This week’s episode was a special one for me to create. Why? Well it was not due to the celebrity status of our featured founder nor was it due to his gift for handcrafted woodworking (although I am fascinated by woodworking). This episode was special because of how incredibly similar my entrepreneurial story was to this week’s guest, Clint Harp.
This week’s episode was a special one for me to create. Why? Well it was not due to the celebrity status of our featured founder nor was it due to his gift for handcrafted woodworking (although I am fascinated by woodworking). This episode was special because of how incredibly similar my entrepreneurial story was to this week’s guest, Clint Harp.
Yes, this week’s featured founder is Clint Harp, co-founder of Harp Design Co., and America’s favorite furniture maker from the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper. While Fixer Upper made Clint Harp a household name, he was actually just a few years into his entrepreneurial journey before the show took off. There were so many incredible moments he shared. In fact, despite this episode’s length, there was so much we did not cover. You can learn more about Clint in his book, “Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story.”
In this episode, you will learn some incredible lessons about being considerate of your family when jumping into a startup. You will also hear, firsthand from Clint, how critical it is to listen to the wisdom of those closest to you. Finally, you will learn that while it might be painful to move on to something different, you have to stay aware or you will miss the next great opportunity. Before Clint started Harp Design Co., his journey included stints in ministry, mission work, and even medical device sales. While that may surprise you now, once you hear about his early days and his upbringing it will all make perfect sense. This is Clint’s startup story.
Our Sponsor, MovoCash: https://www.ththestartupstory.co/MovoCash
Connect with Clint Harp on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clint-harp-3aa96068/
Harp Design Co.: https://harpdesignco.com
HGTV’s Fixer Upper: https://www.hgtv.com/shows/fixer-upper
Clint’s book, Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story - https://amzn.to/2XNymJz
The Startup Story community has been so incredible sharing our podcast with others, and we thank you! We do have more stories to tell and more people to reach. There are three ways you can help.
First, the most powerful way you can support this podcast is by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Second, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to share your favorite Startup Story episodes with your friends and on social media. Tag or mention @thestartupstory.co so we can give you a virtual high five and a thank you!
Lastly, share the podcast on LinkedIn. The Startup Story podcast is for entrepreneurs. Don’t underestimate the power of sharing on LinkedIn so other entrepreneurs can discover us.
With your support, we hope to further our reach in encouraging and inspiring the founders of today and tomorrow. Thank you!
Special Guest: Clint Harp.
The Startup Story - Clint Harp
Clint Harp: I'm Clint Harp. I'm the owner of Harp Design Co, or the co-owner with my wife, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
Sponsor Ad: The Startup Story would not be possible if it wasn't for the support of our sponsor MovoCash. Move money like a miracle with MovoCash, the free money app that kicks cash. Download MovoCash app on iTunes or Google Play today, and you'll get your slick new MOVO card in the mail.
You are no longer dependent upon digital currency alone, but you'll have a card that allows you to purchase at POS stations, restaurants, buy online, anywhere that you want to use your money.
No Credit Check or Credit Impact, Quick Direct Deposit FDIC Insured and Free To Register and Activate.
Support our sponsor MovoCash. Visit movo.cash or the startupstory.co/movocash.
James McKinney: This is such a special episode for me, and I know you're going to love it too. But before we jump into the introduction, I want to share a review that was written on iTunes by "mrsmulry." She rated it five stars and wrote, "James has a great casual, supportive interview style and I loved hearing DocJenFit's unexpected path to be a successful entrepreneur. The last five minutes of her episode are inspired." Thank you so much, mrsmulry, and you are correct. DocJenFit's journey is one that many should listen to because it's so relatable. All of our featured founders have amazing stories, and we know they are stories that can encourage and inspire hundreds of thousands. We just need to get the word out. So thank you for being a fan and I hope you'll share The Startup Story with your friend and LinkedIn network.
If you found any value in any of The Startup Story episodes, please leave a review. I'll continue to read one each week so plug your brand in the review as well. Giving your business a plug is the least I can do if you take the timeout of your day to write a review.
So now, let's jump into this week's episode. When we kicked off the episode, I stated that this was a special episode for me. That claim is not because of our shared gifting in woodworking. In fact, if you listen to episode 8 with Brandon Muñoz of Monkwood Studios, you will know that I am far from handy. My excitement for this episode is not due to the celebrity status of our featured founder. No, my excitement is because of how incredibly similar our entrepreneurial journeys are. Have you ever come across someone that you had so much life experience in common with them? Well, this is that episode for me. This week's feature founder is Clint Harp, co founder of Harp Design Co, and America's favorite furniture maker from the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper.
