I wanted to share this with all of you. WKT has reached a pivotal moment in our business growth and we are seeking help.
My name is Alec Wachtman, I am 22 years old. It has been my lifelong dream to own and operate a knife production company. I purchased my LLC at the age of 18 in the winter of 2019. From there I got started selling handmade blades online through Instagram, Reddit and Facebook. With the help of my girlfriend Maylee, I scaled this from a small side hustle to a full blown small business with monthly drops, professional photography, full time content production, a mailing list, retailer network, and Ecommerce storefront all in the span of about 3 years.
Everything I earned from making knives was reinvested into more equipment, advertising, infrastructure and materials. Unfortunately, the social media landscape has changed drastically since I started and growth online through simple posting on social media alone is no longer a viable avenue to success. Without the ability to expand through the older style of social media marketing, I will need to increase my product output and work more with retailers, influential figures and businesses in related niches to get the word out about my products. Currently with only two real “employees” at the company, it’s impossible for us to continue making knives by hand if we have to contend with the materials, precision, speed and retailer margins demanded in the current market.
Fortunately, I was aware of this and had made plans for a new building expansion with a significant portion of funds being allocated toward new equipment that would bring us to the necessary level of output and precision and enable us to contend with the margins demanded by the marketplace. With building material costs increasing, the updated expansion and equipment cost is larger than we have the funds to afford, due to my age, ethnicity, gender, and lack of credit, I’m simply not eligible for any financing options on terms that would be sustainable for the growth of the company. I have investigated all avenues of financing including SBA government loans, credit unions, manufacturer financing, etc.
I have spoken to countless business owners, mentors, trusted elders and customers at trade shows. All agree that my business plan is sound, the product design is good, and the company is in good shape financially (we currently hold zero debt). I am being barred from this opportunity simply because of my young age and the color of my skin (SBA loans are eligible for higher lending amounts if you are a woman or registered minority). I have investigated multiple different avenues of commerce or business plan structures to try and advance without such a large expansion, and have determined with the help of many trusted advisors that given our unique individual situation, my initial plan is the best way to minimize risk over a 5 year term and gives us the widest variety of options to pivot if we need to change our business model. In order to continue in a scalable manner, we will need a significant financial investment, business partner, or co-owner to come along and give us a push. I don’t presently have any prospects for partnership or investment on account of this being largely a solo venture and have, with a very heavy heart, begun to investigate other options for employment.
If you or anyone you know has a way they might be able to help, whether directly or through connections, I would be extremely grateful. Knifemaking has been my lifelong passion and it would be extremely painful to have to give it up.
The bottom line:
In the event that we don't receive help and end up having to close down or scale back, I want to thank each and every one of you that has been part of my journey. Knifemaking has been the most profound path I've ever traveled down and I've become a far better person through it. The process of scaling this business has made me into the young man I am today and I want to acknowledge your help in my personal growth. The ability to make knives well has been something that's kept me going when not much else has and the community that's come along with it is one of the only places that I feel wholeheartedly accepted as a person (One thing most knifemakers don't mention is that we're extremely awkward in normal social environments due to obsessive amounts of time spent in the shop).
Knifemaking has brought a tremendous amount of meaning to my life and regardless of what happens I'm profoundly grateful for the blessings that I've been given so far. The process of creating a piece of art that brings joy and utility to the people using it is something that has given me a tremendous amount of gratification and meaning. Everything I've done has been out of a genuine desire to always put out the best and most useful tools I can create and it's been an incredibly fulfilling experience to see them getting used by all of you. Through this I've developed a lifelong passion for learning and a powerful desire to aid in the creation of jobs and betterment of our economy through US based small businesses and manufacturing.
What does this mean for repairs/warranty/custom orders?
For now? Nothing. WKT will continue to operate as normally as we can for as long as possible with custom orders and warranty service being the last to go in the event of a closure. It is unlikely that I will ever stop making knives personally and so I will be able to work with anyone who needs a repair.