The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday November 26th

Q and A with UNC alum and Furniture Businessman Dennis Blanco

Dennis Blanco is a 2010 UNC alum and co-founder of a furniture business with Bryce Williamson, a fellow 2010 UNC alum as well. Their business, Cardinal Workshop, began in New York and is being relocated to Hillsborough. Writer Samantha Yi interviewed Blanco about his business and the reasons for moving back to NC. 

The Daily Tar Heel: How do you and Bryce divide up the responsibilities of running a business? 

Dennis Blanco: My focus is on the business and brand side of our business. I mean, I studied at Kenan-Flagler as an undergrad. I studied business. So I handle most of the marketing, operations, customer service and general business strategies stuff. And Bryce is the project and manufacturing side of the business so his focus is on product design, our production process and all of the stuff that entails.  But we kind of both share in the responsibilities of general business strategy, finances and things like that. 

DTH: Where did you guys get the idea for Cardinal Workshop?

DB: I had been working at a men’s clothing company called Bonobos. It’s like a men’s apparel startup, an e-commerce startup. And Bryce had been doing custom woodworking and advanced manufacturing in the city for custom clients, working out of his own shop. And maybe, about five or six years after we graduated from college, Bryce started prototyping some furniture designs just as a side project. And we eventually decided to work on it as a collaborative project and over time, we gradually came into this idea that we currently have now which is that we should design really high-quality solid wood furniture that is designed to be really easy for people to receive and to move. 

DTH: What were some difficulties about starting a business from the ground-up? 

DB: We’ve been self-funded so we didn’t take on venture capital or anything like that. So that’s a challenge, trying to make it without raising money and more organically instead of a lot of startups, these days, take on a ton of money and spend it really fast and we are trying to grow, maybe a little bit slower but just be a healthy profitable business as quickly as we can. So that’s always a challenge. Things can get a little bit tight financially but that’s probably the case with just about any new business. 

DTH: What is the mission behind Cardinal Workshop? 

DB:  One of the mantras that we repeat is that “When you buy cheap, you buy twice” so if you opt for something cheap now, chances are that you are going to have to replace it in a few years. So we are really trying to focus on quality and longevity and increasing, or making high-quality solid wood furniture like basically made from renewable materials with really high-quality construction. We want to make that more accessible both in terms of the price point that we are offering but also it’s actually easier to access in that you just buy it off the internet and it shows up at your house and it’s really easy to assemble. 

DTH: How did you choose your location (to relocate your business)? 

DB: There’s a huge furniture culture there (in North Carolina) so that’s a big part of it that it’s just a very practical place to locate a furniture business. The other component is that we wanted to be somewhere where we could get a lot more space that would actually be affordable, which is not at all the case in New York. That helps narrow it down quite a bit. And also, the fact that we went to school in Chapel Hill and are from North Carolina so it’s sort of the lifestyle component where it just makes a ton of sense because we already have a network in the area and we already really like the area.

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