Now, I want to set expectations up front. If you're hoping for a ton of Fixer Upper stories, this is not the podcast for you. While Fixer Upper made Clint Harp a household name, he was actually just a few years into his entrepreneurial journey before the show took off. That's what we want to explore. There are so many incredible moments in his entrepreneurial journey that we could make a miniseries out of it. Seriously! I could have sat with him for eight plus hours, but we did not do that, unfortunately. This episode is longer than usual, which is great plus for all us. But despite this episode's length, there's still so much we do not cover so you have to make sure to read his book Handcrafted: A Woodworker's Journey. Before we jump into the episode, I want to make sure that you understand how desperate Clint's journey was, even as, again I repeat this, even as Fixer Upper was being filmed. It got so bad that he came close to leaving the show. Legitimate thing.
Clint Harp: I even had a conversation with Joanna at one point, telling her, "Hey, I'm just giving you a heads up. I don't know where all this is headed, but I can tell you where I'm headed is probably going to find a job. Just giving you a heads up, because I just don't know if I can do this anymore. Just as a friend and being a part of all this, I don't know. You need to know. I'm trying to hang on here, but I don't think I'm going to be able to.
James McKinney: In this episode, you will hear how important it is to be aware of when it's time to move on. It might be painful, but you have to stay aware or you'll miss the next great opportunity. You'll also learn some incredible lessons about being considerate of your family when jumping into a startup, and you'll hear firsthand how critical it is to listen to the wisdom of those closest to us.
Before Clint started Harp Design Co., his journey included stints in ministry, mission work, and even medical device sales. While that may surprise you now, once you hear about his early days and his upbringing, it will all make perfect sense. Even the fact that he had a dream about being a sheep herder in Ireland will make a bit more sense to you as well.
Clint Harp: I was raised by a dreamer, my mom. She dreamed of being a musician forever.
James McKinney: Oh, that's awesome.
Clint Harp: She wanted to be Amy Grant. That was her thing. I talk about that in the book, how we'd roll around to back woods churches and big tent revivals, whatever. Any place that she could sing. I loved that. I love that I got to see that. I loved that I got to see someone in their thirties, forties, fifties, whatever it might be still trying for something. Even though it didn't work out the way maybe she pictured it in her head, she still tried.
My stepdad, my dad, and my stepmom, all three of them had desk jobs. Were gainfully employed, whether that was a bunch of different jobs or it was one steady job. Whatever, that was their story, so I was around that for the most part. My granddad on my mom's side, he was the one that was entrepreneurial for sure, and I was around that as much as you can be. It's your grandfather. I did live with him for a year when I was 11 when we moved in with him. He most definitely, he's the entrepreneurial spirit in our family.
James McKinney: Within your family, did you think the roots of entrepreneurship start with him?
Clint Harp: I would say so, yeah, for sure.
James McKinney: I'm assuming, being that you said your mom is a dreamer, that she picked that up in the creative space, entrepreneurship in the creative space.
Clint Harp: That's right.
James McKinney: So what, you mentioned your dad and your stepmom as well. How old were you when parents split, and let's talk about that.
Clint Harp: You know, I wrote this in my book and I feel like I should have it in front of me. I don't know, I have this thing where I wiped out memories. It's all sort of fuzzy to me. I think I wrote the line that I didn't really ask much because I kind of didn't want to know. Basically it was I don't really know. It was somewhere around the age of one.
James McKinney: Oh, so it was really early on. So all you've known is-
Clint Harp: That's right.
James McKinney: … the two households.
Clint Harp: That's exactly it. I was born. There was already unrest between them. I've talked to Kelly about that many times, my life, where it's like I literally even on an unconscious level don't know what it's like to be in a house with your mother and father, and then be getting along and loving each other. Even on a-
James McKinney: Completely understand.
Clint Harp: … from a totally just an infant, that energy was never a part of my life.
James McKinney: So with your mom, but you were raised by your mom, correct?
Clint Harp: Yes, I lived with my mom, yeah.
James McKinney: So with your mom being a dreamer, what do you remember of your upbringing as far as hardships or challenges that she may have experienced? Do you remember part of her journey and her struggle, and what impact did that have on you as you were thinking about your future?
Clint Harp: That's interesting, James, because you don't really think about it too much. Now that you ask, I do remember standing there at her knee essentially as she's opening the letter from Sparrow Records or some record company going, "We received your demo tape and we regret to inform you that we're not interested in moving forward at this time," essentially. She opened a few of those letters, and I remember seeing those, and seeing how it hurt her. It was hard. It's frustrating. Or maybe she didn't get picked to do the solo in church.
