Feb. 16, 2022

Made in America – Strong as Steel – with Shane Henderson [Ep. 109]

Made in America – Strong as Steel – with Shane Henderson [Ep. 109]

America is the land of opportunity. The freedom to flourish may be under attack, but the American Dream is still alive and well in the hearts of citizens. Linda’s guest, Shane Henderson, exemplifies the determination, fortitude, and patriotism of...

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America is the land of opportunity. The freedom to flourish may be under attack, but the American Dream is still alive and well in the hearts of citizens. Linda’s guest, Shane Henderson, exemplifies the determination, fortitude, and patriotism of many who want to work hard, provide for their families, and give back to their communities with generosity and service while building their own American Dream. Shane shares the remarkable story of how Metal Art of Wisconsin became the most famous metal art company in the world, and the reasons why they chose to exclusively source and produce their products in the USA. Their commitment to providing quality products Made in America is as strong as the steel from which the products are created, and their love of country is evident in everything they do. Be inspired to pursue your American Dream and listen today! 

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Linda: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of Prosperity 101: Job Security Through Business Prosperity. The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck and the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on prosperity101.com. I seek to connect boardroom to breakroom and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society.

Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit prosperity101.com. Thank you for tuning in today. If you've been a listener to my podcast, I constantly encourage people to actively engage in promoting freedom, liberty, and support for our constitution and the values that have made America Great. I also encourage people to buy products made in America. I want to encourage employers to educate employees about why all of this is so important.

Today, I have a special guest, someone whose love for country caused him to use his creative gifts that eventually turned into an amazing business that has blessed people around the country. So today my guest is Shane Henderson from Metal Art of Wisconsin and Shane, thank you for taking time to be with us and tell us the story of Metal Art of Wisconsin and the beautiful way you promote America through your products.

Shane: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Linda: Thank you. Well, tell us the story. How did Metal Art of Wisconsin begin?

Shane: Well, it started in a garage in 2013 with my son and myself, just doing a father and son project over a weekend. I was trying to find creative ways to... boy scout stuff and doing birdhouses and stuff like that and was kind of getting old. So I brought home a CNC plasma table and we started to design and cut patriotic metal art like flags and Eagles and stuff like that. And we started an Instagram page called Metal Art of Wisconsin, and we posted some of our work and it was an overnight viral, almost a problem for us because it, the gig got so popular. We all had nine-to-five jobs, no employees, no shipping departments, no shop. It was just me and my son and this little machine. And we created a product that everybody wanted and fast forward, not very much time at all.

We had thousands of back orders and we had to decide, do we go all in on this, chase the American Dream, or do we shut it off and stick with our comfortable nine-to-five jobs? And we risked it all. My wife kept her job nine-to-five at the hospital and I took my part-time marketing job and went all in, got my first employee. We started, I had a little hot tub house in my backyard. We took the hot tub out and made that kind of our shipping department and started to create more products and buy more machines. And we got our first shop and started to hire more employees. And in 2016, right around the election, my flags were a social media phenomenon. We sold tens of thousands of them and I had three employees and I mean, no joke.

I mean, this was... it was a problem. So we had steel flags and wood flags and thousands of back orders. I mean it took us 8, 9, 10 months to fulfill all of them. It was crazy. So I invested and got a bigger shop, more machinery and we leapfrogged about four different times to four different shops, but there was always a pause was in between each time we'd move into a shop. So we'd find a place and it would take a couple months to do the paperwork and the lease and they'd clean out the building for us and stuff. And by the time we moved in, we'd already outgrown it. And...

Linda: So exciting.

Shane: Yeah, that happened three different times. And then we finally got into the shop we're in now we have a 15,000 square foot facility and it, I mean, now we've already outgrown it, but we've been there for four years now. So now we have 30 employees to full CNC. I mean we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in CNC machinery, automation stuff. And my son, the cool part of the story is my son's name is Justis, Justis Henderson. And he was 10 years old when the thing started.

