Backyard Blacksmiths Forge a One-of-a-kind Business: Q&A with a Bankable Client

Kyle Fawcett
May 22, 2019

A Q&A with Andrew Davis and Nathan Brandt, owners and operators of Coal Iron Works in Anderson, IN. Coal Iron Works produces 16 and 25 ton forging presses that are used to aid in the metalworking process. These presses are used by hobby metalworkers as well as professionals around the world and they conveniently operate off of standard household power.

Why did you start your business?

Andy and I started our business to try and grow a metalworking company beyond what we had been able to accomplish on our own. When we began working together we found that we really filled in one another’s weaknesses and our working relationship just worked – really well!

What steps did you take to start your business?

In the beginning it was a LOT of trial and error. Many stressful evenings searching Google for answers to questions that we really should have been going to experts about – like accounting issues…or how to do accounting at all. While we were tiny and our sales were minimal, just keeping track of our small accounts was not a big to-do. However, when our sales rocketed overnight we were not at ALL prepared for the increase in revenue, expenses, receipts, shipments etc and quickly overwhelmed our insufficient system.

What has been the greatest challenge with starting and/or operating your business?

Staying pro-active rather than doing everything re-actively. It’s very difficult to plan when you are so stuck in the depths of everyday work.

What has been the biggest surprise since starting your business?

How successful we’ve been, so quickly and how incredibly difficult that makes things. Coming up against TOO many orders, has taken an incredible amount of work to deal with – not just to fulfill the orders, but to track them as well!

What do you feel has been your greatest success since launching the business?

We’ve become a known-entity in the blacksmith/ bladesmithing/ metalworking realm and that’s been really amazing.

Where do you see your business in 3 years?

More expansive, yet more defined. Accomplishing targets set pro-actively by following strategies we are laying out, rather than simply allowing things to fall as they may and dealing with fires as they pop up.

In the beginning it was a LOT of trial and error. Many stressful evenings searching Google for answers to questions that we really should have been going to experts about “

What is something you wish you would have known before you launched your business?

How to plan and schedule, as well as how to follow a schedule. Management in general has just been a big hurdle for us.

What advice would you give to another entrepreneur looking to start their own business?

Go for it! Give it a try! Reach out to anyone that is close to you that has done it or is doing it and begin a conversation, soak up everything you can, always. Learn to enjoy every aspect of it and you will have already won! The difficult situations are so incredibly growth inducing. Far more so than sitting by and NOT trying to build anything.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your business or your story?

When Andy and I started we did not have a vision, a plan or even a strategy. We just had an idea. We’ve refined it over time, and I think allowing patience with ourselves through that process is really important. It gives space for failure, which there will be a LOT of failure. You will always be missing something, there will be some blind-spots that you cannot POSSIBLY see – that is OKAY – it’s just part of the process and you will learn a lot from tripping over them. When we have stopped in those moments, taken a breath and reset our focus on what needs done, we’ve benefited greatly. When we allow the stress to creep in and take over, we begin making rash, short-term decisions that only lead to perpetuation of more short-term decisions- firefighting if you will. Sit back and think, how will this affect where we end up in 5 years? How can I be making decisions that impact the future in a positive way.

To learn more about Coal Iron Works and their story, visit them here:

Bankable is a nonprofit organization that is focused on the economic development of Indiana communities through creation, growth, and sustainability of jobs through small businesses. We do this by equipping under-served small businesses with capital solutions, business development resources, and meaningful mentorship so they can become bankable.