Mike Ford’s custom bed went viral on ABC News, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and other news sites this September. He built a mega bed for Thumbtack customers Chris and Mariesa Hughes and their eight rescue dogs. The story of craftsmanship and rescue dog love took the news by storm, and Mike Ford and his company, Michael’s Custom Interiors, have been highlighted from coast to coast. He shares his success story and gives tips on navigating the spotlight for up-and-coming Thumbtack stars.
Were you surprised the story went viral?
Oh yea! I was so surprised it even got picked up to start with. I was interviewed by Arin Greenwood at BarkPost when I first started making the bed. She told me it’d go on the HuffPost blog and that’s all I thought of it. Once I delivered the bed, she did another article and that’s when Today Show and all the others ran with it. It even was featured in Europe!
It’s been great to get my name out there and to raise awareness for The Mr. Mo Project, a national rescue charity for senior dogs (clients Chris and Mariesa are founders of the project). In fact, I’m building their nonprofit a regular dog bed as auction item for their upcoming fundraiser.
Have you gotten other custom bed requests as a result of the media attention?
I’ve gotten 15-20 inquiries about custom beds but I haven’t had anyone commit yet. With the cost and shipping it can be expensive. I also had a request from someone wanting custom stairs for their dog, because most of the dog stairs on the market are plastic and the steps are too high. Nothing’s been sold yet, though.
I quote for and take very few jobs, because what I do is obscure and can be expensive. The pretty things I do like crown molding, built-in furniture, and custom cabinets require specialized machinery and a lot of work.
What brought you to Thumbtack?
I’ve done construction and woodworking my entire life. From being a kid up through cabinet making school in Chicago to my apprenticeship, I’ve always loved the craft. I’ve just never been able to do it full-time. I’m a way better craftsman than a businessman. Pricing my work properly and getting leads isn’t my strength, so I’ve always had another job. Joining Thumbtack in 2015 was my way of investing in my craft, getting leads, and bettering my business sense. I see Thumbtack as a way to eventually do woodworking full-time. As of now I’m still full-time at my day job.
What have been some of the high points of using Thumbtack?
Like the custom bed, it leads to really unique projects. One project was replacing, restoring, and remanufacturing old windows in the historic district in Albany, New York. A contractor with a city grant was rehabbing a building and removing the lead. It was a historically designated home, and there was a highly specialized way the windows had to be rebuilt. I’m one of probably five people in New England qualified to do this type of work. We rebuilt the entire facade using a weight and balance technique. For me, the biggest perk of working with Thumbtack is how easy it is to work with. I have the app, I get the emails, I write a little something for the customer, then I just hit Send on the quote and wait.
What was it like to work on the mega bed project?
The bed took about four weeks to build and the project ran the gamut of emotions. I don’t use computer programs to build my designs, and it took a while to get the idea out of my head and onto paper. I built three drawers that are kick-to-open, six dog-friendly stairs, and custom detail. The paw print featured is from my senior dog, Bailey, who had passed away at 16 years old. Chris and Mariesa run the Mr. Mo Project for senior dogs, so it seemed fitting to use his paw print as the model for the carving.
All in all it was one of the best projects I’ve done. I was happy because it was so unusual. I was also sad, because as I was hand carving the dog prints into the wood, I would remember Bailey, but using his paw print as the template helped me deal with his passing. We really do develop such close bonds with our animals. I also really enjoyed working with the Hughes. They’re gracious and kind people.
Are there other unique projects you’re working on?
Right now I’m building two benches out of acacia. It’s a rare, beautiful wood that was sourced from Australia. It has a really tight-grained look. I’m also building a full set of custom kitchen cabinets. They’re unique because the home is 200 years old, and we are staying true to that aesthetic. Most kitchen cabinets these days have a ¾ inch finished thickness on the front, and I’m making them out of 1 inch. I’m also using an old world technique crafting full mortise and tenon joint. I’d say 99 percent of kitchen manufacturers use a stub tenon. My mortise and tenon joints go all the way through the stile, so you could drive over it if you wanted to and it would still stand up.
What news outlets has your rescue dog bed story been featured on?
Any tips for other pros about hitting the spotlight?
Well, at first I was really excited. I thought this meant I could quit my warranty repair day job and do woodworking full time. However, with every inquiry I got, I was less and less hopeful I would get a job out of the publicity. Halfway through the week I was getting kind of down on myself, and realized I was missing out on the experience. Right there I changed my attitude and saw I should treat each query, each interview, and each interaction like the first and only one. It’s just like any job through Thumbtack—maybe you get ten leads, and you may only get one job, but that one job is the one that really counts.