Jon Dalman is the founder of Dalman Supply Co., a small business in Nashville, Tennessee, that designs and manufactures high-quality bike locks from materials like leather, steel cable and rope. Dalman founded the company in 2013 after developing his flagship product, the Jon Lock, and receiving some amazing feedback from family and friends. Since then, he’s been working hard to turn his passion for quality and craft into a full-time job.
Until late last year, Dalman Supply Co. was a completely bootstrapped venture, which, for a manufacturing company, hasn’t always been easy. According to Dalman, the biggest challenge has been time. “[Bootstrapping] holds us back because we have to wait until we’ve raised the money to put a look book together, put tags on the products, etc.,” he says. “It’s a setback, but as far as the business goes, we’ve been able to make it work since day one like that.”
Dalman’s relationships with makers and small business owners in the Nashville community have definitely helped his business grow without too much added expense. Dalman traded his own goods and services for the goods and services of others. It’s how he got new website, for example, which is expected to launch next month. “I have a friend who builds websites,” Dalman explains, “so I built him desks at a big discount. He, in turn, built me a website at a big discount. It’s a website I would never have been able to afford otherwise, and he got desks that he couldn’t afford at the time.”
Dalman says this system has worked because he existed in the same world as many others who were just getting started in their own industries. His friends needed opportunities to cut their teeth in the market, and he assisted them with that.
Until last year, Dalman’s primary focus has been on building a quality product, on finding ways to source more sustainable materials and on sharpening his manufacturing process. But in late 2015, Dalman Supply Co. signed a distribution deal in Europe that Dalman expects will give his business that extra push, one that will stimulate growth and end the bootstrapping phase of his venture. “It’s given us the type of capital we need to now invest in the business,” he says. “Even though we’ve been around for a few years, this spring we’re actually going to launch into advertising and marketing.”
Dalman Supply Co. has never advertised before, but Dalman says the company has hired a marketing strategist and a videographer to launch the brand.
Dalman expects production to double this year, and he hopes that, with the European market covered, he’ll be able to spread distribution to other parts of the world. “The majority of our sales last year went to Europe,” he explains, “and now this year we don’t even have to think about it. So all the work we put into selling can go toward other markets.”
Dalman hopes to acquire distribution contracts in Dubai and parts of Asia. He also plans to sell his products in more stores across the U.S.