Story

 

It's the end of May. I'm sitting here in a little hut off the coast of Puerto Escondido, Mexico trying to take a vacation. I've been told (very gently) that I need one. But it's raining. Giant tropical drops speckling the beachfront. So I'm holed up inside waiting for the kitchen to open and the skies to clear, and I find myself doing what I always seem to be doing these days: working on my business. 

Truth told, that's not a bad thing. I love working on my business. And I imagine that's the case with so many entrepreneurs, certainly ones I know well. You're doing something you care about. Something that represents you. And you don't just want to do it; you want to do it well. You want to refine and improve and — in your most grandiose of moments — you get that suspicious inkling that you just might be able to really make an impact. So you keep going. You work hard, nearly constantly. You try to take vacations. But you pause somewhere between the beach and the margarita because you've had this idea! And you rush off to your room to scribble it all down because any moment turns into a good moment to do things better. 

I haven't really talked much about our business; I haven't really talked much publicly at all. 12th Table is, in its most basic form, a rental company. And rental companies are notoriously logistic-oriented, non-sexy entities. There are warehouses and delivery personnel and box trucks. In so many ways on so many days, we can feel like little more than a glorified moving company. And who wants to really hear about the behind-the-scenes process of upholstery cleaning and truck packing? Exactly. 

Also, if we're being really truthful here, I suppose I didn't want my personal story or musings to cramp our logistic style and make us seem less credible or capable. In business, as I've learned, it's a balance. The things you say and do possess weight, and reflect not only on you as a person, but also you as an owner and your company as a brand. Will my feminine and personal touch make it seem like we're a little less able to deliver your furniture with strength and timeliness? Will it make us seem too mom and pop, and not large enough to contend with the big, well-financed houses? 

But the thing is, I value transparency. As a consumer, I treasure knowing the behind-the-scenes truth. Who are the makers at play? Where is the product being created? And with what? Why am I investing in this with my time and my money? And here's the big one — why am I picking you over someone else? I love stories of underdogs. I'm transfixed hearing about business owners and how they came up with their big ideas. I'm a sucker for tales of near calamity with a last-minute Hail Mary that changes the world. Nearly always, these things make me feel better about a brand and more excited to engage with it. 

The truth, the personal aspect — that's why I love business. And that's why I started mine. 

When I founded 12th Table what feels like eons ago now, it was because I saw rentals from the consumer side and because I wasn't happy with that experience. It was pretty simple. I was in the process of planning my wedding, and I was looking to rent some chairs. I'd never had an occasion to rent chairs before, so this was my first foray into the rental world. I poked about and everything seemed to be pretty, well, similar. Generic folding chairs in electric colors of brown and slightly less brown. And then on top of this quite diverse family of options, there was a lot of red tape I couldn't understand. Rental fees. Delivery fees. Fees to set the chairs. Fees in case the chairs were damaged. Fees if the chairs needed to be moved. I could hardly navigate the endless ways I could spend money on something I was using for less than 24 hours. 

I don't know if I came to the table with much expectations about the rental world; I certainly hadn't thought about it before at all. But I know I didn't expect this. As a consumer, I wanted a process that was simpler and cleaner. As an individual, I wanted choices that felt a little more like me and a little less corporate retreat from the 1990s. And honestly, it surprised me: in a place as creative as Nashville, aren't there more imaginative and design-forward options? Is there maybe a different way to do things?

And so it was, incomprehensibly downtrodden by some folding chairs, that I decided to start 12th Table. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never once had a business class. I had no idea how to source pieces. Or store them. Or move them. I was equipped with an English degree, the tiniest bit of design instinct, and a whole lot of naivety. I was decidedly not prepared for this. But Heaven bless my new husband who looked at me with such tenderness and confidence, saying what every new wife with a dream wants to hear: "That's a great idea. Do it." And so I did.

I jumped in. I was our very first delivery crew. I washed dishes in my kitchen. I stocked our garage with untold rentals (which said Husband did not appreciate). I made a logo, and threw it away. I hired someone to make a logo, and threw that away, too. I refined. I learned. I made countless mistakes. But little by little, we grew. People ordered. Our inventory expanded. I found a logo I liked. I was supported by the complete and undeserved kindness my dear family and friends. 

And here we are now, four years later. I'm able to sit here writing to you from Mexico because we have a team back home who I trust. People who care about serving our clients well and doing more than is asked—people I am impossibly thankful for. We have a warehouse we're outgrowing and inventory that's expanding and a base of loyal clients who understand what we're doing and why we're here, and I love them for it. 

But even still, the best work is yet to be done. I still think about myself a lot as that consumer, and know there's plenty of room for us to improve and serve people with more thoughtfulness and care. A better designed collection. A simpler process. More accessible pricing. We can do a lot to make celebrations and environments more thoughtful and a little more easy to assemble.

And we'll be working on that. In this next season, you can expect a lot of changes and improvements to roll out. Strides I'm so excited and eager to make. But in the meantime while we're still refining, you'll be able to find me here — sharing a little more of our story, our process, and what we care about. I want you to understand us and know us. I want to answer your questions. And I want to get to know you. 

Perhaps this is a logistics-centered business, but what I've come to admit is that it's a personal one, too. And I'm so looking forward to sharing it with you.