Steel & Oak Designs + Wave: artistry meets adaptability

Toronto, Canada • Opened 2015 • steelandoakdesigns.com

It’s no small feat to build something. It takes hours of labour, precise measurements, and a creative mind to bring an idea into physical existence. That’s true on two fronts for Jono Peters and Anthony Snelgrove. They’ve built a successful business from the ground up off of a talent for making one-of-a-kind creations, with a mixture of ingenuity and heart.

Branching out on their own

Jono and Anthony launched Steel & Oak Designs to fill a need for unique, niche solutions for a variety of clients, from small businesses to art galleries to regular people looking for something unique for their condos. They create a combination of things: small furniture, custom metal work, art infrastructure, and theatre scenery.

The company got its start when they were both looking for a way out of the evenings and weekends lifestyle of the theatre world, working for other people and being tethered to someone else’s schedule. Because they already knew so many people in theatre, they figured they could branch off on their own, staying involved with that scene, while breaking into the furniture business at the same time. Peters saw a friend who runs a cabinet shop making a go of the entrepreneurial lifestyle and realized it was viable, so he and Snelgrove went for it.

“Basically anything someone needs that requires some invention and innovation, we’re happy to build,” Jono says. They’ve built all sorts of things, like bed frames, boardroom tables, benches, and even a gorgeous bar cart made with reclaimed wood and an old Singer sewing machine table.

If you build it, will they come?

Jono and Anthony agree that the biggest challenges they faced at the beginning were how to get clients and figuring out the exact scope of their business. They were taking a huge leap of faith in a business that requires some overhead spending and time invested in order to see results.

“When we started out, it was very exciting,” Peters says. “It was a little scary, you know—the expenses of starting up and taking on work, buying materials, buying tools, and not knowing when one project went out, when the next one was coming in. And with the slow build it was tough to see the bright future ahead, but we knew if we just kept at it, we’d get there. And it seems like we’re getting there.”

Making sure the business would be successful meant they had to tackle two big challenges with creative solutions. First, they needed to manage their workflow so that they could maximize the time they had to spend on building products that generate revenue. Secondly, they needed to have a long view of their business performance to manage their cash flow so they would have the money they needed for materials. And if there’s one thing these guys know, it’s that to build something well, you need the right tools.

“I first heard of Wave through our RBC business advisor, the guy who manages our business accounts, and he had sent along an email with the partnership opportunity they were providing,” Jono says. “We were using another invoicing software that was getting more expensive and the services offered were not really comparable to the price increase, so we decided to give it a try and we’re very happy.”

One of the biggest time suckers for a business is accounting. That’s where Wave was a big help, giving them back around five hours every week that they could spend building products that generate revenue. And because Wave is free, the new business owners didn’t have to worry about spending a bunch of their money on getting their accounting in order.

Customizable tools to fit a bespoke business

These days Anthony and Jono use Wave’s invoicing and online payment features, and they’re planning to try the mobile receipt scanning app for on-the-go expense tracking soon, as well. They especially love how flexible and customizable the invoice tool is to fit the needs of their business.

“The invoicing on Wave is quite handy because we’re able to create multiple versions of the types of products we sell,” Jono says. “Everything we make is custom, so each one will be a variation of the other. It’s not rigid where this is one thing and this is another and you don’t have any flexibility. It’s nice to have a heading and a description section for each item, just because there’s a lot of detail that needs to be put into each of our invoices. So having that depth of information on it is quite handy. Obviously, the online payment element is great for credit card payments and rapid payment, too.”

Time to grow

Steel & Oak Designs is three years old now, and it’s continuing to grow. “We had a good year last year and we’re having a good year this year,” Snelgrove says. “We’ve been able to just build our shop and buy new tools and kind of expand the scope of what we can do with the shop.”

What they can do with it in the future includes a simple dream: just continuing to grow Steel & Oak Designs, and maybe being able to offer some people employment opportunities. Like building any project, all it will take is a little time and thoughtful care. And in the process of all this building, Jono and Anthony have been able to work on themselves, too, and find the benefits that come with producing something they made with their own hands.

“I feel like I’ve grown personally by running this business, by putting in the work and the discipline and the time it takes to make it work,” Snelgrove says. “And that’s been really rewarding.”

Anthony and Jono love:

Invoicing—free

Create and send unlimited, professional invoices from home, the office, or on the go.

Accounting—free

Connect your bank accounts, balance your books, and be ready for tax time.

Payments

Accept credit cards and bank payments (EFT) for as little as 1% per transaction.