So he grew up in my shop, building these flags and what we call the freedom cabinet. It's another product that we invented that went viral. And when he was 17 years old last year, he said, I want to start my own business. So he got this kind of skill for painting and polishing and doing this chemical patina on steel. So we started making these flags and I put them on my website and they went same thing. They went viral, they went crazy. We couldn't even keep up with them. So he started his own business at 17 years old, he started a business called Flags by Justis.

We got a shop right across the street from my shop and he started doing these massive nine foot steel flags and Donald Trump Jr. called, we shipped him one. They go to courthouses and schools and all kinds of celebrities, athletes, I mean his phone rings off the hook, it's awesome. So Fox News got wind of this and contacted us in July of last year and flew us to New York on 4th of July and had us build our flags live on television during Fox & Friends in Fox Square. It rained on us, that kind of ruined the segment, but we'd still made the best of it. And it launched his career in his business. So my multi-million dollar business with 30 employees and now, Justis in New York launched his business. So Flags by Justis and Metal Art of Wisconsin are across the street from other, it's a father and son like a metal art flag dynasty.

And he owns a six figure year business and it's truly the American Dream. So our story is almost more popular than our products are. Our products are awesome, but it's the story that everyone kind of ogles over of how this is happening. So it's truly the American Dream, starting in a garage and there's no other country, you can do this in, you can't do this anywhere else. So it's the perfect textbook model of the American Dream and making it happen. So we couldn't be more blessed.

Linda: Yeah, that is so exciting. And I know that you are one of the most famous metal art companies in the world and you not only have the flags and the cabinets, but it says cabinets grills, and more. I'm reading an article from the MadeInAmerica.com website and everything is made with a 100% domestic metal, correct?

Shane: Yep. So our, all the steel comes out of Wisconsin, our wood. So I ended up going to this Amish community in LaCrosse and said, Hey, you guys want to help me out? And I, my company has changed this entire community, their whole life. I mean their whole, it's a whole good thing. Not just one guy or a company it's this whole community of people that their whole life's work is to make wood for us. So it's locally sourced pine, they edge glue all of our pine. They sand it, cut it. And they put it in this big, massive, it's like a early 1900s cast iron edge gluing machine, because they can't use electricity. So it's all run off of belts and it's pretty awesome what they do. And they that's, all they do is make wood for us. So it's how much that's how much wood we use is keeps all these guys 40 hours a week doing this stuff. And sometimes 40 hours a week is enough. Especially from Christmas, they got to really turn up the heat over there.

Linda: Well, that is so exciting. And that just reminds me the beauty of capitalism.

Shane: Yep.

Linda: The beauty of your story. But now when we think about that community of people supplying you with the wood, it isn't just them, right? You've got the loggers.

Shane: Yeah, right...

Linda: Now the loggers, you've got the truckers who truck it from the forest to, it's amazing. The whole supply chain is benefited because you chose to step up and create a business and jump in when the opportunity presented itself. What have been some of your obstacles? Obviously not enough hands.

Shane: Yeah.

Linda: Not enough bandwidth when it all started coming in, but you seem to overcome that quite well. But what have been some of your other obstacles as you've been working to grow this business and manage the extreme demand?

Shane: Well, I think when you talk to most business owners and I watch a lot of this stuff on TV and I listen to a lot of stuff on Talkradio. A lot of people that start businesses, they were either born into it inherited or they had a business plan, they went to college and they did it the right way. I did mine happened by accident, that's what's been very difficult is this wasn't supposed to happen. It was, it's like been drinking, trying to drink from a fire hose, for the past eight years.

Linda: Right.

