Crushin' hard on Conway Electric
Conway Electric believes everything deserves great design. As an emphatic backer of that statement, I wanted to learn more about this innovative company and its beautiful product. I had the opportunity to chat with the founder (dreamer) of Conway Electric, Kevin Faul, and couldn't help but be impressed by his dedication to craft and design, as well as his commitment to quality, American-made products and overall refreshing business philosophy. It is clear that this is a man that 'gets it' - he practices what he preaches and the results are exceptional. I first ask Kevin to tell me a little bit about himself and his company.
"Conway Electric was born from an idea I had about creating better electrical products and I was lucky enough to find factory partners who put faith into my vision and committed to working with me. I was raised 40 miles [northwest] of Chicago in a little town called Wauconda, Illinois in a vertical log cabin surrounded by fields and woods. [My] father had his own business and there was always a lot of tools in his shop. My parents taught my siblings and I to be curious and how to use tools to make things."
Kevin is curious and interested in almost everything. He loves old cars - especially the Tucker. He has spent years studying architecture and design on his own and loves physical art, technology and has a real interest in business. This former, semi-pro climber has adventure in his blood and a love for the outdoors. Dude does it all - surfs, trail-runs, bikes and sustains life by literally traveling off the beaten path to seek inspiration. Family is very important to him and he considers the duo of his four-year-old nephew and six-month-old niece as trusted, product development advisors. He fondly remembers his own childhood, saying he realizes now that his parents showed him an analogy for life so far, "You are given tools of all kinds and if you're curious you can figure out how to make things. I'm just trying to figure out how to use the tools, trying to make cool things." His company, Conway Electric, is an American Design and Manufacturing company for home and personal electrical accessories. They truly make everything in the United States using their own supply chain and exclusive partner factories and are putting some serious design around the most important technology ever harnessed (Electricity!) and bringing joy (Yay!) to people everywhere. If Kevin had his way, our great country would have National Electricity Day.
Clearly enthused, he asks me, "Have you ever seen an extension cord that you actually liked?" I think about my 30 foot, orange and kinked extension cord hanging on the wall in my shed. "Something that looks great, but also functions well? They don't exist!" I'm thinking about that ugly, dirty, frustrating cord... "Electricity was harnessed in the United States by incredible minds like Franklin, Tesla and Edison. Did you know Benjamin Franklin actually killed and cooked a turkey for dinner using Leyden jar batteries? It's incredible to think that the technology underlying all modern technology was first harnessed by these guys - great, American minds. We treat electricity like an outcast, and I think that's horrible. We should herald electricity. We should make electricity the national symbol of the United States. We should not put cheap, 'made-who-knows-where' extension cords in our home. It's just awful how we've reduced our appreciation of electricity down to a footnote. I want to change that." He may do just that.
Kevin has acquired a broad background and professionally, has had leading roles in product development, business development and finance. He's commercialized over 75 consumer and professional products for large companies, along with a few software products. The business process is not new to him, but starting from nothing to build something is. He says he is still a tiny company finding his way through the landscape of great consumer products and sustainable businesses, but considering he founded Conway Electric in Boulder, Colorado in 2013, I think he has covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. It's quite remarkable, really. Kevin likes to say that Conway Electric was born of frustration. "It was founded by a need for better electrical accessories in my own home. I had built an industrial cast cement and welded steel floor lamp for a loft apartment I had in Boulder - the type of apartment that is clean and modern. I [had] furnished it with industrial furniture mostly made myself [sic]. I went to get an extension cord at a chain-hardware store and all they had were horribly ugly, cheap, overseas extensions and power strips - the kind we all hate." It struck him immediately that something needed to be done, so he built his idea for a great electrical extension and the design caught on. It's easy to see why - have you been looking at these images? These products are beautiful. He goes on to say, "Thankfully our retail partners share our vision and believe in what we're doing; so we're making progress. The more successful we become the more people around us will succeed: our factory partners, our future employees and our local and regional communities through give-back programs like our 1% For Power and our donations to Facing Homelessness (Homeless In Seattle). If you can't give back while building something, why build it?" That is a great question. Like I said, Conway Electric hasn't been around too long, but they currently distribute through almost 50 stores across the US and Canada and open new retail store partners every week. Though they prefer to sell through their retailers, they do have a website for ecommerce www.conwaygoods.com. I'm altogether blown-away by what Kevin and Conway Electric have been able to do with such a simple, great idea in such a small amount of time. I ask him where he sees his company headed. "I want Conway Electric to bring electrical accessory manufacturing back to the United States. If we had deeper pockets, like the founders of Shinola, we'd do what they're doing; build our own factories right now and start producing awesome products that everyone needs. As we become more successful we hope to do just [that]: invest in machines and infrastructure that bring jobs and manufacturing back to the United States. We put our money where our mouth is and so far, that's exactly what our long term vision is: make amazing electrical accessories here in the United States." -A