An Interview with Shawn and Rachel of Standard Spoon

A few months ago we were interviewed by Kelly Bardon Haddad for an article in Zooey Magazine. 

She spoke with several San Diego couples who own and operate businesses together, including Native Spirits (craft spirits retail - coming soon to North Park!), Cueva Bar (delish restaurant in University Heights), Honest Films (storytelling through film and photography), Mallow Mallow (gourment s'mores!) and Standard Spoon.

From how Standard Spoon was born, to the challenges of working with your spouse, to how Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars inspired us to keep going, there's bound to be something you don't know about us in here:

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?

We began making craft barware as Standard Spoon in 2013,
but have been a creative team since 2007 making art and
well-crafted goods as Work of My Hands.


CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF STANDARD
SPOON?

One of our primary motives when we work creatively is
to make things well. We’re inspired by mid-century products
that last, and old tools that are passed down from generation
to generation, because they can be. We love craft cocktail
making for the same reasons. These bartenders make the
best drinks you’ll ever have, and are totally devoted to their
craft. They need tools that match the quality of their work,
and in today’s throw-away-culture, there aren't a lot of companies
making bar tools designed to last. So we are.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES AND BIGGEST REWARDS OF
WORKING WITH YOUR SPOUSE?

Shawn: The biggest challenge is that even in great relationships,
less can be more. We spend almost all of our time
together, which can make it hard for us to turn work “off”
when it’s time to relax or celebrate. Sometimes going to dinner
with one another can turn into a business meeting. At
other times, sharing a meal and dreaming together is what
we want to do.  We learned we benefit from having separate
agendas and tasks during the week, so when we see one another
it’s still like coming home from work. On the other side
of that coin, I get to spend tons of time with my biggest fan
and teammate. Rachel is my greatest supporter and is such
an encouragement. More access to one another is one of the
best thing I’ve ever experienced. Especially once Rachel quit
her job, it was wonderful to have all her mental space devoted
to our dreams. I no longer have to help her disconnect from
her work and switch to the things we are building together.

Rachel: One of our biggest challenges is to exit the “dreaming”
phase, where we get all caught up in generating creative
ideas and visions of what we’re going to do next, and get down
to the “task” phase, where we execute. We love dreaming up
things together, and sometimes we’ll have 4 or 5 really excit-
ing creative ideas before we finish the one we're supposed to
be working on. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves. We have
a coffee meeting at the beginning of each day to set goals
and re-focus on what is most important to accomplish that
week.  One of the major rewards is having a spouse that sup-
ports your vision 100%, because it’s their vision too. They
understand what’s going on, and can empathize with your
challenges and celebrate your successes, because they are the
same. Working isn’t a lonely business, and I don’t have to
try and make it on my own. I have a teammate who is also
a soulmate, and we are moving toward the dream together.

Rachel Eva and Shawn Michael Standard Spoon.jpg

HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO BALANCE WORK LIFE AND PERSONAL LIFE?

Still haven’t mastered that one yet. It’s a challenge to turn
off the computer, or not pick up a business call, because we
get excited about the things we’re doing, and want to keep
them moving forward all the time. This is especially true for
anyone who’s still in the start-up phase, because let’s be honest,
it takes a lot of work and effort and intention to start a
business. But even if you work 120 hours per week, there is
still going to be more work to do at the end of the day.

There’s always more work to do. You’ll never get it all done. When
we realized this, we became more disciplined about our work
boundaries, and set up a few rules:

1. When we start working at the beginning of the day, we set
a deadline for when we are going to stop that day, regardless
of how much we’ve gotten done.
2. We decide what the 2-4 most important things are that
need to be done that day and do those things first.  That way
if we run out of time, we at least got the most important tasks
done.
3. Take 1-2 full days off per week from ANY work activities.
We give ourselves a weekend.
4. Schedule free time off for personal projects, rest, friends, 
and family. This is specifically when there is no obligation to
spend time with each other. We do this to intentionally support
our individual interests (writing for Rachel, photogra-
phy for Shawn) as well as our joint vision.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS THEN?

Set deadlines. Finish things, and see how people respond
to them, otherwise your dreams will just be dreams, and will
have nothing to stand on. The more work you do, the better
your future work will be; it’s progressive. You can’t be the
best you’re going to be by nature, you need a body of work and
experience in that field. Embrace the discipline of hard work 
and finishing things.