Shane: Never been caught up, we've never been comfortable. We're always behind. We're always playing catch up. I mean, our products are, we can't make them fast enough. We actually had, and I live in Manitowoc and the next town over, there's a town called Two Rivers and there's a manufacturing company over there that during COVID they actually helped because we got shut down because of beavers, got us down cause they weren't essential company. So they, so this other company actually was essential and they helped us dig out from the COVID our backlog and they couldn't even keep up. So we've had three manufacturing plants mass producing these things. And every single year we get so much national press and attention on the news and Rolling Stones magazine and Entrepreneur magazine and ABC World News Tonight and Fox News. It just, it's unmanageable at times. It's so popular. It's awesome.

Linda: It's really exciting. And I've been watching the growth of your company for a while. I was really attracted to the products. It's so positive in a world where things can be so negative and there's so much clash and opposition and negativity, I would say in the media and sometimes in our communities, it's such a positive thing that we're seeing here. And that's why I have been wanting you. And I have been trying to get this interview done for quite a while. And I'm so honored to do it because you mentioned, it really does exemplify the American Dream.

Shane: Right.

Linda: But you've taken something, it has strengthened your family. And I love highlighting family businesses. I grew up in a family business and I learned more from my dad than I could have learned from I think anyone and just being on the ground, running a business when you're young, seeing how it works, the pitfalls, the highlights, everything, it just really helps you appreciate every single customer that walks through your door. Everybody who's willing to exchange one of their hard earned dollars for something you're offering is a blessing.

And I am really, like I said, honored to highlight your work, your company, and all family owned businesses and all entrepreneurs who, despite all odds have made it work in a country where equal opportunity is offered to all. I always tell people it is an equal outcome guaranteed to all, but in America we have equal opportunity, which allowed you to take this ball and run with it and create something that has not only blessed your family, but has blessed all these people who work for you, the people within the supply chain and then all the people who receive your beautiful products. I am blessed by it when I see it. Or I've seen you on TV or I read the articles about Metal Art of Wisconsin. It just makes me want to cheer. So it blesses me too.

Shane: Yeah, cool. All right, appreciate it.

Linda: Yeah. It's great. So in your community, how do you feel like you have been able to really contribute to the local community besides even the Amish people doing your logs? Obviously you're paying more taxes than you used to, correct?

Shane: A lot more taxes...

Linda: A lot more taxes. And what would you say about the tax structure or anything? Is there anything that you as a business owner, if you could talk to policy makers right now, if you could talk to legislators right now, face to face, what would you tell them you need the most from them to be successful?

Shane: I think more resources and less taxes. I think give me the chance to grow and create more jobs. And don't strap me with high taxes and that keeps me from growing. I mean, I'd rather [inaudible 00:14:26] I have five acres on my property and I want to build another building and grow the business, we need the manufacturing space and stuff. So I mean, it would be great to have that. And then another way that we give back. So in 2017, we started to get... We get attacked almost daily from non-profits and silent auctions and fundraisers and stuff like that, just because we have so much visibility. So I created, it's not a foundation or a non-profit or anything like that. It's just a charitable arm of our company called Flags for Fortitude.

And since the beginning of the company, we've donated over $250,000 worth of product to heroes, nominated heroes. So a part of our website is attached to flagsforfortitude.com where anybody can go on and nominate a local hero. Whether it's a police officer, a veteran, a crossing guard, lunch lady, whoever is making a difference in your community, tell their story, get some good pictures, write a good one for us and submit it. And we get these things every day and we read them and the ones that are good... We send a personalized flag or a freedom cabinet or a big one of Justis's flags, and we'll personalize it. And we ship a free charge, we don't ask for anything in return other than just a picture for our social media. And the cool thing is that the majority of the pictures we get back, the recipients crying, or you can tell they've been crying or their eyes are red or...

Linda: Absolutely.

Shane: Or something...

Linda: Yeah.

Shane: So it feels good and it's doing the right thing and it's karma, I believe in giving back and it's the right thing to do. And our product is so patriotic, a lot of these guys well up right when they open it.

Linda: I'm sure. Well, that's really a wonderful example for people. And it reminds us all that freedom is never free.

Shane: Right.

