Clint Harp’s workshop on North 15th Street is full of things he’s made by hand — table legs, candlesticks, a headboard — reminders that his dream of making a living selling his creations has come to fruition.
Harp and his wife, Kelly, started Harp Design Co., a furniture and home goods company, after he quit his high-paying sales job in Houston two years ago. Clint Harp said he was good at his job, but he wasn’t happy.
“I reconnected with a part of me that wanted to work with my hands,” Clint Harp said. “As I reconnected, I realized this is what I really wanted to do.”
Taking a large pay cut wasn’t easy on the couple and their two kids. They were going through their savings fast, and Clint Harp said there were many times when he doubted himself, such as one day when he was looking for pallets of wood behind an H-E-B.
“I was basically going through their trash in my junky jeans and I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ ” he said.
The family sold their home and relocated to Waco in December 2011 after Kelly Harp was accepted at Baylor University to pursue a master’s degree, but their financial situation was still tough.
They moved into an apartment near Baylor, but Clint Harp had nowhere to build his furniture. After he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for several months, the group agreed to lease him the workshop on North 15th Street about a year ago.
It was about then that Clint Harp met Chip Gaines of Magnolia Homes in a gas station parking lot. Gaines ended up ordering several pieces from Harp, and invited him to be a part of filming the pilot episode of “Fixer Upper,” a TV show pilot that aired on HGTV last month.
Harp’s struggles in starting a small business are not necessarily unique. Many entrepreneurs face hardships when trying to get a company off the ground, said Steve Surguy, director of the Small Business Development Center at McLennan Community College.
But Waco is a better place than most to try, he said.
“Waco’s doing well. We see a fair number of clients,” Surguy said. “Waco has a good economy for the entrepreneur, and there are lots of resources for them available.”
Business is picking up for Clint Harp, which has allowed him to donate some of the pieces he’s made. Most recently, he made a bed and table for a family that receives services from the Talitha Koum Institute, which provides therapy and support to economically disadvantaged children.
In addition to being socially conscious, the Harps want their business to be environmentally friendly. Clint Harp makes all of his furniture out of salvaged or reclaimed wood.
“We really value the Earth that God gave us, and while we can’t be 100 percent green in all of our efforts, we think it’s incredibly important to be as thoughtful and conscious of the footprint we’re leaving as possible,” he said.
More orders for his work also have allowed Harp to bring on an employee. Britt Duke worked for Habitat for Humanity for nine years before becoming a carpenter for Harp Design Co.
“I loved every minute of (working for Habitat for Humanity), but I wanted to do something different,” Duke said. “I was interested in building, and Clint’s offer sounded appealing.”
Harp Design Co. isn’t limited to furniture. Kelly Harp makes pillows and baby clothes for the company. Her designs have already appeared in stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., Houston and other cities.
Kelly Harp, who is taking the year off from school to care for the couple’s 6-month-old daughter, plans to expand her role at the company in the future, especially once Harp Design Co. gets a showroom, which could be as early as September.
“Mostly I’m a mom, but when we get that showroom I’ll be able to do more styling and working with clients,” she said.