I remember those days. I remember seeing the disappointment. I can say that she never gave up, but I think that it definitely never worked out the way she wanted it to. She doesn't have a recording contract. She doesn't have albums and she wasn't doing sold out concerts and all this stuff. Ultimately, that's what she would have loved. I can see that ultimately, what she realized is that she loved to sing. So regardless of where that was-
James McKinney: And that's why she kept going after all those rejections. I want to sing.
Clint Harp: I just love to sing. So now, here you are and you're turning 41, and you get a voicemail from your mom on your birthday with her singing, because any opportunity she has to call and sing, she's going to do it, you know?
James McKinney: Oh, I love it.
Clint Harp: Yeah. I think that's good for any kid to see, to see the disappointment and to see the well, okay, I'm going to try again.
James McKinney: So in high school, what did you see your future being? There's career days, there's all kinds of things that they place in our junior and senior year of high school. What did you think your future was?
Clint Harp: I didn't really know. I touch on this a little bit in the book, that I don't even really know when I actually woke up to the idea of going to college. There was sort of like this, I know it's there and I kind of always thought about it but financially how am I going to do this? My grades were not really that good. What am I even going to go to college for? I wasn't sure. When I was really young, I wanted to play professional baseball. I'm just that great American kid. That's what you thought you were going to do, is play baseball.
I didn't really know what I was going to do. I had dreams. I didn't know how to get there. I will say that one of the things… I'm not saying that anybody directly passed this down to me, but I would say that for sure one of the things that I didn't necessarily learn is if you're going to achieve that dream, then you have to be willing to do all of this incredible hard work to get there.
James McKinney: Oh man, I love that.
Clint Harp: So I think I saw more of I want the break that gets me to… like you just want the one break that gets you to the thing as opposed to the starving artist who's just painting anything that he or she can possibly paint until finally one day their work is being auctioned at an auction house somewhere, but it took years and years. They did it nonstop. It wasn't just like, "Okay, here's an opportunity and then maybe this will give me the big break." It was just, "I'm just an artist." You know what I mean? I didn't necessarily see that a lot. But somehow, there is a part of me that understood that.
I think some of that also came from my grandfather as well. My mom's a hard worker, my stepdad was a hard worker, my dad, my stepmom. They were all hard workers, that's not it. But I think I did see in him that element of well if you're going to do it, you just have to do it every day, regardless of whether the sun comes up or not. You just go out there and you do it, and the next thing will come and you do that, and the next thing, and the next thing. You keep building upon that until it turns into something greater than you ever imagined.
James McKinney: It's interesting hearing a little bit about your grandfather. That mindset and that idea that if you're going to do it, you just do it and just keep grinding through and keep going. Combined with the very personal experience you had with your mom as far as seeing the rejection letters, and yet she still kept pursuing her passion. Whether it was an indirect lesson with chalkboard and chalk, and they said, "Well Clint, here's how entrepreneurship is." You really did see it, just subconsciously observing everything.
Clint Harp: That's right.
James McKinney: And I think that's the part of entrepreneurship that so many people, they don't realize that's the real set of entrepreneurship. The side where you see on social media where influencers are out there just talking about grind and hustle, get after and do, those are great bumper stickers but the reality is there are nights of worry and there are nights of panic. There are times when you're in a fetal position crying because you have no idea what's going to come of it.
Clint Harp: Every time you say something like that, there's scenes that pop into my head that match every single thing you're describing.
James McKinney: Because I've been there personally.
Clint Harp: The fetal position crying, I'm like immediately I went to this little house that we owned here in Waco, so we were already here and things were going, and the show was actually a thing, and all this. We literally thought about just terminating Harp Design Co.
James McKinney: And the show was happening at this time?
Clint Harp: The show was happening, James.
James McKinney: Oh man.
Clint Harp: And literally, I'm standing in our kitchen with Kelly and I'm bawling my eyes out, and she's bawling her eyes out. We're not mad at each other, we're not arguing, we're literally jointly making this decision that we need to just kind of pull the plug on Harp Design Co. and say you know what, it's just not working out. Because it was like we didn't see how this whole thing was going to work out.
James McKinney: It's crazy as you share that bit right there, that kitchen scene with you and Kelly. I'm getting glossy eyed because I'm remembering a moment in my story where my wife and I having similar conversations, and that's the part of entrepreneurship that people don't see. That's why we do The Startup Story. A lot of people know you as the furniture maker from Fixer Upper. A lot of people know you from your new DIY show-
Clint Harp: Woodwork.
