Made In St. Louis: Mom Inspires Startup Business That Makes Door Kick Plates

By Debra D. Bass St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Deck the Door Décor" Owners --Tucker Hiegel and Dan Johnson are creating a unique company from the ground up. The products were inspired by Tucker's mother Laurie who could smell opportunity knocking!

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Deck the Door Décor Owners --Tucker Hiegel and Dan Johnson

Ages --Tucker is 31; Dan is 33

Family --Jill Coleman, Hiegel's fiancée; Johnson's son, Aiden, 9

Home --Both live in Ballwin

What they sell --Custom door kick plates starting at $175. The products are made and designed in America, and $5 of every purchase is donated to Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis.

How to buy --Call 1-844-542-5758 or visit deckthedoordecor.com.

Stroke of luck --Tucker Hiegel's mom, Laurie Vacarro Hiegel, came up with the idea to make the first door plate for herself by hand about four years ago.

She's a master gardener, avid crafter and wildly creative, Hiegel explains. The door plate started attracting attention from both neighbors and friends who started making requests. She started taking orders, but soon after suffered a stroke that affected her mobility and dexterity. The stroke did not, however, change her sense of humor or determination.

She looked into changing her production techniques and opened an Etsy online shop called Stroke of Luck. Hiegel was graduating from the University of Missouri at St. Louis around that time, so he told her he'd help make the company profitable.

He recruited Dan Johnson, his longtime friend, as a partner. That was three years ago, and they've been in product development for the last two and a half years. "We're such good friends, and we both wanted to do something together that would be fun and rewarding," Hiegel said. They recently graduated from Cortex Innovation Community's Square One Ignite entrepreneur development program.

Something from nothing --Both Hiegel and Johnson work full time in addition to the startup. Johnson said, "It's a lot of work to do two jobs, but I've always wanted to do something like this. When Tucker approached me about this and I knew I'd be a part of something from the ground up and create something with a company I could be passionate about. This is it. We're building something from nothing. It's really inspiring."

Make mom proud --Hiegel and Johnson have been immersed in all the intellectual property work and exercising due diligence on a number of fronts, including developing resources, manufacturing and shipping alternatives for the product, so Hiegel explains, "It's all been a long learning process."

Within the last 90 days they've launched a residential line for doing monograms and home addresses on brass, oil-rubbed bronze, copper or brushed nickel finishes, as well as colorful designer lines. There are business products that can be engraved with logos or phrases and a temporary magnetic line can be added for festive occasions. There's more to come, but the two don't want to expand too quickly. "I'm doing this for my mom, so I want to do it right," Hiegel said.

First impressions --"It's really a great product from a marketing and branding standpoint, the door is the first and last thing people see, so if it pops, it catches the eye and it's memorable," Hiegel said. "Companies pay a lot of to develop logos and images, so it makes sense to find creative ways to use them." And in homes, he said that the kick plates can set the tone from playful chevron prints to stately address numbers or an engraved image of the family pets.

More to come --"This won't be the only thing that we do," Hiegel said. "I knew that I wanted to start a business since I was a little kid. I've always known that I always wanted to make stuff, you know an actual product, but as a kid I never could have put that into words."

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