We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Scott Carr and Rob Demlow a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Scott & Rob, thanks for joining us today. How did you scale up? What were the strategies, tactics, meaningful moments, twists/turns, obstacles, mistakes along the way? The world needs to hear more realistic, actionable stories about this critical part of the business building journey. Tell us your scaling up story – bring us along so we can understand what it was like making the decisions you had, implementing the strategies/tactics etc.
The thing Scott and I keep finding interesting about this journey is that as our names are becoming more recognized, people want to know about the business side of our adventures. In our most recent TV interview, the questions continued about how our business started. This forced us to think about last October before we discovered our niche. We just thought it would be cool to have our legacy hanging on a wall at our favorite places to socialize. In February, when Brotherhood Designs, LLC was founded, we did not consider ourselves any more than firefighters trying to sell a cool flag that tells a story. The interviewing news anchor, Carlos Diaz from our local WTHR news station in Indianapolis, IN, had an in depth look into the business side of what we have done over the last seven months. It’s as if Carlos knew us better than ourselves. The end of the interview had him almost having to convince us of our artist status. The funny thing about that is just several months prior to our August interview, our business mentors from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) helped us to realize that we simply had patriotic art, and we needed to research how to enter into the art market. Scaling up has meant a lot of different things to us along the path of our company. First, in February it meant that we were not wanting to miss an opportunity to make a little cash selling a flag to people in cool places we like to eat, drink, and socialize. Next, it meant realizing the potential by developing a product that can ship anywhere in the US that has value and a quality and story better than any other. Today, scaling up means developing systems, creating patents, and seeing a vision through that will provide possible partnerships with others like us throughout the US. Those partners could see the potential for creating patriotic art and enhancing their retirement plan.
Scott & Rob, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
We are two firefighters, Scott Carr and Rob Demlow from Hamilton County, Indiana, Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4416. Being public servants, we have also moon-lighted recently this year to create a company called Brotherhood Designs, LLC. Our artwork is centered around American Flags which are custom made with retired fire hose. All Brotherhood Designs artwork is heirloom quality. The pieces are heavy duty and built with careful attention to every detail. We appreciate members of the military, firefighters, police and all first responders who put their lives on the line every day, past and present! So we have made a “Thin-Line” American Flag Series as well. These are also made from fire hose that has been retired after active use. The “Union” and every other stripe is then painted in black, the white hose is left in it’s natural state and the “Thin Line” stripe is painted based on which “Thin Line” occupation one would choose to support. For example, the “Thin Red Line” flag would be showing support and solidarity with fire service personnel and it honors injured or fallen firefighters.
Whether it’s a “Thin Line” flag, or an American Flag, our products exude a level of quality and class that you will pass along to future generations! All of our flags are built to meet standard dimensions found for the true sizing of any American Flag. On our website, www.brotherhooddesigns.net you can browse our online shop to add features such as couplings, shelves, back lighting and other wishes to customize your own piece of artwork. Whether you customize a lot or a little, you can be rest assured that the art you purchase from us is different than that of any other on the market and has a uniqueness from even others in our series. We select retired fire hose because it has a story. Just like a retired fireman has a story to tell, so does the hose that our flag has. That fireman may have scars, as the hose has rips and tears. That fireman may have unfortunately dealt with burns. Some of the hose has great burn marks from battling for life saving measures and property conservation. Our Rustic version of Old Glory is a fantastic piece that does not have any paint. We find red, white and blue hose and create a faded, beat up version of our standard flag. This is one of our favorites because she has the most battle scars and she ain’t afraid to show them. She really reminds us of our country right now. There’s a lot of blemishes, however, there’s a beautiful story she could tell.
Brotherhood Designs, LLC is growing and adapting to the needs and requests of our customers. Our standard size flag is roughly 43″x80″, which is slightly smaller than a standard 4’x8′ sheet of plywood. We also have an industrial size for large areas like arenas, fire stations, or industrial settings. One adaptation that our company is moving to overcome is finding and acquiring a smaller diameter hose, which would lay at a smaller width for the stripes and create an overall smaller size flag. We are wanting to be able to tell the potential customer, yes we have a smaller version and we are researching the potential avenues for connecting with other areas of the country who use the smaller hose. Another area for growth for displaying our artwork has been through requests for an outdoor version. Brotherhood Designs is working hard to design and build our flags with materials that will withstand the elements. There are of course, other huge ideas because the possibilities are only limited to a negative attitude and satisfied thirst for a creative outlet.
