A “brilliant” business

Melinda Frank – Copy Editor

Ask any Business majors about their career goals, and chances are that they dream of owning their own business someday. For senior Business Management and Political Science major Alec Barnhart, “someday” is today. What began as a small Etsy shop has turned into a small business.

Barnhart’s Etsy shop, OakandElmBoards was originally created to sell his handmade pedal boards. While the shop is named for the pedal boards, his most popular item is now an Edison bulb lamp. The lamp is made out of a Mason jar, Edison bulb and industrial rope and is customizable. Barnhart made his first lamp last Christmas after seeing similar designs on Instagram.

“I had no idea what to get my sister for Christmas,” Barnhart said. “I made one and a lot of other family members wanted some. I started selling them to family members and made some for weddings and decided to put them on the Etsy shop.”

Each individual jar must be wired to accommodate a lighting fixture and electrical wiring which is hidden by braided rope. While Barnhart comes from a long line of craftsmen, the process was tedious at first.

“When I saw it on the internet, I assumed it would be super easy,” he said. After mastering the process, Barnhart has now sold approximately 30-40 lamps. His secret to success?

“Being able to sell below everybody else,” Barnhart said. Similar lamps retail online for $168, while his lamps retail for only $45 each. “I guess because I’m in college and this isn’t my job, I can sell them for less,” Barnhart said. In this case lower prices doesn’t mean lower quality. The quality of Barnhart’s work has been noticed around the world. While his target market did not initially include international customers, he has sent lamps to Germany and England.

“I guess people just want a creative form of lighting,” Barnhart said. His target demographic is “someone who wants more of a rustic feel.” The success of do it yourself websites like Pinterest have certainly helped increase the market for small business owners.

“People are Pinterest-obsessed, and it’s actually pretty easy to do a lot of it,” Barnhart said. “I will admit that I do have Pinterest, although not under my name. I was embarrassed when I made one.” After making a few custom Pinterest creations for family weddings, Barnhart is looking forward to where this business might take him.

“I want to own my own business eventually, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to be building lights,” he said. “I would love for it to become something someday.” Barnhart is currently in the process of increasing his product line to include salvaged wood Edison bulb lamps.

To check out Alec’s work visit his Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/OakandElmBoards