Gat Caperton, president of Gat Creek, located in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is a West Virginia solid wood home furniture manufacturer.
Gat Creek, originally named Tom Seely Furniture, employs over 150 artisans in Berkeley Springs and sells its branded products in over 200 retail stores across the United States and manufactures exclusive products for national retailers. Gat Creek made a strong commitment early on to lean manufacturing, environmental sustainability and being an employer of choice.
Caperton, who acquired the company in 1996, spoke to Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about why and how he got into the furniture business, about his worst business experience. , his lesson learned and his advice to young entrepreneurs.
How did you get started in the furniture industry?
âI graduated from school and worked in Chicago for five years,â Caperton said. âI said, ‘Boy, it would be great to get into a small manufacturing business.’ I had no experience in furniture. I started looking for small businesses that I could invest in and get involved in. I found Tom Seely Furniture.
âI literally cold called Tom Seely and because my name was the same as the current government of the day, Gaston Caperton, I contacted him directly. He picked up the phone and said, “Governor” and I said, “No sir. You have his son. While we are online, you mind talking for a few minutes.
âSo I was able to be introduced to him. I took a day off and flew to Berkeley Springs. I was a classic Charleston kid. I had been around parts of the state, but had never been in the Eastern Panhandle. I came and met Tom, and that included a day where he walked around me and said, âThis is a great deal. I would be interested in buying and if you are interested in funding me I will move the community and lead it in a way you would be proud of.
What has been your worst business experience so far?
âIt’s a four-year story,â Caperton said. âRight before the economy deteriorated and the Great Recession of 2006, in 2005, we were running out of capacity and now we decided it was time to borrow a lot of money, to fix the plant. and really grow the business.
âWe did all of that, and the day we completed the expansion of this plant, business started to drop dramatically. We figured we would be able to borrow that money and pay it back without growing, but we never figured out how to let the business go back a third and pay our debt and survive.
What is the lesson you learned from this experience?
âYou show up every day and you don’t give up,â Caperton said.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
âI have to design six products to get two good ones,â Caperton said. âI make more bad decisions than good decisions, but I keep going. “
RECOMMENDED BOOK: “The objective: a process of continuous improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: The lean business process (really doing what the customer needs and eliminating everything else)
ADVICE: âJust show upâ¦ everyday,â Caperton advised.