Christopher Lochhead Follow Your Different™

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179: John McDonald - Semi-Handmade

July 20, 2018

John McDonald was once a struggling screenwriter and actor who niched down and became known for Semihandmade. He opened himself up to a career and entrepreneurial opportunity, seizing it and making a name for it. In today's episode, John talks openness to opportunities and vulnerability with Christopher Lochhead.

"If you're willing to be vulnerable, anything is possible." - John McDonald

Three Things We Learned

  • There's no rush to figure things out

They say that life begins at 40. When he was 40, John was struggling to penetrate the woodwork industry. The road that led to the decision to give woodwork a shot was long, involving forays into screenwriting and waiting tables as the angriest waiter in Hollywood.

  • Opening yourself to vulnerability will open doors

John came to Los Angeles with a vague notion of wanting to be part of the film industry. He ended up assisting in production and writing scripts to the side, but even then he didn't feel happy. Several rejections and failures later, he was finally able to become the rockstar, go-to guy for designing custom doors.

  • Success is found everywhere

When he first ventured into Hollywood, John knew he wanted to be rich and famous. Writing didn't hand him these successes, but woodwork was the stepping stone. By not limiting himself to something he wasn't fully committed to and didn't give him the satisfaction he needed, John was able to become legendary.

Some of us spend our whole lives trying to find success in what we think we like to do and in things we think we're good at. But success is ultimately self-determined and can be found anywhere if we only try to look more closely and elsewhere. John is a testament to that, and we can all be legendary if we want to be.

Bio / Story:
In 2002, at the age of 34, John McDonald traded screenwriting for custom cabinetry. He launched Semihandmade in 2011 using IKEA cabinets as a base for handmade craftsmanship at a competitive price.  
 The concept is simple: when purchasing kitchens and other cabinets, IKEA gives customers the flexibility of not buying doors. That’s the after-market space Semihandmade fills. Offerings include doors for both the new Sektion and recently-discontinued Akurum kitchens, as well as several IKEA bathroom, closet and media systems. 
 In five years, Los Angeles-based Semihandmade has grown to over 40 employees and 17000 SF of manufacturing space. Showrooms include Palm Springs and Burbank, CA. Doors ship throughout the Continental US and Canada, with clients that range from homeowners and designers to contractors, architects and commercial builders. Over 1300 Semihandmade projects were completed in 2015. Also in 2015, Semihandmade made Inc. Magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the US.
 Sequence-matched Walnut, Teak and Mahogany veneer doors are the company’s signature look. More exotic selections include Reclaimed Lumber, Rosewood and Zebrawood, as well as collaborations with companies like Art of Board (recycled skateboards) and Stikwood (reclaimed lumber). 
IKEA-priced styles such as paintable Shaker and Slab, textured melamine, and colored thermofoil complete the Semihandmade selection.  
 In April 2016, Semihandmade will launch its PRINT line of IKEA doors in collaboration with artists Rex Ray, Lisa Congdon, Erik Abel, Eloise Renouf, Elizabeth Olwen and others. Also this Spring, Semihandmade will open a third showroom inside shared-space WeWork Grant Park Chicago in preparation for the launch of a private-label line of bathroom, media and storage cabinets at NeoCon in June. 
Additional WeWork openings planned for 2016 include Brooklyn, Austin and Seattle.  
Links for show notes: