Greg and Sim Hankerson’s business, Vintage Industrial, expanded from their backyard to a 6,000 square-foot warehouse in less than one year.
After surviving a brain tumor, Greg Hankerson realized success in life and business is about doing something you love. He was previously the chief financial officer of his family’s investment banking firm and decided to search for something more rewarding.
“I just realized how precious life was and that I really needed to do something that I love because I may not be here tomorrow,” Greg Hankerson says. “And that involves taking risks, and this has been the greatest risk of my life.”
But the risk, co-owning a new business — Vintage Industrial, which offers custom vintage furniture — with his wife Sim, quickly paid off. In less than one year, Greg and Sim expanded their business from their backyard to a 6,000-square-foot warehouse.
Their work, which can be found in residential homes and commercial venues, is inspired by the French Industrial Era, and the furniture is usually composed of steel and wood with a decorative twist. Greg Hankerson says he can create almost anything that’s needed in that style, from various types of tables in residential homes to retail fixtures and hostess stands.
“A lot of industrial furniture is really cold, but the French seem to add a little beauty to it,” Greg Hankerson says. “They add curves that softens it up, and people seem to gravitate towards it.”
Part of what’s rewarding to him is creating American-made furniture that will last. He said that he thinks America is taking the cheap route by having everything imported and having nothing to show for it.
“I found pieces that were built over 100 years ago, and they’re still just as good as the day they built them,” Greg Hankerson says. “They’re lasting; people are reselling them or giving them to their kids. I think that’s awesome rather than something that’s just going to break in a year.”
Greg has had many offers to manufacture outside of the country for pennies-on-the-dollar, but he says that’s not what he’s about – even if it means he makes more money.
“I really love American manufacturing,” Greg Hankerson says. “It’s giving us jobs, and I’m doing something that I believe in. That makes me feel good.”
Customers also have a hand in the finished product because most of their work is custom. Sim Hankerson says she respects the fact that people like to have some artistic control over the product they are buying.
“I’m sure a lot of people, especially women, go shopping and are like, ‘Oh, I wish it was like this or I wish it was that,” Sim Hankerson says. “We bring their wish into reality.”
The Hankerson’s credit their success to their passion and personal involvement in the company.
“We have so many hats,” Sim Hankerson says. “Whatever gaps need to be filled, we fill them, whether it’s in our positions or any of the guys’. We are owners who are not afraid to get our hands dirty.”
She says working with her life partner has also contributed to their success.
“We lift one another up when one is down and fill gaps not only for our employees but emotionally for ourselves as well.”
“It’s really, really nice to have a partner that you trust and that you know is there for you,” she adds. “Someone to be a great cheerleader and cheer you on to succeed.”
Greg Hankerson says the challenge now is trying to expand and keep the quality up as well. He says it seems that when companies get large, the quality tends to go down, and he has made a point to avoid that pitfall.
“We have made so much more product, and it’s difficult to keep the quality up and still put out the quantity,” Greg says. “But we are working hard at it and I think we are doing a pretty good job.”