Monday, January 19, 2009

Edward Knabusch & Edwin Shoemaker

Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker are the founders of one of the most well known and respected furniture stores, La-Z-Boy. Today we celebrate these men not only for their invention of the La-Z-Boy recliner but also for their business practices that have allowed for La-Z-Boy to become a leader in the furniture industry.

Knabusch and Shoemaker started their furniture store in Knabuschs father's garage in Monroe, Michigan in the 1920s and reinvested very heavily in their young company. Their thriving company quickly out grew the garage, but in the late 1920s, the men struggled to find a bank that would loan them the money to expand the company. However, Knabusch and Shoemaker found enough community support to build a factory through loans from family and friends.

In 1929, the men developed a chair with a reclining mechanism out of orange crates. On the suggestion of a customer, the men decided to upholster their new chair and the success of their company boomed. After this invention, the men incorporated their company, once again borrowing from the community for patent and start up production costs.

The new chair needed a name, so the men held a naming contest as a marketing tool to promote the chair; the winning name was La-Z-Boy. Other marketing campaigns and tools included giving fresh produce from Knabusch's garden to potential customers, and turning shopping for furniture into a family event by hosting "Furniture Shows". These shows allowed for parents to shop while the kids were entertained by Ferris Wheels and merry-go-rounds. These techniques helped the company to grow during the early 1930s. During this time, they also changed their company so that it was also a retail store and continued to invent new pieces of furniture.

In 1972, the company passed to Knabusch's nephew and has continued to grow. Knabusch and Shoemaker have a story similar to other successful companies, through continued reinvestment, detailed marketing campaigns, and constant innovation and expansion these men created a successful billion dollar company. Through their company, Knabusch and Shoemaker have increased wealth worldwide and through their La-Z-boy recliner, they have provided a new, comfortable way to relax.

Sources:
La-Z-Boy History
Wikipedia: La-Z-Boy

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