Okay – so how did you figure out the manufacturing part? Did you have prior experience?
In 2018 we researched a few examples of American flags that other fire departments made throughout the US. Our first flag hangs in our fire station in Hamilton County, IN. Some of it’s unique characteristics helped to established a foundation for what we feel is a superior version of the fire hose flag. We manufactured our first one to an industrial size true to the dimensions of what our nation’s flag should be per a larger diameter sized hose line. Those hoses had been sitting around the fire house for a while as they were retired from the trucks and could not “return to service.” The captain of our house allowed us to use our talents to decorate the station with material that was destined for the dumpster. The original piece can be seen with our smiling faces posing under it in our previous Nashville Voyager article and on our website under “our story.”
Idle time for the business passed from that first flag in March of 2018, till November of last year. We convinced a friend of ours who own a very popular bar famous for their wings, called Ale Emporium, to accept our “donation” of a flag after creating wall space through their renovation and expansion in Fishers, IN. The manufacture of that flag was similar to the first. However, the size of hose used was smaller and made the process a little easier and more manageable. As we started to realize that people who owned businesses wanted to show their patriotism, we realized that we couldn’t keep cutting out all the stars with a box knife and torching them to seal and give them extra character! We developed a relationship with a friend who wanted to have our unique art on his wall, as well as help our company with it’s manufacturing. That partnership saved our time and a major headache with the stars as he offered to barter with us to cut our stars out of hose with a laser. It was heaven and we have plans to buy our own laser in the future. However, it is our hope that those first few flags which have the stars cut by hand, will become collectors items and worth a ton of money. Every piece is given a certificate which explains what it is, who it is made by, and what number in the series that it is. That part of the manufacturing process started as a joke that we should attach certificates, like works of art do. Now, each certificate is signed with pride by us as a hope that our Brotherhood Designs family is proud of and values our artwork.
We are constantly looking at ways to cut manufacturing time down. As business owners, we can tell you the exact amount of screws that go in to each piece and approximately how much paint is used. We have partnered with Whites ACE Hardware in Fishers IN to help with keeping our cost down, and standardizing each aspect of the build. Currently, our intentions are to establish step by step instructions for our designs patents, but also to hire those that can follow our design for most of our building of the piece. We do not, however, have intentions of relinquishing the final processes of assembly until our systems are fully established and partnerships can be developed with those invested in our company. The quality of our artwork is our utmost concern. If it is going to be displayed on your wall, our intentions are that is going to be manufactured to be the best you can get and the most unique piece of patriotic art.
We’d love to hear about how you keep in touch with clients.
We continue to adapt to our demand on social media by sharing information with the growing number of people to the Brotherhood Designs, LLC family. As addicting and harmful as it can be, the social media platforms have allowed us to connect with the most people. Our website integration along with those social media outlets is key to making it easier to flow back and forth. As a fairly new company, it is really difficult to determine where the loyalty to our brand we have created is coming from. We are just firemen that happened on a good idea that is unique and expanded on it to create a better product. Where we will have difficulty in our company is through the actual business facets of marketing, sales, financials (you know– numbers), and other things like cost market analysis. We are trying to learn those important things. However, the thing we do know is that the first twenty or so flags were mostly sold by drinking a beer with someone who thought we were good guys and wanted a unique piece on the wall to show patriotism. We are attempting to use email lists and hashtags and other tricks that a sales and marketing pro would easily know in order to keep our Brotherhood Designs family close. As we grow, our intent is to make sure that each person who has entrusted us to make their artwork feels as close to a family member as we do around the fire house. We are implementing entertaining events around our flags as well. One such event that we are suggesting to our family and friends is to go on the Flag Crawl while in Nashville. We ask everyone that we know who are traveling to Tennessee to find the flags that we have currently at 3 major bars on Broadway. That has helped to create a buzz around our social media. We will continue to make the Flag Crawl a bigger deal as time goes on and as we add more locations to the list. This brand loyalty is something that we hope goes beyond the sale of a flag. It hopefully will go way beyond Nashville. Our intent is to create that buzz in every major city in our beautiful United States.