Army veteran Coty Skinner never thought he'd become an entrepreneur. "Honestly, it was a complete accident," he says. When he and his wife became foster parents and needed a larger table to accommodate their growing family, Skinner built one. He found he was good at this type of carpentry, so he began building more tables in his Searcy, Arkansas, garage and selling them on Facebook.
After some publicity about Skinner's work in local media outlets, phone calls started coming in, asking if he could do other types of custom carpentry. "I started expanding a little bit and doing more, and then I was like, 'I just want to go full time.' So I did." Skinner began selling one-of-a-kind farm tables, barn doors and items such as cutting boards and heirloom rattles. He officially launched ARganic Woodwork in January 2019.
Handcrafting unique objects for a cause
Skinner uses a portion of his profits to build and donate tables to foster families like his. He wants to continue building work that brings joy to families for generations, while simultaneously fulfilling his mission of benefitting foster families.
“The big reason of going into this full-time was just donating tables to foster families," Skinner says. "I liked what it was doing. It was filling a need for a foster family that required a larger space to eat as a family. But I wanted to do more.”
So how could he do more while becoming a sustainable business? Would he continue to donate tables? Would he donate money to the foster family community? Could he also somehow help kids aging out of the foster care system, as well as veterans like himself?
Balancing a social cause with running a business
As the owner of a first-year, social cause-driven business, Skinner struggled to promote himself in a way that felt authentic and didn't distract from his mission. "I had a business plan because you do that before you go into anything, but I didn't have a vision of what I wanted to accomplish through that plan," he said.
At the same time, he was having some difficulties marketing his business. After the articles were written about the charitable work he was doing, he felt uncomfortable leveraging that publicity. Skinner explains, "I wanted what I was doing to remain a good deed and not turn into a gimmick to make more money. So the biggest challenge was 'how do I market myself?'"
Skinner primarily relied on word-of-mouth to attract new customers, and wasn't doing much to promote his business. Outside of social media, he had very little online presence, so he was inadvertently limiting the number of prospects to connect.
While ARganic's launch was unexpected, Skinner knew he would have to be more deliberate to survive his first year, lay the groundwork for future success and achieve his charitable mission.
Articulating the mission with a strong website
To get ARganic moving forward, Skinner would need to clarify his purpose. Then, as one of six Searcy businesses chosen to receive a $500,000 marketing revitalization through Small Business Revolution, Skinner would receive help from the team on the following:
Creating a solid foundation for the business
Sharing ARganic's story in Searcy and beyond
Appearing like a professional, legitimate business
Shaping a vision
First, Skinner needed to clarify ARganic's vision, as that would guide all subsequent business and marketing decisions. Skinner and the Deluxe marketing team began by identifying the two biggest motivators behind ARganic’s launch: Skinner's passion for crafting durable, one-of-a-kind pieces and his desire to assist foster families. Skinner was then able to narrow the focus of his business. "There are only so many tables I could give to a foster family. Donating money to different causes through the business was really what I wanted to accomplish more of," he says.
Through this introspection, Skinner pinpointed his vision: bringing more awareness to the issues facing the foster care community.
From here, Skinner and the Deluxe team would work on developing a website that would:
Communicate ARganic's mission
Work as a promotional tool for the business
Display ARganic's offerings
Crafting a website that works
Even before Skinner teamed up with Deluxe, he knew he would need a website. But getting started was daunting.
"I had no clue what to do as far as web design," Skinner says. "I wasn't making a whole lot of money from what I was doing at the time, so it was one of those things where I thought, 'When I start making more money, I can have a professional build my website.'"
These days, many businesses use a Facebook page as a website substitute. For Skinner, Facebook had been his online home base. However, while Facebook is an excellent way to engage an audience, a business has little control over the branding or functionality of the page.
With a website, on the other hand, Skinner would be able to take the reins and share ARganic's story on his own terms. What's more, a professional design has the power to boost the credibility of first-year businesses like ARganic that need to establish trust with potential customers.
Identifying a target audience for the website
Before the designers started working on the website project, Skinner and the Deluxe marketing team identified ARganic's target audiences: homeowners building or remodeling who are seeking unique furniture, and local businesses seeking unique tables for conference rooms or gathering spaces.
