One of the real joys of our work is bringing an exciting venture to life, and Cascadia Blade Works has excitement going for them in spades. Connecting with them was a learning experience not only in the technicalities of blade sharpening, but also in the power of connecting with your values, and following the path where they lead.
Co-owner Don Fitchett shared during our interview that enjoyment was at the heart of their business beginnings. “Suzanne and I started the business a little over a year ago, with the pretense of, ‘hey, what do we want to do that’s fun, enjoyable, and unique?’ And I’ve always had an affinity for machines and tools!”
After doing some research, and talking with an acquaintance who’d made a similar career pivot, they found there was a lot of opportunity to pursue their knife sharpening venture here in Portland. At that point, they were committed to the idea, and reached out to us about getting their branding and website in place, to make a splash in the local knife sharpening market.
“Having my own business… the human interactions, and helping people… it’s made me feel more comfortable. I’m more happy with myself.”
Co-owner Suzanne Pratt shared with us early on that their sharpening system was special: “It really comes into play with knives, because different knives have different purposes. And they were manufactured to be at very specific angles. And we can set those angles. It’s precise, repeatable, and symmetric… we’re in the small minority of people using this process.”
After I saw their process in action, I knew that we wanted to present them as a higher-end service than your average knife sharpener, and giving their online brand a polished and refined look was a lot of fun for Team Upswept. As Fitchett noted, “a lot of people are eyeballing it, and they are getting a sharp edge. But are they getting the right edge?”
Cascadia Blade Works also wisely had a niche in mind to set themselves apart even further: sharpening garden tools. “From talking to other knife sharpeners in the area, they really want to focus on knives. And we’re branching out and doing garden tools, and we’re really finding a market in there. There are a lot of passionate gardeners in Portland, and to help them is great.”
The best part of collaborating with these folks was the sheer energy they brought in. They were actively engaged throughout our project together, and I felt their emotional investment in the venture. Just in talking with the two of them, it quickly becomes apparent how much pride they take in their work, and the sheer fulfillment they feel at helping others:
DF: “Even with garden tools, I can think of specifically a woman who brought us a hand-pruner… about ready to throw them away. And we sharpened them, and I made her cut some weeds, right then and there, and the look on her face was, ‘look out, garden, I’m coming after you!’ [laughs] It was just great seeing the joy in her face… there are no bad vibes in there.”
SP: “She was really excited, because her hands are arthritic, and she loves gardening, but it was just getting so hard for her.”
Cascadia Blade Works is now appearing at farmers markets, and also hosting neighborhood pop-ups and offering on-site sharpening for commercial clients. Don in particular is loving the work, and the direction their lives have taken: “Having my own business, especially working around these farmers markets, and the human interactions, and helping people… it’s made me feel more comfortable. I’m more happy with myself.”