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Designing Your Dreams

Q&A with Nicholas Blaine and Paul Denoly

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Whether it’s in our careers or in our personal lives, taking a leap to attempt something new is intimidating. Though changing course can feel scary, for many, it’s an instrumental aspect of finding joy, purpose, and meaning in life. Nicholas Blaine and Paul Denoly learned this lesson firsthand when they left their jobs in 2013 to create lifestyle brand Hawkins New York. Now, their morning-coffee-fueled dreams are a reality, and their line of products is thriving. 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nick and Paul about their story, how their lives have improved since starting their business, and the challenges they’ve encountered. Here’s what they had to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs in the Thrive Global community. 

What inspired you to create Hawkins?

Hawkins New York was born out of our desire for simple, timeless well crafted products. Both of us worked for retailers where trends ruled product design and development. Although exciting to us, we felt this is not a maintainable business model in a world where consumption and poorly crafted products pollute our minds and more importantly our landfills. With Hawkins New York, we strive to create products that will stand the test of time both stylistically and in their construction. 

How did founding Hawkins help you find meaning and purpose in your work?

We have learned a lot about ourselves, most notably our values. Being able to build the kind of company culture that we have always wanted to work in and deliver products in which we take great pride gives us purpose and meaning.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of running Hawkins?

The best part of running Hawkins New York, is that it is constantly evolving. We learn new things on a daily basis and take pride in the victories, even small,  and overcoming our challenges. 

We both came into Hawkins, primarily as designers. We had an instinct for business, but limited exposure to the operational side of running a business. Finance and operations are something we had to learn on the job. We still struggle at times, but with each mistake we learn and get better. 

Prior to running Hawkins, neither Nick or I knew anything about running a distribution center. We had to learn on the spot, starting off shipping items from our dining room table in Hudson and storing merchandise in a barn. Since then we have learned a lot about customer service, shipping, and the nuts and bolts of running a clean and organized warehouse. Today, with the help of a small team of people, all of our shipments leave from a 24,000 square foot distribution center we built from the ground up less than a mile from the original barn from which we first started shipping our first products, the recycled glass collection. 

Although we had managed people before, management takes on a whole different meaning when you are responsible for making sure that your decisions can continue to give your team job security. This can be very stressful at times, but ultimately knowing that you are able to collaborate with talented people building your vision and contributing to the growth and success of your team is incredibly rewarding. 

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while building your brand and how did you work to overcome it?

Our limited exposure to operations in our previous careers continues to create challenges as our business evolves and grows. Not being afraid to admit that we do not know and seeking out advice from experts early helps us recognize our errors and overcome specific or larger structural challenges we face. As we grow, we are able to hire people to become experts and complement our strengths. 

What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Have patience and let your original ideas evolve. Both will make your initial intent when starting a new venture stronger, and the best ideas will last for years, no matter when you wish or can implement them.

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