Skip to main content
Business Observer Friday, Apr. 20, 2018 4 years ago

Couple grows furniture business through shows, stores and donuts

When Steven Sheardown made a career change, he and his wife, Nancie, didn’t expect it to quickly grow into a thriving, and innovative, furniture business with customers worldwide.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Growing up, Steven Sheardown stayed home sick from school whenever there was an electrician or plumber at his house.

It was a way for him to learn more about what they did. “Dad and I did a lot of work around the house,” he says. When he was 14, he started building furniture, too.

Later on in life, he was working as a Florida Highway Patrol officer when he and Nancie Sheardown met. The stressful job meant regularly risking his life. So Nancie Sheardown asked if he could do something less dangerous. He left his job as a trooper and turned to what he knew — making furniture.

Courtesy. The Farm House in Bradenton offers a mix of furniture and donuts.

Now the couple is behind a budding furniture empire that's couched multiple revenue streams, including trade shows, online, wholesale and a retail store. The store, in an innovative twist, is one-part furniture showroom, one-part homemade donut factory. Plans are afoot to expand the retail operation outside of Florida, beyond the couple's Bradenton location. 

Steven Sheardown, who grew up in Sarasota, and Nancie Sheardown, who grew up in Bradenton, got married in 2011. They started a furniture business that same year. “Everything’s been fast-paced since the day I met him,” she says. “It’s definitely been an adventure.”

Soon, they began traveling across the U.S. to sell the tables and other furniture pieces Steven Sheardown and his team make in a barn in Bradenton. They went to antique shows and gift markets in places such as Atlanta, Nashville, High Point, N.C., and Round Top, Texas. At their first show in Texas, the Sheardowns sold out. Then it happened again. And again. “Out of 100 shows we’ve done, we’ve only not sold out two, which is a blessing,” Steven Sheardown says. “You can’t get any better than that.”

“Treat everybody there like they’re your grandma.” — Steven Sheardown, The Farm House and SDS Designs 

How have they been so successful? “The biggest thing I would say is you gotta be different,” he says. “You gotta be your own self. You have to be confident in what you’re selling.” Plus, there's his pro show tip: “Treat everybody there like they’re your grandma.”

The shows are hard work and expensive. But the Sheardowns say they’re worth it because of sales and because they put them face-to-face with potential retail and wholesale buyers. Through show connections, several big-name online retailers started carrying their furniture — Wayfair, Joss & Main and Houzz. Those companies, along with others, sell the Sheardown’s furniture to people around the world. The Sheardowns also recently also became an Amazon dealer.

They sell furniture directly, too, using freight shipment companies to ship items to customers from the U.S. to Canada to Dubai. “When we first started, we didn’t know to do it this way,” Nancie Sheardown says. “We used smaller white glove services with unpredictable delivery times.”

Courtesy. Steven and Nancie Sheardown run The Farm House in Bradenton, where they sell furniture and serve donuts.

To grow the business locally, they opened a brick-and-mortar store in Bradenton in 2017 called The Farm House, which operates underneath the parent furniture company of SDS Designs. It carries the Sheardown’s furniture with an added twist — donuts. About 50% of customers come in for the furniture and half come for the donuts.“It’s a great concept to have both things,” Nancie Sheardown says.

Walking into The Farm House, fans of HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper” might notice some similarities. Nancie Sheardown says they share the same kind of rustic style with house-renovators-turned-television-stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The Sheardowns also took a star turn when their pool deck furniture was featured on the show “Insane Pools: Off the Deep End” on Animal Planet.

The Sheardowns considered franchising The Farm House concept, but decided against it. They’re still expanding, though, with another location opening in Clayton, Ga., likely at the end of April. They’re discussing additional locations, too. The goal? To build an empire — and a household name. Steven Sheardown says, “I’m a firm believe that if you preach it, it will come.”

The big challenge ahead is balancing what they want to accomplish with having the resources to do it. “There’s so much stuff we want to do, but we want to do it without financing,” Nancie Sheardown says. “We do everything within our means.”

Although he declines to disclose revenue, Steven Sheardown says the company has grown about 33% every year it has been in business. He says, “I was hoping it would be a substitute for what I was making at the Florida Highway Patrol, and it kind of just blossomed.” 

Related Stories