ARE THERE ANY SMALL BUSINESSES THAT WERE AN INSPIRATION TO
YOU IN YOUR FIRST YEARS?

Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars) was a huge encouragement to
us when we first decided to move beyond just being artists
and take our business seriously. His “rags to riches” story is
inspiring, because it’s real, relatable, and happened in our
city.  

He said to us once, "when you first start a business,
you're going to suck at it for a while, until you figure it out" (paraphrased)
which is encouraging when you're just starting.  We knew
we had a lot to learn, and knew we weren’t the best, and that can
be intimidating. It was comforting to hear that Bob Taylor
ate Top Ramen for years until the company figured out how
to sell guitars.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR STANDARD SPOON?

We’ll make more tools! For the most part, there’s been little
innovation in the last century with bar ware. It’s exciting for
us to design new products. That being said, we don’t want to
have 20 bar spoons. We’re interested in making the best versions
of the tools cocktail lovers use, and keeping it simple.

All these wonderful photos were taken by Jazmine Fitzwilliam from Let's Frolic Together.

Building a Home Bar

We're waiting for our first samples to be completed and mailed.  In the meantime, we've been spending time with bartenders and industry folk, and making cocktails at our home bar.

Shawn Michael built the bar in December; we thought it was time to have an intentional space for cocktail making. 

There's a lot to consider when you start thinking about building a home bar. Functional place to drink some cheap lite beer? You can do that in front of the TV (no offense). Are you really into drinking games and have a stash of red solo cups perpetually rotating in and out of your basement cupboards? Maybe a pool table and a ping pong ball is a better bet for you.  

Let's just say I wasn't very inspired when I searched "How to Build a Home Bar" and THIS VIDEO came up as the No. 1 search result:

We live in an old craftsman home built in 1902, and Shawn wanted the bar to look like it belonged - like it was built with the house, not some stuffy new add-on with a shiny teak veneered front.  While we didn't get away with building it for $75, we did use plenty of recycled materials (including pallet wood!)

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Of course we had to throw some of that Work of My Hands material aesthetic in there. And dim-able custom lighting on top and underneath.

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Most home bars are built with a kitchen mindset (think cabinets and countertops). But if you've ever actually looked at a bartender's well when they're making drinks, they don't have an excess of vacuous space in front of them for slicing lemons and banging ice in a lewis bag. They've got a recessed, open well filled with all their bottled ingredients - liquors, liqueurs, juices - with the necks of the bottles at about the height your hand would naturally rest at while standing. 

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It's proved to be an essential space for testing our spoons, making great cocktails, and entertaining.

Cheers!

Design Lovers - Gimme the Details!

Via Update #10 on Kickstarter:

We visited with our design engineer again today (our third visit) and are excited to say that the final files are almost finished! When we started designing these spoons, we did so with raw materials in a workshop, and made something you could physically hold and test. 

Now our task has been to convert these beautifully crafted prototypes into digital representations. Seeing our conceptual changes captured in digital form is extremely gratifying!

Shawn and Allen working out design details

Shawn and Allen working out design details

Digital files are used to make the molds for the spoons, and also to clearly communicate manufacturing specifications. We're working with an engineer (Allen) who is just as passionate about design and aesthetics as he is about technical specifications, so Standard Spoon is in good hands.

We'll be sharing some of the final drawings with you when they're finished - until then, here's a sneak peak.  I find the 3D files fascinating when they're being moved around on the screen! This little clip is part of a discussion on design options for the transition point from the spoon bowl to the handle.

We've also had several conversations with our manufacturing coordinator, and are working out all the details between design, engineering requirements, and manufacturing capabilities. Communication on these points is extremely important during this stage of product development, so we're taking our time to make sure we answer all the questions right the first time.

Next on our task list is to validate the final design files based on the feedback we gave Allen today. When we've got that done, we'll send them to the manufacturer and they'll make physical samples from the digital files for us to approve. 

We're also sending one of our prototypes to China.  We want to give the manufacturer the benefit of holding, using, and testing our physical idea, as well as the digital one. Just one of the many things we're doing to ensure clear communication and quality assurance.