Ten years ago today, I resigned as editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which was the best job I ever had. When I handed my resignation letter to Publisher Steve Shanesy that morning, I wasn’t angry or even disgruntled. The truth was that I had simply lost hope in the company I loved and fought for daily. And I was curious to find out if I could do any better.
There are lots of ways to measure a business. My metrics include: Am I eating? Am I happy? Am I sleeping at night? My old bosses at F+W Media preferred to use top-line revenue and EBITDA.
So this post is for them. It took us almost 14 years, but thanks to hard work, a good dose of luck, some close friends and a lot of good customers, Lost Art Press is now as big (actually, a little bigger) than Popular Woodworking Magazine was at its peak in the early 2000s in terms of both revenue and EBITDA.
I’m a Southerner, so I must immediately apologize for that small boast, and I swear on a stack of fried chicken legs that it will never happen again. My hope is that, if you are thinking of starting your own business or trying to leave the corporate world, you will find encouragement in that statement.
You can do it. Without a business degree. And with your ethics intact.
Now back to woodworking.
— Christopher Schwarz
94 thoughts on “9 a.m. on May 23, 2011”
Have a purpose in life…and go for it.
Congratulations. Not only have your nourished your soul, but you have made a tremendous impact on the world of woodworking.
Congratulations, you have worked hard and stayed true to your beliefs and values.
Congratulations. You’re an inspiration and you have good reason to boast.
MBA’s are for those who can’t actually DO anything, except write spreadsheets.
More power to your elbow.
Excellent. Any chance LAP will resurrect Woodworking Magazine?
YES! Please do this Chris! Best magazine ever. I refer to the old copies weekly.
I think there are two main reasons for the LAP’s success: one is that it is clearly a business run with integrity which is a function of the second factor which is that it clearly run by human beings (as opposed to lawyers, accountants, marketing men etc.). Therefore IMO it’s success is to be welcomed and it’s very existence represents the constant wagging of two fingers in the direction of anonymous, amoral big business.
Boy does this post ring true. I just spent 1+ hrs trying to get Taunton press to
Stop sending my marketing emails after literal years of pressing the “unsubscribe” button on their emails to no avail. Managed to get someone on the phone at their CT headquarters who acted as if there weren’t many better business bureau complaints over this same issue already published and publicly viewable.
I honestly do not understand how companies like that can possibly think they will retain a loyal readership when they treat their customers so poorly. Of course I suppose the joke is on me; many consumers often don’t seem to mind being bent over and reamed. Maybe I’ve just got a tight behind?
Regardless; reading your stuff and interacting with your company is a breath of fresh air. In my book, authenticity, integrity and the human touch are indications of a company I gladly support. Thanks for being that guy, and best of luck in the future!
Yes. Really happy to see what you’ve grown into.
The more businesses that show you can turn a profit and treat people like people, the better we will be.
As a Southerner you will understand this, “with hard work…good customers and with the blessing of the Lord.” Congratulations Chris. I think we all have been cheering you on and are inspired by the success of Lost Art Press.
And all without ads for DR Chipper Mulchers, Woodmaster molders and Viagra in your books.
I worked as a litigation paralegal at a large law firm, mostly for large hedge fund clients, for about 14 years. It was stressful, the hours were long, and too many of the lawyers in the firm were absolutely awful. I was pretty miserable – even now I’d give that money back to regain all the time lost. I had been planning a way out since I started. Finding the courage took a long time – especially since becoming a full time filmmaker is a bit of a long shot and being freelance comes with its own uncertainties and constant negotiating your worth. Covid times have made my career very uncertain, but I’m keeping up my networking and learning hand tool woodworking skills in the down time. Thank you for your sponsored Instagram content drawing me into this world! I think it has altered how I approach my filmmaking work for the better as well.
Congratulations! Well done and well deserved
As a professional woodworker of 15+ years, I find it hard to deal with some of the personalities that I encounter. For me, it must be a solitary craft, or it’s hard to find joy.
Congrats and well done! Glad to see good companies succeeding.