These target audiences were determined by:
Collecting data about Skinner's current customer base
Determining what need ARganic's products filled
Factoring in whom Skinner thought the business should be targeting
Gathering information about competitors' audiences
Understanding who Skinner's target audiences were would determine the voice, tone and messaging of the website.
Developing a content strategy for the website
The team also worked with Skinner to create a content plan that would align with the website's calls to action (CTAs): Enabling visitors to start a project and explore ARganic's services.
According to that plan, all content on the website would be shaped by three guiding principles:
Every item from ARganic is unique and one-of-a-kind
Customers feel connected to a greater purpose
The tables and other woodwork bring joy in how they are used and how they are made
Building out this framework simplified making design and content decisions that were true to ARganic's overarching business goals and vision.
Additionally, the Deluxe team and Skinner agreed that the website called out for photographs of actual ARganic work. Using real photos would more fully connect visitors with Skinner, his mission and the unique work he creates.
Designing the website
It was important to incorporate into the website elements that communicated authenticity. Skinner is a humble person and he's passionate about woodworking and doing good in his community, so the design would need to showcase that in some way.
The color palette was reflective of the materials Skinner uses. In fact, the colors are pulled directly from the wood. When it came to font selection, all of the headlines have a handmade craftsman feel.
By analyzing other woodworkers' websites and consulting Skinner to determine what information his customers would need about his products and process, the designers decide to build a website with eight pages. Each page contributes to the website in a different way:
The Homepage introduces ARganic
The homepage introduces visitors to ARganic and its social purpose-driven mission. It immediately communicates the craftsman storyline and offers a glimpse at Skinner's approach to his work with copy like, "As a foster parent, veteran and business owner, Coty Skinner puts care into everything he does. Throughout your ARganic Woodwork experience, you can be confident your vision is the center of his creation."
Additionally, the Homepage guides visitors to take the next step by allowing the visitor to self-identify as a homeowner, business or someone looking for a gift idea — and leading the visitor to the appropriate spot on the website:
The Our Mission page articulates Skinner's vision
The Our Mission page speaks to Skinner's military career and passion for fostering kids. This was the element that Skinner thought would be especially important to include:
"I wanted to explain why I got into this and why I chose to leave a career and take my family through the small business struggle," Skinner says. "And the website team did that gracefully. They tried to learn more about me and my mission through the questions they asked, and you could just tell that the page was generated around that. They knew what my heart was for it, and they knew how to get that across."
Visitors can shop the For Your Home, For Your Business, Farmhouse Table and Custom Goods pages.
There are four product-specific pages that provide insight into the breadth of Skinner's expertise. The goal of each page is to demonstrate what customers can expect from ARganic, explain the benefits of the products and ultimately help visitors make the decision to start a project.
The Maintenance page boosts search engine optimization
The Deluxe team decided that there should be a maintenance and care page that would not only show how to care for the products that Skinner crafts, but that could also provide some search engine optimization (SEO) value to the website. The SEO team at Deluxe discovered that there were a significant amount of people searching online for tips for caring for wood tables. To connect with those people and direct them to ARganic, this page would include many of the search terms that are being used. So if someone looks for "how to clean your cutting board" in a search engine, ARganic's website will appear higher up in the search results because of these optimization efforts.
The Contact Us page provides essential information
The Contact Us page makes it easy for visitors to get in touch with Skinner. It also has a form visitors can fill out to start a project with him. In this way, the page is actually facilitating Skinner's business operations. The functionality here is an example of how a website can help run and promote a business at the same time.
Achieving goals with a clear mission and an effective website
All of the information a visitor needs to know about ARganic can be found on the website. It also promotes the business and communicates the values and vision that are at the heart of everything that Skinner does.
"A website makes you feel like you're an actual business," Skinner says. "I'm really happy to have something that pushes me over the edge as far as staying competitive. There are a lot of people that can do woodworking, but if you go and you Google someone who is doing woodworking and their website's a Facebook page versus someone whose website is a website and it's immaculate, which one are you going to go with?"
After his marketing overhaul, Skinner feels like he's getting closer to his goals and is starting to overcome a major hurdle that all first-year businesses must contend with: generating awareness. Very few people in Searcy knew about ARganic before Skinner began this process. Now the community is taking notice. "People actually see my business as a business now."