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    Posted July 19, 2013 by
    emariemarsh
    Location
    Wintersville, Ohio
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    From hobby to job

    From Dreams to American Dream: How Blind Horse Knives Beat the Odds

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Blind Horse Knives was created in 2007 by L.T Wright and Dan Coppins. Their shop is located in Steubenville, Ohio. The business partners were once custom stair builders and made a fair living. Blind Horse Knives now employs 23 local craftsmen and the product is sold all over the world. The business name was inspired by Wright's great, great uncle who owned a blind horse. This is an excellent story that re-establishes the American Dream by having American made products and employs local craftsmen in a touchy economy.

    From what started as a dream and business plan drafted over a cup of coffee to a world renowned knife company, Dan Coppins and L.T. Wright have never followed a conventional path. Blind Horse Knives is the creation of two carpenters turned knife makers turned entrepreneurs. Coppins and Wright have always used and owned knives. Knives were an interest, a topic of conversation, a tool for the trade or favorite pastime.
    When they started Blind Horse Knives (BHK) in 2007 they were both working for an Ohio stair maker when the lunch time conversations turned to their common interests. Both being hunters and outdoorsmen, Coppins and Wright shared a love of knives and each had been toying with the knife making hobby on their own. Each spent long hours after work cutting, grinding, shaping, and filing knives. They met after work one fateful day for coffee and some scribbles became the initial business plan and logo which would later become the company we know today. Dan and L.T. began making knives together in the evening and on weekends as they improved their skills. Once there was a product they were happy with, the two friends went to their first knife show as Blind Horse Knives in Indianapolis, IN.
    After some success and prayer it was decided they could and would succeed as Blind Horse Knives. The two committed BHK to attending the BLADE show, which is the largest cutlery show in North America, in a few short weeks. Coppins and Wright spent many sleepless nights producing knives for the show. Dan and L.T. spent every free moment in L.T.’s basement often eating dinner in front of their machines. They were not going to let anything stand in their way of becoming America’s knife company. BHK began to take shape. Working out of their basements, Coppins and Wright would meet to exchange product (they lived 1 ½ hours apart) almost every day. As the business grew and more help was needed, their wives were added to the payroll. L.T.’s wife Elaine took care of the books and Dan’s wife Judy began making sheaths. They used all of their own money to start the business. They didn’t take out business loans, they did it all themselves. All of the work on the knives was done in their homes. Basements, kitchens, and bathrooms were taken over by the company. A dining room became an office with three or more people working in it, a living room became a shipping area, and a kitchen became a break room. The owners’ homes were being overtaken.
    Another milestone was reached in 2009 when an additional growth ring was added to the BHK family tree. Dan’s daughter and son-in-law came on in supporting roles as well as an apprentice knife maker to assist Wright. Growth continued throughout 2010 as BHK added knife makers, shipping staff, marketing staff, and more support staff. 2010 was also the year that BHK began to realize their full potential and started to spread their wings into other areas of growth. BHK Outdoors was added to the company portfolio and a partnership was formed to start Self Reliance Illustrated. SRI is a magazine that is co-owned by Coppins, Wright, and the Pathfinder School, LLC owned by Dave Canterbury. Wright and Coppins have not only created a knife business from their hobby, they have branched out and created businesses from their love of bushcraft and the outdoors.
    2011 saw growth in yet another direction as the Ohio Classic Knife Show (the first knife show Dan and L.T. attended together) and BHK Outdoors Radio branched out the corporate tree. The knife company continued to grow as well as BHK embraced their fan base and focused on their fan club, the BHK Underground. BHK features a monthly special that is a new version or design offered at a discounted price. They put out a YouTube video to introduce the knife. Over the years these videos have let their customers, the BHK family, get to know the dynamic duo. The videos showcase their personalities and give viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of the knife shops.
    All of these ideas came from that first cup of coffee that assured customers of world-class customer service, a lifetime warranty, and American made working knives at a reasonable price. L.T. and Dan have always been focused on putting out the best possible product and to provide the best customer service. This explains why BHK customers keep coming back for more. Many customers proudly own more than one knife. Wright and Coppins are proud and thankful to their loyal and enthusiastic customers.
    The next step for BHK was to move out of the houses that had been overtaken by the ever-growing business. Both Coppins and Wright had lost their basements and first floors to the business. L.T. was first to move into a free-standing building with Dan following suit in early 2013. Materials, computers, and machines were moved to the new spaces. The business now had room to spread out and room to grow.
    An additional partnership was added with the introduction of Mule Team Canvas Company. Company growth continued with the addition of BHK Media and the formation of BHK World Industries which became the umbrella holding company for all of the different holdings. Another addition was the BHK Custom Shoppe. Wright and Coppins had always been happy to complete custom orders for customers. The Custom Shoppe is dedicated to custom orders. A customer can send a design or drawing and see their dream knife become a reality.
    From what started with a cup of coffee, a plan, and an agreement to put local craftsmen back to work has grown into 23 employees putting out approximately 250 knives a week that have been delivered to 6 continents, 26 countries, and all 50 states. Blind Horse Knives have seen action in war zones and are carried every day by thousands of happy customers.
    Wright and Coppins have been successful in making their hobby into a business. They sell knives to people to utilize in their own hobbies. Whether it’s hunting, bushcraft, fishing, camping, hiking, tactical, or every day carry there is a knife in their catalog that can fit the bill. Dan and L.T. are truly living the American dream. They created this company on hard work and a promise to make the best possible knives they could.

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