Wish we could all gather to celebrate! I hope to someday visit your operation so I can present you with a laurel and hearty handshake! You and all who helped you make this happen deserve both congratulations and sincere thanks. Well done and best wishes for continued success!
Congrats Chris and team. Thanks for sharing. It’s good to hear stories of people doing what the love and being ‘emotionally’ successful AND profitable at the same time.
Congrats, of course. What I’m hoping here is that we see more successes just like yours. We have plane companies that aren’t in it to build planes, and drug companies that aren’t in it for health. They’re these large social organizations that have been hijacked as tools for modern finance. It’s good to know that there’s a woodworking author and a press that are in it to build furniture and print books. Thanks for that.
Good for you Chris. I’m glad it is working out for you. Popular Woodworking was my favorite publication when you were there. I was just starting to learn woodworking skills at that time and you taught me the best way to do things. I also love your sense of humor.
I had been wanting to build a good workbench for a long time and when you designed and built your version of the Roubo workbench I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I built one immediately. It is my favorite tool in my shop.
After you left Popular Woodworking it went downhill. In fact all the other WW magazines are not what they used to be. I dropped all the publications except for Fine Woodworking. Even it is not what it used to be.
I follow Lost Art Press and have purchased many of your publications. You and Fitz continue to inspire me.
Thanks Chris. You have made a difference in the world.
Congratulations Chris. Well done!
Values first, every time.
Congratulations! You obviously made the right choice for you and your extended family.
Thank you for sharing your very inspiring story during these chaotic times.
Being self-employed most of my working life, I have felt every thing you have in the world of business. You and your team have not only provided hints and new skills to woodworks around the world. You sir have made us the customers all feel like not only friends but a part of your family. That is the real secret of success. keep up the Good work.
Regarding your description of your old bosses and their high regard for EBITDA, look up Warren Buffet’s feelings towards it (hint: negative). I did not examine how F & W has done in comparison to Berkshire.
Buffet is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Berkshire has no issues reservatins about gutting its targets.
Excellent! I have followed a similar path. If more businesses could be run with these guidelines the world, and our environment, would be a much better place.
Thank you for that.
I and many others, believe that today is a great anniversary to celebrate and enjoy the content and the quality of the books that LAP has published.
Starting out, I suppose you wondered how big the market might be the ATC but you must have been confident that it filled a niche that wasn’t being served by the TV shows and TimeLife Books material that had been available up til then.Thanks for going all in on this endeavour. Good job!
I remember clearly that moment!
Best regards and keep woodworking from the Barcelona woodoholic;)
Well done! And thank you for the words of encouragement.
This made me think of Walt Disney saying, “It all started with a mouse.”
In your case, you can say, “It all started with a book.”
Congratulations to you and John.
Congratulations Chris! Your passion for quality, whether it be tools, techniques, or book binding is inspiring. Thank you for doing all you have for the craft.
If it weren’t for you, Chris, and the rest of the team at LAP I would have quite writing about a decade ago. You gave me an outlet I could be proud to be a part of.
Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! And very well done! I was quite sad to see PW go down the tubes as it has, which, in retrospect, was inevitable with the loss of all those individuals I had come to respect and follow so closely. I can now look back to that time when I first encountered Woodworking Magazine, and I recognize it as a time for great change for me personally. I now know you were the force behind most of that. It brought so much enjoyment and happiness to my life as I reenergized and enhanced my knowledge, abilities, and skills at woodworking. Attending events such as Woodworking in America and Handworks allowed me to meet you, John, Steve, Glen, Curtis, Alf, Megan, Bob, George, Roy, Jameel, Patrick, and so many others who have impacted my life and work. At the time I was sorry to see you leave PW, but quickly realized it was the best move for you and your vision, of which, many a volume sit on my shelves or next to my bed. LAP and the work produced thus far has helped fill a void sorely needing to be filled. I’ve long held hope that Woodworking Magazine or something quite similar would return, but, that has still not happened. So…please step back from this, and get back to it.
Again, Congratulations! Kevin
Chris and team: well played. I’m not as brave, so I applaud your strength to have done this, to have grown it, and to have provided us with so much interesting things to read and enjoy.
