by MELODIE DAVIS
She adores the feel of smooth wood, loves to sand, stain and make things. She custom designs and engraves special embellishments on objects others have made, including steel mugs, USB drives and equestrian grooming kits, to name a few.
In May 2012, Jessica Peachey started an engraving business, Blue Ridge Engraving, because she wanted to be at home with her children when they weren’t in school. The old maxim with a new business is it takes about five years to be successful.
If diversifying what you normally think of as products to engrave can help her business succeed, Jessica has innovated dozens of products. A partial list includes wedding cake toppers, wedding table decor, “Just Married” props (which wedding planners, photographers or caterers often purchase), phone cases, iPad covers, pens, hunting knives, ornaments, Lazy Susans, toolboxes, crayon caddies, personalized medallions for stuffed animals (new baby gift), coasters, rolling pins, cutting boards, promotional rulers, thumb drives, various leatherette products, keychains, hammers and teacher appreciation gifts. If she hasn’t made it yet, she probably would be willing to try if it can be engraved.
Jessica’s first love, in terms of craft, is working with wood, which comes from her family’s background in furniture manufacturing. Her family owned a historic furniture factory in Hagerstown, Md., Statton Furniture, which created fine furniture since 1926. Her great grandparents had a vision and built the factory from the ground up. In its heyday they employed 250 workers and craftsmen. Over time, the building became an albatross with too much expense in upkeep, and industry globalization chipped away at their bottom line. So the family closed its doors after the death of her father, Philip J. Statton, in 2008. Jessica worked for Statton Furniture in a sales and marketing capacity for seven years—so she was well acquainted with that aspect of her current business. Jessica also enjoys the production end and takes satisfaction in using woods from sustainable sources.
At the point she became a mother, Jessica wanted to be able to supplement their income, but didn’t want to have to deal with the complications of childcare for son Philip and daughter Hazel Ann. Now that the children are older, they enjoy helping their mom with packaging things for shipment. Jessica’s husband, Elliott, has been a project manager for Partners Excavating in Harrisonburg, Va. for 20 years and has a line striping business, Precision Line Striping, on the side. Life is certainly busy for the Peacheys.
If diversifying what you normally think of as products to engrave can help her business succeed, Jessica has innovated dozens of products.
Demand for Blue Ridge products is largely seasonal around typical gift-gifting times: Christmas, spring and summer weddings and showers, graduation, Mother’s and Father’s Day, end of school—and birthday and promotional products, of course, anytime.
Her first key outlet online was selling on Etsy.com; Jessica sends products all over the world—including Guam to name one far-flung island. Online translation tabs help to make communication with customers abroad super easy. She is now fostering more local sales from her own website, blueridgeengraving.com, and hopes to expand and establish a local clientele. One employee who works when the seasonal demand is higher, Caroline Kempfer, has helped develop and maintain Blue Ridge Engraving’s website, as well as make postal deliveries, stain product or help with other details.
One of Jessica’s current fundraising projects is engraving commemorative bricks recognizing donors for a safer, low-maintenance new playground at Mountain View Elementary School. Parents, grandparents, alumni and local businesses bought bricks to help raise money for this purpose. Each brick was personalized and a wall will soon be built on the new playground with these pavers.
Jessica actually spun off part of her early efforts in business, a company called The Original Twig, by giving that business to a Laotian family that immigrated to the US. They welcomed the opportunity to become entrepreneurs as well, focusing on artful alphabet letters made from grapevine. Their twig toppers can be purchased on Etsy at: www.etsy.com/shop/a2ztwigtoppers.
When asked what she’s learned, having her own business in this specialized field, Jessica smiles and says “Everything! I’ve learned graphic design [she majored in Studio Art and Social Work at James Madison University in 1999], logo design, website design. I do many of my own graphics.” She’s had a bigger learning curve dealing with taxes and the financial end of having a business.
Her main investment for this business was an Epilog Laser Engraver, with a 24 by 18 inch bed, which means she can work with items as big as those measurements.
A devoutly Christian family, they are currently hunting for a church home after moving to a location too far to be actively involved in their former Mennonite congregation in Lacey Spring. Jessica is happy to be able to share her faith through her business as she includes inserts or stuffers in packages such as wedding blessings, and similar printed prayers and scripture.
The tagline for Jessica’s company on Etsy underlines this low-key faith aspect, “Wonderfully and Beautifully Engraved,” echoing the classic verse in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Indeed!
Melodie Davis, editor of Valley Living, is the mother of three adult daughters, and lives with her husband near Harrisonburg, Va. She also blogs at www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com.