I love new ideas — especially ideas that bring new business models to existing industries. It's the true spirit of entrepreneurship: identifying and capitalizing on new strategies to solve problems.
This is one reason why California startup Tinkering Monkey fascinates me. Their extremely small team (3 people as of this writing) brings a "personalization" service model to the field of precision woodcrafting. It's a pairing that's both bewildering and, when you think about it, incredibly sensible.
The other reason I'm obsessed with Tinkering Monkey is the combination of exquisite craftsmanship and friendly service Knapsack has experienced repeatedly as their client. Paula Chang (co-founder and operations manager) has always been polite, helpful and refreshingly down-to-earth anytime we've needed to talk about a project.
Launched in 2011 by Mike Cheung and the aforementioned Paula, Tinkering Monkey started as a custom signage business which quickly expanded to sell a greater variety of products, like branded notebooks, coasters, boxes and wooden business cards. Yes, business cards made of actual wood.
The order form for customized products includes a field to upload logos or other designs in common formats. After providing a quote and receiving payment, Mike (the "tinkering monkey") uses a commercial-grade laser cutting machine to precisely cut out (or etch, burn, etc.) the design into the product. These pictures interspersed in this post are of the sign, coasters, business cards, notebooks and "Bark Backs" (wooden iPhone decals) that we've ordered so far at Knapsack. The attention to detail is nothing short of spectacular, especially on the wooden products.
Mike and Paula have also mastered the delivery of their products. At Knapsack, we're always excited to get a package from Tinkering Monkey because of the Apple-esque experience of opening it — but whereas Apple products are wrapped in minimal, industrial perfection, Tinkering Monkey's packaging has a natural, human vibe that reminds you that an actual person carefully boxed it up and shipped it out just for you.
For a small business like Knapsack, Tinkering Monkey's unique branded products give us a legitimately intriguing way to express our brand in a world full of flashing marketing and blatant advertising. Their use of wood is minimal and restrained — far from ornate, especially for our simple logo. But the clear attention to detail and sheer uniqueness of their work makes every product stand out.