Day One of a New Adventure

A new year, a new calendar, a new business.

This is going to be a little biographical bit about the journey of how Union|Nine has come into being, so if you like reading that sort of thing, read on.

From April of 2011 to the end of 2013 I sold and serviced 3d printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, industrial robots, shop & lab furniture, and CAD & CAM software while working for Amtek Company Inc.

First, I have to say Amtek is a great bunch, and I learned a ton while working there about how small businesses can successfully operate, and working with the Amtek crew was a good opportunity to stay familiar with the tech toys while paying bills. I started out doing primarily Stratasys 3d-printer repair work, but quickly discovered a knack for the sales-work, talking to customers and demoing equipment and software. This was great for a while, but it became apparent over time that the sales channel isn't where I would be comfortable pitching my tent and forging a career. My heart wasn't sufficiently called to the work of being out on the road closing deals, and it was a struggle to try to get into and stay in the "sales zone".

The good news was that I knew what I needed to do next, because it's something I've done before.

Like every DnD character, we have to first tell a little back-story.

The summer after I graduated in 2009 from Virginia Tech with my bachelors of science in industrial design I co-founded a design firm titled Sans Seriph Design with David Collins, as a way to try to approach a few design projects that we had in mind to undertake. I enjoyed working with him and it was a great experience getting things set up and figuring out the hoops you have to jump through to start a business, I quickly discovered that launching a design consulting firm was not something I could juggle alongside graduate school work. So by January of 2010 I needed to forfeit my stake in the venture to stay focused on my academics. I was blind to how burnt-out on school I'd become, so I thought that if I limited my distractions I'd be able to power through my classes on willpower, which turned out to not be the case.

By the following January I knew I needed to find a real job and get off of campus to clear my head, and the right opportunity to do so emerged through the work I'd been doing since my sophomore year running and maintaining a Dimension SST1200es from Stratasys for the Architecture department. On a few occasions the machine had fouled up and I had taken initiative to get it fixed without requiring an on-site tech visit from Amtek, the channel partner for Stratasys for the Mid-Atlantic states of Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, DC and Maryland. That stood out enough to Ron, the company president, that he offered me a part-time position doing fieldwork, which quickly grew to a full-time commitment as the spring semester drew to a close. By May he'd decided that I ought to have a commission structure in case I came across sales opportunities, and by July I'd sold my first Fortus 250mc machine. From there I settled into a balance of service and sales work, going out to perform repairs and training seminars and calling on customers, especially the faculty at VT.

So now I find myself revisiting the process of forming a business around design work, but now I've got the added experience of having worked on the technical-support and sales side of things, which I know will help me be a better designer.

Well, that's enough for this post, so I wish you the best from Union | Nine as we start to take on new challenges and serve clients this year. If you think you'd be interested in what Union | Nine can offer, then don't hesitate to be in touch.

- Jonathan

Founder, Union | Nine