You’ve heard of Rolex and Tag Hauer, maybe own a Fitbit or Apple Watch. What everyone is looking for is uniqueness, some way to express their individuality. Well, your search for a unique timepiece has just ended with the Maker Watch Company’s handcrafted, ultra-unique, wood and resin watches.
Justin Alvares and Nibin Thomas, co-founders of Maker Watch Co. personally handcraft wood and resin watches for their clients from a small home studio in the Port Credit Area of Mississauga. The young entrepreneurs have seen significant growth via social media over the last 6 months mostly notably for their signature hybrid case watch – A case that is part wood and part resin. And the end result is nothing short of stunning.
We met with Justin and Nibin over coffee in Roncesvalles to gain some insight on their story and their tradecraft.
What inspired you to start Maker Watch Co.?
Justin: Ultimately it was the belief in an idea that created our business and a post on Instagram. I (Alvares) set out to make a watch out of wood for myself with the intent to make it just for personal use. Nibin loved the product helped close my first sale and encouraged me to keep making more and long story short here we are today.
Building a wood watch from scratch doesn’t sound easy, what sorts of challenges did you face?
Justin: The biggest initial hurdle came from building a second watch. Knowing that watch isn’t just for me but for a customer and someone who will be excited about it puts a massive amount of stress on me to ensure that the product is as perfect as I can make it in that moment. Each watch we produce gets of better and better as time/building/experience grows.
How do you guys split responsibility?
Justin: I handle the product and Nibin handles the business aspects. We are in tune with what each other are doing but have trust and confidence in each other in our respective areas. Our ultimate responsibility is to our clients and i’m lucky to share that passion with some like Nibin who gets people and builds strong relationships.
How do you manage to stay friends and healthy business partners?
Nibin: Everyone is quick to state that you can’t do business with friends and family but I think that’s simply not true. I’ve started, failed and continue to operate businesses over the years and each and every single one was with friends. I think business partners can become friends and vice versa. It’s about making the time to be present under both hats. It’s not easy when every conversation ultimately turns into a business conversation and it’s so easy to lose the friendship aspect. We manage to still get out for coffees, go to mutual friend’s events and just have good conversation about our personal lives.
What would you say is the single most influential factor in your success to date?
Justin: Nibin. Haha he’ll like that 😉 On top of that, again just communication, with customers and each other. Businesses are about people and I’m lucky to be partnered with a person that understands that.
How is social media leveraged in your business?
Nibin: It’s critical. Our first sale was generated from a personal Instagram post. Beyond our website we use Instagram, Facebook and Google. There is more we could use but given we’re only two we focus on a few platforms that have high impact.
Instagram has been especially instrumental to our growth as it’s been the catalyst for 80% of our sales. We started slow in 2017 and gained a following of 416 by end of year (no pun it was legit 416!). After taking advice from a local influencer we’ve 5X our following since January 2018. It’s been a lot of work but the key is good content and consistency of engagement. Give more to the community and you’ll receive what you’re worth. We don’t use bots or tactics – only genuine engagement. Our initial goal for 2018 was to hit 1K on Instagram but since we’ve doubled that we’ve upped our target to 4K.
When you check the ego at the door you realize it’s the quality of the following that means more than the quantity. We’ve been able to close sales to clients internationally with a relatively small following. Client satisfaction, product innovation, and our personal level of fun is the pulse check we use to ensure we’re moving forward in the right direction, not the follower count. It’s easy to get lost in that at times but we’re both determined to be known for our client experience over everything.
What advice would you give to any future entrepreneur?
Justin: Just start. Probably simple and the most common piece of advice but it’s true. The idea for our product was sketched out 2 years prior to actually making an attempt at conceiving it. In hindsight that drawing was the start.
You can find them here…