Wonderful! Certainly worthy of a pat on the back. You’ve worked hard enough for it.
Now for the next phase of your master plan — wait for the right moment, buy Popular Woodworking Magazine, and pulp their archives.
Congrats! It takes a lot to do what you did but it was all worth it. I encourage others to do the same no matter in what area of interest.
Revenge is sweetest when cold.. now move on.
I think it’s heartening to see when integrity, knowledge and persistence succeeds.
The positive influence growing out from your decision 10 years ago has had on the woodworking community is several orders of magnitude greater that any one man could reasonably expect to have in a human lifetime, Mr. Schwarz.
Not bad. Not bad at all 🙂
And thank you !
Got to love what you do in life or not worth doing. Keep yup the good work.
Awesome, congratulations! I have learned so much from both the books I have purchased as well as from the blog posts. I also have had good experiences purchasing from the small manufacturers mentioned. Great job all! I wish you continued success!
Starting a business, any business, means leaving the security of a steady income and facing uncertainty. I have followed and read many of the things published by Lost Arts Press. They have fueled and nurtured my love of skills nearly forgotten. My shop is a hybrid and still echoes words I heard a man I knew as Griggs. “Learn to use hand tools well first then your power tool skills will follow naturally” . Lost Arts Press supports that
I left the corporate world 14 years ago for all the reasons you site, not to start a business but to retire five years earlier than I had intended, and because I could without risking that much, so no credit for courage. I could no longer stand the way my fellow employees were being treated and the values that were exhibited (contrary to the public professions), and I had been through three corporate buyouts in ten years. It was then a multi-national Fortune 500 company but now is a mere shadow of what it had been. Karma? Whatever that is. No. It is what inevitably happens when faulty methodology meets reality. I shed no tears today.
I think this sums it up nicely. Congrats, friend!
Bravo. I have been a fan for a long while. Keep up the good work v
I’ve nowt much to add that has not already been said in one form or another in the previous comments to this post, but would nevertheless like to say congratulations, too – first and and last and foremost to you, Chris, for the gumption to do ‘t in the first place, and for the perseverance to make a success of ‘t once you’ve dood ‘t, and for being an all-round decent hoomin’ bean about ‘t, but also to those of us at the receiving end of ‘t!
I mean, how much of what now populates the woodworking section of my bookshelves, and how many of the Crucible tools in my workshop would ever have seen the light of day, had you decided otherwise than you did?
So thank you, and tremendous congratters all over again!
Incredibly awesome, Christopher! Congrats!!
I’m happy to do business with you and your company and really enjoy your attitude and your work. Glad you’re successful! Craig
Chris, Thank you for the encouragement. I have been contemplating starting my own business, and while I don’t desire to have the successes you and LAP have had, I do desire to put food on the table, a roof over my family and clothes on my back all without caving on my morals and ideals.
As others have said, congrats and thank you for caring.
So when will we see Lost Art Press magazine on the newsstand??
So when will we see Lost Art Press Magazine at the newsstands??
Congratulations Chris! Having followed you from the days of PWW to now, I found your transition to be extremely inspirational and educational. You inspired me to take my own plunge a few years back. One day please do consider writing about your experiences & memories of this transition. You will help a lot more people and leave this world a better place. Wishing you continued success in all future ventures.
This would be fun for browsing:
One thing no one has mentioned, including you, is the cascade effect. You are also providing a living for a number of authors who would not see the light of day in the corporate publishing tunnels. LAP is responsible for cultivating and nurturing many of those responsible for the new, healthier, wave of wood culture.
Also, do you know for how many years I looked for a copy of “Woodworking in Estonia”?!
I sincerely hope that our authors are happy that they have published with us. Our goals are to eat, to help the craft and to help the people we admire make a living.
I’m one, and thrilled to bits. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks Peter. You and Matt were the first people we approached.
Congratulations and thank you for all the help!
Congrats Chris! Happy Anniversary and here’s to (at least) another 10 years!
I find the sentiment of your post most encouraging. May have to do something with it.
