Interview with Justin and Michelle Dosser: J & M’s Working Wood

This couple took their need to DIY new home pieces and catapulted it into a thriving business. Read their story and learn how they leverage customer feedback to expand their ever-growing company.

J & M’s Working Wood, based in Chula Vista, California, began like many businesses: Craftsman and U.S. Navy service member Justin Dosser and his wife Michelle needed to solve a problem. Michelle discusses the beginning of their journey, saying, “We had just moved from one house to another within the same military housing community. A house that had many walls that seemed so bare and unwelcoming. And, we had a budget for decorating that was well beneath what we see on HGTV. My husband—the perpetual optimist of the two of us—was the one to vocalize the idea: We can make these things ourselves.”

And just like many businesses, that single idea created a snowball effect. “From that one simple project, more complex ideas came to fruition: folding tables, a shelving unit, bedroom furniture! Honestly, you name it and Justin could build it. A Facebook page for the pieces we were making was created and several posts to local sales pages got the ball rolling with the first few orders. We were busy! But most importantly, we were happy making these things together,” Michelle explains.

Nine months later, after the couple went through a deployment and yet another move, they decided to expand. “A few months after we were settled in our new location we launched our Etsy page. This created a lot of traffic and we started gaining the recognition that was much deserved. Business picked up and regular orders started coming through. But we were still wanting more,” Michelle reveals.

Expanding, of course, isn’t as simple as it sounds. Especially when that expansion hinges on creating custom pieces customers will love. So, the duo relied on ideas and requests from families, friends and previous customers to come up with new concepts. They note that “building our little business from friends and family asking for projects to be made” was a driving force behind their decisions and plans. Justin elaborates further on his process and use of feedback, saying, “I base my vision and inspiration on being as unique as possible. I gather ideas from the outlines I create and bring them to life! I take my customers’ feedback, whether it be constructive criticism or positive feedback, and use it to my advantage.”

However, time management and financial struggles still caused some hiccups along the way. Justin explains, “Since I’m in the Navy, deployments are a huge obstacle and they make it challenging to grow a business. Starting out as an entrepreneur, I feel that finances also play a major factor. We’ve all heard the saying ‘in order to make money you have to spend money.’ So, budgeting and material costs are things you have to keep track of.”

In spite of the significant—and slightly unusual—challenges the couple face, they’re extremely excited for the future. Michelle gushes with pride, saying, “I am not going to lie, scary as this may be, it is also very exciting! I am beyond proud of all of the hard work that has gone into this. Even more, I’m proud of Justin. This was his baby, his dream, and watching it all come together makes me happy beyond measure.”

To other entrepreneurs out there, Justin stresses excellent listening skills and passion: “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to be patient and listen to your customers. They are the backbone of my business and what keeps me striving to do more! You need have passion for what you believe in. Because I love what I do so much, I pour my heart and soul into this.”

Interested in learning more about this talented craftsman and the couple behind the business? Check out their website at www.jmworkingwood.com.

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