How I Started A $250K/Month Amish Online Furniture Store

Published: July 3rd, 2022
Mel Stutzman
Countryside Amish...
from Arthur, Illlinois
started January 2010
Discover what tools Mel recommends to grow your business!
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Discover what books Mel recommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Greetings! I am Mel Stutzman, the owner of Countryside Amish Furniture, an eCommerce retailer of authentic, wooden furniture made-to-order by Amish artisans. We partner with carefully chosen workshops that employ traditional woodworking techniques and natural materials (like responsibly harvested North American hardwoods and full-grain leather).

We offer thousands of made-to-order furniture options to buyers across the continental US, generating millions in sales.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I was raised Amish and did not receive any traditional schooling beyond the 8th grade. To eventually own my own eCommerce business, I overcame both a limited education and major cultural differences.

What I lacked in formal training I made up for in my inherent drive and enterprising instincts. I come from four generations of business owners, so entrepreneurship is in my blood. Though my parents operated a shop of an entirely different nature (a brick-and-mortar farm supply store), I witnessed the value of products built to last and the resulting customer satisfaction.

As an adult, I worked in multiple custom cabinetry shops. I started at the lowest position (sanding wood) to eventually become a workshop foreman. Over time, it felt increasingly natural to combine my furniture expertise and Amish business connections with my entrepreneurial ambitions.

Before Countryside Amish Furniture, two of my previous furniture companies fell flat. Though disappointing at the time, the experience ultimately yielded powerful takeaways. Mainly, I appreciated the importance of being conveniently accessible to target markets rather than expecting them to go out-of-their way to find my products.

It was this conclusion that first introduced the idea of becoming a digitally-based operation that could sell throughout the country rather than to a limited region, and Countryside Amish Furniture came to life.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

As a furniture retailer rather than a manufacturer, my business hinges on close collaborations with Amish workshops. It’s a win-win for everyone involved; I can sell authentically Amish furniture and the builders can broaden their customer base in new ways.

By the time I started Countryside Amish Furniture, I was deeply connected to the industry through my past professional experiences. I leveraged working relationships to gain additional in-roads to new workshops and, because of my knowledge about furniture-making, I could discern which ones produced the level of quality I wanted to sell.

Running the website did not come nearly as easily. The first web developer I hired took the $10,000 I paid him and disappeared without doing any work. Discouraged but not undeterred, I found a second developer through local connections who work on our site to this day.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The first iteration of the Countryside Amish Furniture website in 2010 was a far cry from the online experience we offer today. It used outdated programming and was near-impossible to update. While I knew our site should be better, my Amish background meant I had a lot of new ground to cover and a steep learning curve to conquer.

The first year-and-a-half of my business was dedicated to learning and building up a team I could trust (through trial-and-error). The first web developer I hired took the $10,000 I paid him and disappeared without doing any work. Discouraged but not undeterred, I found a second developer through local connections who work on our site to this day.

During the first few years, I worked seven days a week, often at unusual hours spanning from 5:00 AM to midnight. My goal was to be present online when customers were shopping to provide quick, personalized answers to their questions and help facilitate orders.

After shouldering this burden alone for four years, I ultimately decided to bring on full-time employees to assist with customer service. This freed me to focus on other parts of the business, such as further perfecting our web presence and improving processes.

We continuously worked with our developer and marketing consultants to improve our onsite experience. We assessed behavior flow between pages, tested call-to-action language and positioning, diversified our product categorization, and finessed our visuals. Driving a lot of these changes were analytical data and first-hand feedback gathered through user testing and customer interactions.

Our website from 2012

Our website in 2022

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Prioritizing customer interactions

Though we operate in a digital space, we still appreciate the power of word-of-mouth and repeat customers, especially amongst our Gen-X and baby boomer audiences. Therefore, we invest heavily in internal sales and customer service training (and don’t outsource).

While I believe this is important for all businesses, this is especially vital considering that we let customers personalize their furniture with hundreds of different options. This naturally lends itself to longer sales cycles, increased amounts of questions, and the potential for customers to misunderstand the ordering process. Therefore, we work closely with buyers to ensure they’re correctly customizing the furniture to their specifications. For instance, we’ll often receive magazine cut-outs from customers asking us to closely replicate the piece from solid wood, and we’ll make recommendations on how to do just that.

We give customers multiple ways to interact with us, including an onsite chat function. We also provide regular updates on product statuses and produce human-based responses to written questions. My point? Customers place a high premium on the convenience and quality of communication, and it has the power to redefine the brand in their minds (for better or for worse).

Organic SEO

We’ve partnered with SEO consultants throughout the years to give insights into site architecture, page structure, content ideas, and more. This continues to make up roughly 70% of traffic, driving visitors from all stages of the user journey. We write in-depth, expert-level pieces that help us attract upper-funnel audiences to raise brand awareness. Additionally, SEO best practices play a crucial role when structuring the site architecture and on-page elements for category and product URLs.



Paid Social Ads

Because we mostly serve older generations, Facebook continues to be a noteworthy traffic driver for Countryside Amish Furniture. The content with which we found most success is user-generated, such as their photos and testimonials.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The ripple effect of the pandemic created supply chain issues not previously seen. For example, the cost of lumber caused our partnering workshops to increase their rates. This, combined with labor shortages, caused their production to slow and manufacturing timelines to increase.

However, I am optimistic. The demand for Amish-made furniture isn’t going anywhere—buyers will continue to recognize the elevated craftsmanship and want to invest in the lasting quality. Plus, Amish-made goods align with many of the ideals of today’s consumer's value (local production and sustainable practices, for starters). While Countryside Amish Furniture has come a long way from where it was in 2010, we have yet to meet our full potential.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

In addition to the lessons learned from my past businesses, I found out the hard way that finding “the right” people isn’t always easy. This knowledge gives me an immense appreciation for the team I have today, and I make sure to nurture relationships that are positive and collaborative. In short, don’t take reliable employees and strategic partners for granted!

Further illustrating the power of relationships, I don’t believe that Countryside Amish Furniture would be the business it is today without guidance from fellow entrepreneurs. When first starting, I found local companies I admired and asked to pick the owners’ brains. They shared their advice on broadening one’s customer base, tips for digitizing sales, what to watch out for regarding profit margins, etc.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Salesforce - Salesforce is pivotal to tracking individual customer interactions and documenting overall sales over time. I like it because, as a business owner, I can receive a birds-eye view of performance broken out by salesperson, product type, etc. It also enables my salespeople to collaborate by consolidating all communications and statuses for shared visibility.

Quickbooks - As a business owner, I like to keep a close eye on the many moving pieces of the company and how they contribute to our goals. As a result, I watch the bottom line to respond to real-time insights. Quickbooks is a great accounting tool for monitoring profits and expenses, as well as streamlining accounting-related tasks.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

As much as I learn from business articles and resources, books are where I find my true inspiration. For starters, I own every book written by John Maxwell. Additionally, I’ve revisited the biographies of Sam Walton, Ronald Reagan, and Steve Harvey throughout my life; they gave me visions of success as a young man and I still receive motivation from them, today.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Harkening back to my belief in the power of networking, I also encourage every budding (or seasoned) business owner to connect with others on similar paths. Find mentors and peers with which you can bounce around ideas and compare experiences, and also seek personalized advice unavailable in generic “how-to” guides.

I also suggest that entrepreneurs have as much available cash as possible to weather the ups and downs.

Where can we go to learn more?

I welcome everyone to browse Countryside Amish Furniture and to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.