Updated: May 4
Know Your Industry
Company Log | by Hal Van Hercke
One piece of business advice that I follow closely is that of “Knowing Your Industry.” Don’t ever start a business in an industry where you don’t have experience. And even if you do, study the heck out of it again before you act.
As you learn more about the All American Axe Company you might realize that we started this company from concept to launch in less than three months. And we did this at a time when the news was full of dreaded shortages, supply chain issues, and delays. That’s a nearly impossible feat. But, how did we make it possible? The short answer is: “We knew our industry.”
We had been selling, collecting, and studying axes, along with every other form of blades knife and tool, for over ten years. We knew many of the vendors we needed personally and we knew exactly how to reach the ones we didn’t.
When we called every axe maker in North America and Europe, everyone of them took our calls. Why? Because we had built a reputation of being a dealer you want to have represent your products. We also have a reputation for taking care of their brand and their customers.
More importantly, why go through the trouble of creating an entirely new brand when you could partner with one of the existing leaders?
What we learned was the axe brands that we wanted to represent were so backlogged that they could not get us product for months. We realized we had an a big supply problem. And, in the seed of that problem lay an even better opportunity.
We knew that: 1) nobody was producing a world US made hand-forged axe. 2) the ones that could create a truly great All American hand-forged axe were too busy selling high-volume commodity axes, 3) the well-established Swiss and other European brands that produce premium hand-forged axes had production and shipping constraints, and that 4) the best axe dealers in the US were all low in stock and getting frustrated.
Suddenly our little axe vendor problem had become a big US-made axe making opportunity!
Having worked in the industry for a long time we set about building our dream team.
I had product design knowledge, a deep understanding of what our customers wanted, extensive knowledge in axe design, history, and tradition and I also had the platform to do market research and testing.
Ron Hardman brought not only his Forged In Fire winning blacksmith skills, but his entire team, leadership skills and a fully functioning axe forging blacksmith facility. All we needed to do was create a production line, something both of us had done many times before.
Liam Hoffman provided inspiration and the comfort in knowing we would have the very finest axe handles available. It didn’t hurt at all having yet another Forged in Fire champion on the team and one with the exceptional skills of Liam Hoffman, who in many peoples eyes was already one of the greatest custom makers in America.
Between the three of us and our teams we knew where to get steel that nobody else knew existed, a lot of it. We knew where to get the very best hand select hickory that they don’t just sell to everyone. The food AAA+ hand select furniture grade wood we wanted. We knew where to get the leather crafting skills we would need. We added new forges and power hammers from our friends in the industry. We used resources from around the industry to get a logo designed, market tested, machines into steel and brass dies, and into our hands before the first axes were forged.
But most importantly, we knew how to make axes. We had already made hundreds, if not thousands of axes, we even teach classes on how to make axes.
We operate our line out of Kilroys’s forge in Colorado Springs. Kilroy’s is the home forge to more History Channel winning blacksmiths and Bladesmiths than any other forge in America. The American Bladesmith society has fully sanctioned our facility where we operate the largest blacksmith school in the world.
So yes, we knew our industry, and when we saw an opportunity to create the All American Axe and ensure that it would be the Finest Axe in the World. We knew that there would be more behind that promise than just words. We knew we had the industry knowledge, expertise, reputation, and experience to achieve something extremely great, unique and rare. It’s not often in life that you get a chance to be the “very best in the world” at something. And in that moment, we knew we could make it happen.