I was working on some documents relating to a project that I hope to be released in a month from now and it focused me to look at how CNCROi.com began and I thought wow, we’ve really come a long way in over three and a half years.
That is my parent’s garage in the summer of 2014 with my brand new Trotec Speedy 400 flexx and my amazing ShopBot Desktop, that’s pretty much IT.
No sand blasting booth, no sanding station, just a fraction of the equipment we now have three and a half years later but it was a bud that quickly flowered!
That old garage picture wouldn’t possible unless we go way back, over 20 years ago before I even got into business, back then, I had a deep passion for 3D and spent all of my time making 3D scenes using a mix of today’s Photoshop equivalents and extremely short 3D animations.
What would take literally a few minutes to render TODAY back then would take DAYS to put together and then composing things layer by layer until I had a finished picture.
Back then, there was no internet, so I basically just did this stuff in a void of any feedback and just kept at it, I wasn’t amazing at it by any means, but I just kept making ideas into reality and eventually with time, I found a market to produce 3D pictures and animations for companies around the world back when the talent barrier was pretty low into that industry.
So, I started and incorporated a business in 1996, i3DS International Corporation where the “i” stood for internet – back then, websites were huge money and the 3D, nobody knew what it was really so the “i” paid for the “3D”. “S” stood for “solutions”.
There was a lot of fun developing the 3D animation studio, it was my dream back then and I had projects across North America including Italy, Australia and across Europe which was quite a learning experience.
It was during this time that I learned to “sell” and “market” as my background was a university degree in Biology and Geography.
Being entirely self-taught, I used brute force to get through projects, to close deals and manage staff, I literally cut my teeth in business during this time and it was hard.
I knew what had to be done, but had nobody really to guide me, so I made a lot of mistakes due to lack of knowledge but I also learned a lot about life and management.
Most importantly, as I was selling something nobody really was exposed to out of a niche of enthusiasts, I learned to work on a flat rate basis, something that I’ve done since.
My philosophy was simple, we will make something for you but charge you a flat rate, this means if I screw-up and things take a lot longer than I envisioned, I have to pay for it, if things are efficient and perfect he first go, then we both win.
Today, there are endless hours of 3D animations to show customers what’s possible but back then, there was no YouTube.com, we had to upload animations that more often didn’t work via FTP transfer and the file sizes were massive.
So, we generally saved animations to a digital file that was then transferred to BetaCAM or VHS, shipped to the customer then they’d send us back a list of changes.
It was an amazing time, no real competition (this was more than 20 years ago) so it was highly profitable and as our equipment and expertise grew, so did the customer base.
Fast forward a few years and the .com bust followed by 9/11 and a global recession, I decided to sell everything I have and travel the Australia. Things just never recovered and I was jumping from contract to contract just trying to keep things afloat.
Back then, there was a special “working holiday” visa that you had to be 30 or less to acquire, the bar was low and I literally had little to no time to prepare as I was just about to hit that age limit!
Within the course of 24 hours, I went from the environment above to the one below, freezing Arctic weather to hot Tropical paradise!
If I was born in Britain during the colonization of Australia, I would have broken just about anything to get free passage there, I think the only people who were punished during that era are those that stayed in Europe!
I ended-up getting a job at Cairns Post working nights, midnight through 8 am, walking 4 km each way from my rental room to my job, I’d wake-up with the bats taking flight over the city and go to bed with the Sun coming up.
After 5-6 months of this life, I realized that I really wasn’t moving that much further ahead, I’d do 3D animation projects on the side and lived in paradise but there was no hope of me immigrating to Australia much less saving any money so I decided to jump onto the ESL (English as a Second Language) bandwagon and move to Korea.
This is me right before Christmas teaching Korean kids English, about a week or two later, I started WoodMarvels.com.
It was a sweet deal, they school paid my flight to Korea (I had no money for flights), covered the VISA and I had a sign-on bonus waiting for me, free apartment and cheap living exploring a part of the world I thought I’d never be able to visit, much less live in.