Congratulations Chris. It’s a great feeling to take a risk and have it pay off. And not only have you succeeded personally but you’ve also added an incredible amount of information, advice and inspiration to this craft over the past decade. Thank you!
Let me add my hearty congratulations! Not only am I happy for. LAP, but I’m glad to be part of your “base”! Thank you!!!
It’s been great following the success of Lost Art Press and seeing the ripple effect y’all have had on the global community of woodworking enthusiasts.
An inspiration to us all. Quality over quantity. Enthusiasm over pessimism. Aesthetics over convenience. Thank you so much LAP and CS.
Wonderful. You bring value to the woodworking community in every venture you tackle, Chris. Your work at PW changed my woodworking, and it continues to change it at LAP. Thank you.
Congratulations Chris & team! You guys produce a superior product and offer it for a reasonable price and apparently are able to make a good living doing it. Seems like a simple formula doesn’t it? I wonder why more companies haven’t figured it out? I hope you enjoy many more years of continued success. I think I will celebrate with you by purchasing “Doormaking and Window-Making”.
Congrats to you, et al, bubba! You deserve it. Your success was earned. Bravo!
Actually I should have said, as a fellow Southerner, Y’all deserve it!
Congrats of maintaining your ethical standards AND being successful (however you choose to measure it). Many more years of success.
Turns out working very hard, being flexible, doing what you love, and charging a fair price for it (and “fair” applies to the seller as much as the buyer) is a workable, successful strategy (regardless of comparison to larger corporation). Oh, maybe be funny and have a generally large online following that you communicate to on the regular–those are good ideas, too. The world of craft (and anarchy) are better for LAP’s successful existence. Thanks for the great books.
When people around here ask me what I do for a living, I say: “I make boring things that people need and make off-color chicken jokes.”
Crucible Tools needs to manufacture a quality brace and bit set: then you can TRULY make boring things that people need.
Congratulations Chris! That is quite the accomplishment. I’m very impressed with what you’ve done with LAP. I own quite a lot of LAP books. Thanks for what you’ve done for the woodworking community. But I do blame you that I’ve become much pickier about the quality of my books.
I read the blog, see your Instagram, try and register for classes at your storefront, took my wife to your place on our honeymoon, buy your tools, buy your books. I guess that’s about as good of a display of appreciation as I can give you. Thank you and John and Megan and Suzanne and your authors and support staff for all that you do. Cheers to another 40 years of doing what you love!
I’m sure that you received much encouragement and heart-felt well wishes as you left the corporation to start a business…not! Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Perhaps some former corporate suits are now handing french fries out the window?
Congratulations… Steve Shanesy used to be my boss at Heartwood, my first or second ww job….
Steve was a good boss. I hope no one thinks otherwise based on my post.
I didn’t, I only ever remember good things of Steve as well…
🎉 🥳 🙌 🎂 Congratulations!!!
Money Vampires: 0
Who knew an insane amount of work, skill, care, obsessive quality and off-color chicken jokes could pay off so handsomely??
Long may your unusual model prosper and inspire. The revolution is crafty mwahahaha…
I came a cross your ATC book about 6 years ago…. changed just about every aspect of the way I view woodworking. I’ve always wanted to say thanks for that. Thank You.
All been said in the previous 87 comments, but congratulations and thanks for the inspiration and support for the craft!!
Congratulations! Your work and has been a big inspiration for me in the past six years since I quit my office job to become a wooden boatbuilder. Now I (try to) make a living teaching wooden boatbuilding online at Small Boat School. Quitting the corporate world might be a bit scary, but honestly, I feel that it is one of the best decisions of my life.
Congratulations, Chris. Thanks for continuing to produce awesome content.
It’s nice to see financial success come from ethics, treating employees, contractors, authors & customers well and providing a quality product or service. I live near Market Basket where (non-union) employees had a strike against a management team that was starting to run it like MBAs instead. They got their previous management team back and MB continues to succeed.
Me to my wife: My job is killing me, all I want to do is woodwork
Her: You should spend a couple of hours in the shop this weekend
Me: That’s not enough. Read this.
Her after reading: But you’re not Chris Schwarz
And that’s how the fight started…
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