Right People, Right Products, Right Marketing
After years of struggling, Brass Beds of Virginia bounces back from the brink of bankruptcy.
The Inside Scoop on Brass Beds' Transformation
Name three industries you expect to skyrocket and thrive in 2019. If someone asked you this question, what would your answer be? Probably not American manufacturing, hand craftsmanship, and 19th-century style furniture. But you’d be wrong.
Since seizing the reins in the fall of 2017, Brass Beds of Virginia CEO Ashton Harrison has somehow (whether through sharp business acumen or simply sheer force of will) revitalized all three. Just over a year later, Brass Beds of Virginia is making a comeback, reporting rapid business growth.
On the cover of the business section of the Dec. 2, 2018 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, along with stories on tech company news and co working spaces, you’ll find a profile on Brass Beds of Virginia and its new resurgence as a key player in Richmond business culture.
In his 12/2/18 piece, Business editor Gregory J.Gilligan delivers a compelling narrative on transformations of industry, Richmond business culture, and sheer determination. It’s subject? A small building on 3210 W Marshall Street. The headline reads, ‘After years of decline and now under new owners, Brass Beds of Virginia is making a comeback.’
It’s true. New CEO Ashton Harrison reinvigorated a depreciating business in a singularly struggling industry.
When longtime owner Pat Hudgins retired in June 2016, Brass Beds was hemorrhaging red ink, having endured the worst of the recession and hard-hit by the housing downturn.
After decades of thriving growth, then rapid decline, then excruciating stagnancy, Hudgins, now age 71, figured it was finally time to call it a day. Brass Beds was on the brink of bankruptcy.
On a sweltering hot day in June 2016, a group of eight investors gathered in a boardroom to decide the future of Brass Beds. Among those investors was a spritely, passionate entrepreneur named Ashton Harrison. As the former vice president of This End Up furniture, owner of Shades of Light, public advocate, and author of the book From ADD to CEO, it’s not exactly like Harrison has never seen success. Business, especially the high-end luxury furniture business, is what Harrison knows. So when she saw Brass Beds of Virginia about to fail as a company, she did what most investors would consider their worst nightmare. She decided to become its CEO. As she told the Times-Dispatch, “I don’t like to fail.”
In the 18 months since that day, American manufacturing and the price of metal craftsmanship have not recovered from economic decline. But Brass Beds of Virginia has, and the once nearly-defunct asset is now a thriving business in an up-and-coming niche market.
Thanks to new changes, the longtime employees of Brass Beds of Virginia have also been able to remain part of the company. The original craftsmen still create the same beds and finishes with all the same artisanal expertise as before.
Under Ashton Harrison’s leadership, the company has innovated its business model, introduced new products, and rebranded craftsmanship that’s older than old into something trendy for 2019. Why? Because quality never gets old.
We sat down with CEO Ashton Harrison to talk brass beds, quality craftsmanship, and her secrets to success. Here’s what she has to say.
Brass Beds of Virginia CEO Ashton Harrison says the company’s growth is thanks to hard work and innovative thinking by the tight-knit team at Brass Beds.
Why did you choose to invest in Brass Beds of Virginia?
I thought American-made products were what this country needed more of and I knew that if the customer base, product mix, and marketing efforts were expanded, it would be a win-win.
What’s special about the brass and iron bed industry?
The way our beds are constructed is unique to the kind of craftsmanship that you can only get in America, Italy, and Germany. Our brass and iron products are assembled with castings, not screws and the pure weight of the products and the color of the brass is a testament to the highest quality.
The vintage castings add details that cannot be mimicked. And hand painted artist finishes give an opulence that cannot be achieved by spray guns.
Your team turned the company around in a relatively short amount of time. How did you do it?
Right people, right products, right marketing.
What’s your secret to success?
Hard work. Always try to improve even when you are successful, and never spend more than you make!
What inspires you?
Traveling around and visiting cities, homes, and stores is very inspiring. This year I am going to Florida, Lake Tahoe, Scandinavian cruise, and maybe Tuscany. I also take painting classes.