Seth Eshelman started Staach Inc. with plans to sell furniture at retail. Instead, he finds himself working with corporations like Google Inc., Starbucks Coffee Co. and the New York City-based restaurant chain Shake Shack.
Eshelman, now 28, was a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology when he incorporated the furniture company in 2006. That year he entered a business plan competition through the school on a whim. Eshelman and the team he worked with won first place and $5,000.
From there, Staach became a full-fledged business.
“The fourth-floor design studio at RIT was our first office space and workshop that we made our products out of,” he says. “And we actually sold them to the general public, making them at RIT.”
Originally from Mountoursville, Pa., Eshelman majored in industrial design and graphic design. He also studied at the Danish Design School in Copenhagen.
The unusual name of the company has a Scandinavian feel, but Eshelman says this is a happy coincidence, not a product of his time in Denmark. He says he passed a book partially covered by another book in the RIT library; Eshelman could read only part of a word down the spine: Staach.
The incomplete word resonated with him. Staach became the name of a piece of furniture he was working on at the time, but it stuck.
“That name just carried some weight without actually carrying any weight,” Eshelman explains.
Originality continues to be an area of focus at Staach. Eshelman and his staff, a number he declines to disclose for competitive reasons, currently design all products at their offices and workspace at 250 Cumberland St. The business plans to move to a new space on the east side of Rochester.
The Staach look combines sustainability, simplicity and elegance. Tables, chairs and benches are the main products made of wood, finished with a simple stain or painted in bright, bold, solid colors.
“Our design is unique across the entire industry,” Eshelman says. “No one is really producing products like we are.”
In addition to originality, Staach focuses on quality.
“When you’re in our market, when you’re a small maker, you’re more focused on quality, design and production,” Eshelman says.
As for pricing, he says that while some would argue against it, their product is affordable.
“We consider our product to be high-end, but we do not consider our prices to be high-end,” Eshelman says.
He points to a chair that sells for $340 to $380. Eshelman notes a customer would pay roughly the same at a big furniture chain, probably for lower quality that might not be eco-friendly.
Though Eshelman did not originally expect to go the commercial route, he has had a lot of success with large accounts. Word of mouth among major corporations has helped his business expand. Orders flowing into Staach are making it hard for Eshelman and his team to keep up with demand.
“We’re expanding, my God, weekly,” he says. “It’s this kind of monster that’s growing out of control that we’re trying to harness the best we can through design and production.”
In addition to moving to a bigger production space, Eshelman has plans to hire more employees.
“I never want to turn down business. That’s something that was always instilled upon me,” he says.
Though most of his commercial clients are not local, Eshelman plans to keep Staach in Rochester. He cites local talent, driven young people and the great potential of the city as reasons to stay.
“The growth opportunity here is limitless,” he says.
Kat Lynch was a Rochester Business Journal summer intern.
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