From Film to Furniture
Episode 26
November 3, 2020

From Film to Furniture

with John McDonald, Founder and CEO of Semihandmade

John McDonald is the Founder and CEO of Semihandmade. Ranked among Inc. Magazine's fastest growing private companies in the US every year since 2015, Semihandmade makes high-end replacement doors for Ikea cabinets and has showrooms in New York, LA Minneapolis, Palm Springs, and Chicago. In this episode, John shares with us his incredible journey from growing up on the East coast, to working in the mailroom at Paramount Pictures, to attempting to join the Los Angeles Police Department, to ultimately transitioning into the furniture business. We talk about the impactful relationship he had with his father, why he gave up his dream to be a writer, and how he accidentally cut off two of his fingers while making furniture, but persevered and built Semihandmade into a multimillion-dollar business.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How he grew up in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania with supportive middle class parents who came from different economic backgrounds
  • How John made his way to California with a dream of being a part of the film industry where he worked in the mailroom at Paramount Studios and worked on the sets of movies, television, and commercials
  • How his time on set led to an interest in writing, which he did for years while waiting tables in Hollywood
  • Why 9/11 became a pivotal moment for him, which led to an interest in joining the LAPD 
  • How a decision to buy antique chairs to refinish and sell led to pursuing a woodworking education at Cerritos College and finding something he really enjoyed doing
  • When the idea for Semihandmade was put into his mind and how he started testing the concept in clients’ kitchens with great success
  • How a collaboration in 2013 with designer Sarah Sherman Samuel became a catalyst for lots of growth and opportunity
  • What John has learned and how he has grown as a person and as a leader and what recent changes have been made with his team that have poised Semihandmade for the next wave of growth

To Find Out More:

Semihandmade.com


Quotes:

“I'm proud of the diversity of our 55 people. The fact that I think maybe 12 out of the 16 top  people are all women.”

“So as a leader I'm still learning.”

“My strength is asking questions and being willing to admit there's a lot of stuff I don't know. Just the idea that you don't know what you don't know. And there's a ton of that I don't know.” 

“I'm proud of what I've done and what we continue to do as a company, I'm also aware that it can be so much easier.”

“Be fearless. You're putting yourself out there. It takes a huge amount of courage.”

“Consume everything in that space. Listen to podcasts like yours. Read magazines.” 

“There's so much content in the world right now that wasn't available like three, four or five years ago for people that want to start businesses.” 

“Don't be afraid to reach out to people.”

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