Today we’d like to introduce you to Scott Bennett.
Hi Scott, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
Furniture design was never something I thought I’d end up doing. I loved cars growing up, and Formula 1 racing, and went to Loughborough University in England to get an automotive engineering degree. I ended up designing racecars for the first part of my career, mostly in Indycars, then ending up in F1 for a little while as part of the USF1 team startup in Charlotte.
What you don’t realize as a kid is that something like racing is highly subject to the random events that Fate loves throwing at us. After the second time I had a “dream” job shut down suddenly because of funding problems, I decided racing wasn’t where I wanted to spend my life. Through some connections, I ended up doing furniture design engineering, which led to co-founding a baby furniture manufacturer.
A few years of having products made in Asia made me realize that I didn’t want to do that either, and that’s when Housefish came about. It was always meant as a way to combine my interest in furniture and product design with the love of technology and advanced manufacturing that came from the first part of my career. And to try to follow a more environmentally sustainable path while doing it.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It takes a very specific mindset to be comfortable with the risk and uncertainty of starting and running a business, and I didn’t have it. There isn’t enough conversation about the mental health problems that come with this territory. It took many years before I was able to work through these and feel like I was doing OK.
In terms of specific challenges, our business pretty quickly evolved from a consumer furniture focus to doing mostly commercial projects. By 2019, we were mainly doing restaurants. Then in 2020, restaurants all had to close, and anybody who was thinking of opening one put those plans on hold or canceled them altogether.
Also in early 2020, I found out I had a tangerine-sized brain tumor in my lateral ventricle and had to have immediate surgery to remove it. I ended up stepping back from the business for about a year and doing some outside design and engineering work to give the business a chance to recover without it having to support me. So Housefish was very lucky to make it through 2020 and 2021. But 2022 was a strong year, and 2023 looks to be even better.
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Housefish?
Housefish has two areas of focus:
1. Cleverly designed modern furniture that ships directly to consumers. We try very hard to create things that are easy to assemble, adaptable to multiple uses, as environmentally sustainable as we can manage, and that last a long time. We’ve been invited to exhibit work at design week in Milan twice, which was a personal highlight.
2. Commercial millwork that follows the same approach. If you’ve eaten in a restaurant in Denver, you’ve probably interacted with our work; we’ve also built things for offices and retail spaces. These larger projects are more collaborative with interior designers and architects, and leverage the processes and techniques we’ve developed for our product line.
How do you define success?
The challenges of the last couple of years have completely reset how I define success. I have one goal as a person: to make the world better. As much as we might like to believe that a well-designed chair achieves that, we also know deep down that it doesn’t. A little over a year ago I started volunteering with Crisis Text Line (a text-based suicide and crisis hotline service) as a crisis counselor. That work provided the purpose that was missing from the rest of my life.
Over the last year or so, I’ve done over 350 hours and talked to about 500 people, many of whom were having the worst day of their lives at the time. That feeling of helping someone move from a hot moment to a cooler calm is something that can’t be replicated any other way. At night I’m saving lives, and getting to spend my days making furniture is a bonus. I’m just happy to still be alive myself and able to experience the world and help other people get through the day. That’s a success.
- Key Storage Module, medium, $748
- Tercet Bench, $649
- Skew Coffee Table, $499
- Arbor Coat Rack, $599
Michael Ash Smith and James Florio