Wade Caughman is an FTO, Entrepreneur who has made many bad choices to get to the right place.
He’s failed big but is making amends to better himself and his community. Empowered with a can-do attitude in life, he has enriched his southern city of Columbia, South Carolina and embellished the city with the jewels of his favorite cities.
Wade and his wife are founders and partners in a furniture business, but Wade’s main business is a construction, design, and development company. Both companies have brought modern industrial design and furnishings to an uncommon place. His building and development business works closely with investors and realtors during the promotions of each project. Both businesses are experiencing growth due to attentiveness and passion of the founders.
Wade started his furniture business in 2009 when he started ordering mailboxes to be used on a real estate design project. He found a retailer listed in a magazine and called to place the order. The retailer suggested he call the manufacturer to place a large order. That next phone call would change the lives of Wade Caughman and his wife forever. The call ultimately led to a contract that gave rise to the establishment of their furniture company, the only Box Design product distributor for the U.S. and Canada.
Wade had met the owner of the company in New York following the initial phone conversation. He then visited the Box Design distribution center in Germany the following month. Within a very short time, Wade’s furniture company began importing products from Germany and New Zealand. They are the U.S. distributors for three design companies, which are Box Design USA, Radius Design USA, and Mueller-Emform USA in 2016.
The first real estate project was in 2003. Wade Caughman and his partner found 10 acres of undeveloped land on the water by the Gervais Street Bridge. Armed with a simple 11×7 sketch of lots, they ran a 20-word ad in the classified newspaper. The ad sold the parcels of land for 150-300k within 60 days to prominent residents of the city.
The next project was the purchase of the state’s budget control property which was also on the riverfront. It stood abandoned for five years. They developed The City Club Townhomes. The idea came from Wade’s appreciation of New York City’s brownstone and townhome communities. The units were 3,000-3,800 square-foot properties. All of these properties were pre-sold just before the market crash of 2007-2008.
Wade Caughman continues to learn from poor choices and adapt to new situations and he has successfully led his companies through very tough economic times. He has also brought beauty and splendor to the riverfront communities of his city. Wade’s furniture business has been a thriving business for nearly ten years and his building and development company is now profitable as well.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
For our furniture business, we wanted to provide something unique to our customers. We sell three different products from three different manufacturers. We import our furniture from two different countries, New Zealand and Germany. I like German design, and they make good products. Our construction and development company has been named after the German word for “strong” and the initials of my wife and children.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am up between 6am and 7am with coffee first and a little quiet time. I read emails and get the kids going. Other times I am at a job site by 7am or 8am planning production for the day. By mid-morning, until about 2pm I am processing things for the design such as ordering or addressing any complications or in meetings. Between 2pm and 5pm there are always meetings on the real estate side. My evenings are always with family.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I Google a lot of pictures and ideas and investigate to see the real side of it. I love to bike. Sometimes I will rent a bike to ride around a city. It gives you a whole different perspective of where you want to live or how you want to live. Then can get ideas for the architecture and designs. The saying is true, “If you build it, they will come.”
When I’ve got what I like, I meet with builders and manufacturers and make it happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Modern design and industrial design. I have loved it since the ‘80s, but it seems to be coming around again. It is still a niche, but it will never take over traditional. However, it is coming back along with mid-century design.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. All of my developments have been put in up and coming areas. I just happen to see opportunities in rougher parts of the area, that are now good parts of the area.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell the younger Wade Caughman to be patient, ask more questions and listen more. Also, research what opportunities there are to help your product. There could be incentives, special financing, support, there could be anything.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Frankly, that has been the case in every development project that I have done. For example, my most recent townhomes development is right on the river but is adjacent to a fortune 500 poultry manufacturer which sits right next to a water plant. Our townhomes sold for five hundred thousand dollars which is high for Columbia, South Carolina. They sold out because of the designs and the location on the water overlooking the city. The opportunities that I have found have been at locations that no one else has wanted to build.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing that I do is I keep a consistent calendar and make notes that syncs with my phone and my laptop that keeps me organized. Another thing that I do is that I am constantly looking at other people’s work for ideas
even though it could be different builds, books or cities. There are a lot of people that are very good at what they do that are smarter than me!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I believe it has been persistence. Second, it is a niche market. It is a steady and consistent business. It is the same way with the real estate. Be the tortoise, not the hare. I do what I love, even after the 2008 recession and poor choices, I truly love and enjoy my work.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest failure is not having the capital that I needed. I didn’t ask for help or claim bankruptcy. I handled it the wrong way. I have gone to the people that I let down and made amends with them. Time has regained trust. I keep great accounting now. All the bills keep paid.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Similar to co-sharing co-working spaces I think it would work for travelers as well.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought three sweatshirts for my daughters from an Italian Bicycle cafe in New York.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
BCommerce. We use it to sell three different brands of our products. The other is Ordoro, it is an inventory management software.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Citizen Turner about Ted Turner. Because He Took Risk and Believed in his product with all his heart
What is your favorite quote?
“I have never failed, I just made ten thousand mistakes” by Thomas Edison.
And from the movie Equalizer, “Sometimes we make the wrong choices to get to the right place.”
· Make amends with your past
· Make the changes for success in the future
· Don’t fall into the crab in the bucket syndrome – Every city is beautiful. Do something different
· Dare to be different by thinking outside of the box
· Don’t limit yourself. Do your research and make it work.
· Do what you do well, but learn to delegate
· Share your thoughts but go with your heart and determination
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.