owners.
Think you could be our next winner? Submit your application today. The next round of the Grant is currently open; closing on December 20. New this round, we’re now accepting applications via LinkedIn.
This article was originally written on September 24, 2019 and updated on March 12, 2020.