About Lone Birch
How it started
First, welcome to Lone Birch! My name is Jarek Ostrowski and I just left the tech world, where I was most recently a designer at GitLab for 4 years. I'll get into the present day, but first let me give you some context.
This picture is from 2014, which is where the Lone Birch story starts. I was working in my grandfather's shop in Vermont and it's where I started experimenting with physical products, furniture specifically, while I stayed with my grandmother for a summer since my grandfather had to be put in a nursing home.
My grandfather was a professional machinist both here in the US and when they lived in Poland. They immigrated here when my dad was 8, back in the 60's, to start a new life and live out the American dream. He was a skilled craftsman and is someone I'm incredibly inspired by. He was taken to a work camp in Siberia when he was just 16 years old, which he remarkably survived for 7 years, but some of his family unfortunately did not. I think about my grandparents history a lot and I could write a few blogs on what it means to me in my life, but I'll just say it's given me perspective to never take things for granted and to make the best of my time while I have it.
Seeing his passion for being a craftsman really inspired me to do the same and when I started dabbling in it, I found I had a knack for it, and not just that, but it was something I loved to do. The idea of taking a thought and creating a tangible, physical item out of that is still amazing to me. During that summer, I'd go down to the river in the train yard to collect driftwood, like he did, and use that wood to create some of my first pieces. Here's one:
I didn't have the money to keep this hobby up, so I had to abandon this passion project of mine and move back to NH to find work, where I also didn't have a work shop like I did in Vermont. It's an important part of my story - it's where I started woodworking, exploring my grandfathers shop and his quirky jigs, tools, and hardware. During one of his last visits to the house before he passed, we gathered in the living room around a coffee table I made with the same kind of driftwood he used to collect down by the river. I'll never forget his reaction when I told him the coffee table we were sitting at was something I made. It's the kind of feeling I want to give people when they see and use a piece of Lone Birch furniture.
Over the next several years, I would get into the digital space, teach myself UX design, freelance for a couple years, get an office job and move to Boston, then get an opportunity at GitLab where I spent the last 4 years. I would continue dabbling in woodworking - creating coffee tables, TV stands, sculptures, monitor stands and more, but it was always just a hobby. Tech pays really well, but I kept coming back to the idea - if I could do anything for the rest of my life, regardless of money, what would I do?
Lone Birch is a culmination of all my passions - furniture, product design, tech, and working from home (or remote work in general).
Where it's going - "Made everywhere"
Since the start of 2023, I looked at scaling production since I couldn't keep up with orders myself and I saw the limitations and risks of opening a local garage, signing a minimum 5 year commitment, tripling my equipment, and hoping I could find skilled craftspeople within a certain distance from the shop. Instead, I decided to take my experience working at an all-remote software company and use that to build an all-remote company that makes physical products.
There are a number of benefits to this "distributed manufacturing" model. One is that we can hire close to our customers, reducing our overall carbon footprint, reducing the shipping times, and it allows us to support local makers and communities all across the US. We currently have several makers actively making, packing, and shipping our products to customers in their region. Over time, we'll continue hiring makers to make our products closer to our customers. So far, it has worked incredibly well, which is of course a testament to the people we've hired, but also to the custom software we've built to enable this distributed model.
If you're interested in learning more about my vision for our distributed model, you can read about that here: https://www.lonebirch.co/blogs/news/decentralized-manufacturing-and-my-vision-for-lone-birch.
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