Blaine Neupert, Don’s Home Furniture
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Blaine Neupert, president, Don’s Home Furniture.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
With a forecasting period of almost 12–18 months, one of our biggest challenges is figuring out which furniture designs our customers will be looking for in the future. Interestingly, and often times helpful to us, is that almost all trends in furniture start in the fashion industry. So we look to what type of lifestyle consumers are leaning toward and we create our new designs accordingly.
What we love and find most rewarding is when we see the look on a customer’s face when they realize that Amish furniture is not what they think it is.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
I am inspired by people and companies, both locally and worldwide, who create their own path, those who buck the trend and are successful in doing so. One that comes to mind is Henry Ford. He started with a concept and he built an entire revolution around it. He didn’t worry that it hadn’t been done before, nor did he let what other people thought about his idea deter him from moving forward to completing a product he believed could change the world.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
In just under 30 years, our locally owned company hit $100 million in sales. When I think about that I’m humbled in knowing that the furniture sold will live on for decades and be passed down through many generations. I love hearing that someone has a piece of our furniture that has been passed down from generation to generation. I enjoy that they have an emotional attachment to what that piece of furniture means to them and what it meant to their family.
Thinking back on your career, what advise would you give to your 21-year old self?
Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are the cornerstone of every successful person. Embrace the lesson you learn from every mistake you made and don’t make the same mistake twice.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
By far the best “things” in Dane County are not things, but the people who live here. Unlike other cities where people are just beings that you pass on the road or street, Madison is still an incredibly friendly place. I love owning a local business, one where I get to see the faces and really get to know the people who support our company and become our friends.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I have one secret that not many know about me — I can ride a unicycle! I’m not particularly great at it, but it’s a hobby. When I was a kid, I remember someone telling me I wouldn’t be able to ride one and I wanted to prove to myself that I could, in fact, do it! So, I continue to keep trying.
What are your guilty pleasures?
As a hobby, I collect coins. I don’t collect all coins though, just Lincoln cents, the uncirculated rolls of them that date back to the 1930s. I have a complete collection from the 1930s to the present. I started collecting them when I was just 14 and a freshman in high school. My dad got me started on it because he used to collect, as well.
My other guilty pleasure is to get away to the islands. It’s the one place I can go and feel the most calm. I’ve always been drawn to the water, and the water has always given me the ability to explore a world that’s not only the biggest ecosystem on the planet, but also the most colorful. Years ago I was on a trip to Jamaica and got to see the Caribbean Sea for the first time. I was immediately hooked. My world travels at a really fast pace on a day-to-day basis, so I appreciate the times we can get away and slow down.
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