I’d spend my days teaching little rug rats and my weekends climbing mountains and exploring Korea.
My director was concerned because they never saw me during the week while I was teaching, I told them I was busy playing computer games but what I was really doing was building 3D models to sell with people with CNC machines all over the world.
My Korea VISA explicitly stated that I was not allowed to do anything outside of teaching ESL so I didn’t want to take a chance and be kicked out for starting a business, so I let my director think I had no life outside of teaching.
My goal with WoodMarvels.com was simple, design 100 items and then decide if I had a viable business or not and during this process, I realized I can also publish a book about these designs and all of that led to 10 years of selling digital CNC files all around the world.
One book let to another…
During this time, I got to live, travel and work in the Philippines, Japan and various cities in China and Korea.
My life back then was a perpetual vacation, every 6 months to a year, I’d have a new place to stay at, different country and new places to explore.
It couldn’t be any different from my previous life running a 3D animation studio BUT my “side business” had grown substantially by then, people around the world came to know me at the CNCKing.com and I was written-up in newspapers from Japan to Toronto, Australia to New York.
I knew back then that this perpetual vacation had to come to an end eventually but there was one country I wanted to return to, and that was Australia.
So I sent an email to every head hunter and “CNC related” business I could find in Australia and as luck would have it, I ended-up getting a VISA and job at Evright.com 8 months later but during that long wait, I got into videos and acquired a ShopBot Desktop and began converting my CNC laser models into CNC router models and displaying them to my customer base.
Ironically, Evright.com was a distributor for Trotec Laser in Australia but years earlier, I had designed a display for Trotec Laser Austria for a toy show (that’s my Medieval Castle being held-up in the image above).
During all this time, I was still pumping out models and selling them online to support myself until I arrived in Australia to start my dream job.
I would have never gotten a job at Evright.com if it wasn’t for all the work I did to build-up WoodMarvels.com into what it had become, so it wasn’t really “luck” just opportunity meeting circumstance.
Like I mentioned, what everybody thought would take 1-2 months ended-up taking 8 and before leaving China, I said I wouldn’t shave again until I arrived in Australia… hence the massive beard and long hair under the hat!
During the first few weeks, I was also tracking my ShopBot Desktop as it sailed across the ocean, which arrived in perfect working order though I do wish we had these half-pickup half-cars here in North America!
I’m sure nobody remembers when I first visited Evright.com because overnight, I went from looking like a hobo to an employee with a shaved head and face!
It was there that I learned how to use a laser, learned more about Trotec Laser specifically and eventually fell in love with the Trotec Speedy 400 which would eventually be my machine of choice so after buying it “on my way out”, it was time to pack everything yet again.
I shipped my ShopBot Desktop back to North America where it would soon have a friend to hang out with, my brand new laser, a Trotec Speedy 400 flexx.
As I knew I was heading out to start a brand new business in the middle of a great economic disaster without any clients to speak of much less haven been away for almost a decade, I knew I needed a plan, thus the above book was published in order to get in my head what was to come.
The Trotec Speedy 400 flexx with CO2 and Fiber laser tube arrived shortly after my return to North America and as I had no forklift, we had to use ancient Egyptian methods to drag this 400 kg create off the trailer and then get the laser itself out of the crate.
Two moves later, we are now at our current location which is roughly 1500 square feet of custom awesomeness, the picture above is the CNCROi.com shop between moving from my parent’s garage and our current location.
I’ve attended numerous trade shows as well, including the New York World Maker Faire as well as lots of smaller venues.
And have been busy pumping out lots of video and photography to help customers better understand what we do and how CNCROi.com does it.
And as early as a few weeks ago from the writing of this blog post, I launched another venture focused entirely on Tea Lights, called TeaLightBox.com to continue on my quest to bring a little bit of custom to everybody’s life.
Now you understand where every aspect of CNCROi.com originated and the glide path I’m on as I keep on building and expanding our services, clients and promotional activities around the world!