Linda: And the people who secure our freedom every day, the people who go to the battlefield, the people who like you say are the first responders, the police officers, people who secure our freedom and safety every day, we need to give back to them. And I really salute you in that. I really appreciate that and love to see that from companies where they give back to their community and give back to the people who helped secure their freedom to do what they're doing. If we didn't live in a free society where we have these opportunities, you wouldn't be able to have this beautiful story. So what would you tell employers who want to help their employees understand how important it is to support all of these issues that allowed Metal Art of Wisconsin to grow?

Shane: Well, I think my employees get it just because, we're American made company, that's kind of what, or I guess our image or our visibility to the public is we're American made company. And if we outsourced everything or had these things made in China or mass produced them on a machine, south of the border or something like that. It wouldn't have the magical effect that our products do. And it takes away, like you said, there's a whole supply chain, there's a whole ecosystem of suppliers and vendors and employees and families that help us all out. It's not just my employees. There's a huge group of people that benefit from everyone who buys American and plus it's the right thing to do.

Linda: It is the right thing to do, I believe fully in that. And, I've had a few podcasts specifically related to buying in, buying American made products. And, if you go to the store and look at clothing, I mean, one in 50 items will be made in the USA. If that, they're made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Guatemala, we need to make these things in the United States of America and provide American jobs to American citizens.

Shane: Right.

Linda: And the quality of what we have made in America is so amazing too. American workers take pride, not that others don't, I'm not diminishing anything anybody else does, there's a pride in working on an American made product. You're supporting your country, you're supporting your fellow citizens, and you're really providing something that promotes those values that made America great. So thank you, thank you for doing that. Thank you for standing up for freedom for jumping in when I'm sure it was a little scary.

And so, yeah, I'm sure it was, I'm sure there were times you thought, what are we doing, right? But look at what has happened. And I can see just how it's been blessed. And it's very exciting. So I'd like, if you could, do you have anything else in closing before we give information on how people can get your products and things, but any other comments you'd like to share with the listeners before we close?

Shane: Well, I guess that just if there's any of my customers out there or anyone that has ever been involved with the company, I'd like to thank everybody because we didn't do this on our own. It was all of our customers and all the exposure on social media that helped us along. Like I said, there wasn't a business plan. This all just went viral all by accident. It's been a crazy reckless ride [inaudible 00:20:12], and we are so thankful we don't take any of it for granted. And thank you all for buying American made products.

Linda: Well, that is really a great thing. And to everybody listening, who wonders, could you possibly do this? Could you possibly build your own business in America? Could you help your supply chain to be sourced from all American made products? Yes, you can. So we really support you in that effort. And thank you so much, Shane Henderson for being here today, please give the websites for not only Metal Art of Wisconsin, but Justis's website regarding his business and then the Flags for Fortitude too.

Shane: Okay. So Metal Art of Wisconsin's website is freedomcabinet.com. Justis my son, his name is spelled J U S T I S. His business is Flags by Justis and his is flagsbyjustis.com. And then if you'd like to nominate a hero for a flag or a cabinet or a personalized piece of metal art that is flagsforfortitude.com, that's all of them.

Linda: All right. Well, that is great. And I hope the listeners will go visit your website and tell them that you said that there'll be a place on the website for where they heard about you. So if you first heard about it through this podcast, please let them know.

Shane: Yep. There'll be a dropdown on how you heard about us, and there'll be a little category for you. So check that box.

Linda: All right. That's great. Well, thank you so much. And thank you for standing firm and your commitment to create products made in America that support the American values and ideals. And you're really reminding people that the red, white and blue is a symbol of freedom. And thank you for that.

Shane: Cool. All right. Thanks.

Linda: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity, the Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free ebook 10 tips for helping employees understand how public policy affects their paychecks. Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity. As you become informed, involved, and impactful. I give special thanks to our sponsors, Matthews Archery, incorporated, and Wisconsin Stamping and Manufacturing. Please contact us today at prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.