James McKinney: Woodwork, thank you. I'm thinking Woodworker? No, that's not it. Woodwork.
Clint Harp: It was going to be the Wood Man, so something with wood.
James McKinney: That's pretty strong from a branding perspective, the Wood Man.
Clint Harp: Okay.
James McKinney: I want to talk about all the lead up prior to the moments of the show really taking off, where things are what they are now because, and your book covers a lot, and we're definitely going to have links in the show notes for the book. We're going to put all of your social media, because your book will go into such great detail that we won't cover here in the podcast. But when you were in high school and you weren't quite sure what entrepreneurship was, you thought you wanted to be a baseball player, your mind started thinking what? Join the military, I'm going to… where was your mind in this?
Clint Harp: That's a great question. It became clear that baseball was not the answer, James. It was pretty clear.
James McKinney: Which is unusual, because it happens for the masses.
Clint Harp: Exactly. Everybody plays baseball very well. No, it became very clear that was not my path. What I took on was music. So in high school, that's when I started to really buy into the idea of becoming a musician. My uncle had done it for years. It's funny, the story is that apparently this is the legend in our household, but he was an up and coming Christian artist here in the US. I think it was like Dove Records, I don't know. I don't remember, but it was some record company. It was between him and this other guy who they were going to take on, this new artist. And they chose the other guy. I don't know if you've ever heard of Carmen.
James McKinney: Really?
Clint Harp: Yeah.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness.
Clint Harp: Carmen is the guy they chose, not my uncle. That's the story. I think looking back on it, my uncle is very glad that they did not take him. He is not Carmen. I think he appreciates his path a lot more. Carmen, great for what he is, but that's definitely not my uncle. He went on to just do amazing music up in Canada and all this stuff.
Yeah, my uncle, he wrote for a lot of different artists and one of the songs was nominated for a Grammy. He has a history, that's his world. My mom was a singer, my dad was a drummer. I realized that I could sing, and I played drums early growing up with my dad. I'd go over to his house every other weekend and these were the days when you just had to play whatever. You either had a record or a tape, or you listened to the radio. That was it. He had a drum set. We'd set it up, and I'd turn on this radio Fox 97, the golden oldies station in Atlanta. We'd turn it on and I cut my teeth playing music by playing the drums to any oldie that would come on. Whether it was Hold Your Hand or Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock, whatever it is. Wipeout, the classic, you've got to be able to do that. In fact, Bruce Springsteen has a great… the Netflix special. I don't know if you've seen his Netflix special.
James McKinney: No.
Clint Harp: Oh my gosh, it's so good. You've got to watch this. And he talks about, in his Netflix special, about how growing up, your worth was based on whether or not you could drum the Wipeout drumming section.
James McKinney: That's so good.
Clint Harp: Yeah. I was like, "Yes, I totally get that," because I remember playing that and I sucked at it. And Bruce is Bruce. But anyways, I would just play drums to any song that came on. Then, as I grew up, I just continued to love music and take it on. So I started playing the guitar in high school and I was at my church, became the worship leader at our church. I was following the footsteps of somebody I really admired, this guy Chris who did that sort of stuff for my youth group at youth camps and stuff like that. So I wanted to do that. I took it on. I thought that was going to be my life.
James McKinney: Ministry, doing worship music.
Clint Harp: Yes, doing ministry, doing worship. That was going to be my thing. I was going to travel around. I was going to have albums. I was going to be playing music nonstop. My fingers would be calloused for the rest of my life. That was it. I applied to Baylor for the School of Music, and to get a scholarship in music. Not only did I not get a scholarship, I didn't even get accepted into the school of music. That didn't stop me. I then played music for my entire college career. Played in front of thousands at summer camps and all that fun stuff.
When I graduated, I took a job with something else, and it was in ministry, but I thought even up until that point, I still thought eventually I'm going to live in Nashville or something, and I'm going to be playing music. I really thought that was going to be it.
James McKinney: When, obviously because you thought for sure that was the narrative of your life, when did that become very clear that is not the case for you?
Clint Harp: It was a slow progression, James. I don't let go easily I guess. I some ways I do, but in some ways I don't. It was years and years of trying and then kind of backing off, and then trying, and then… you k now. It was just finally being honest with myself, which I think that this is important for entrepreneurs, and for anybody for that matter. But there's thing where you are trying this one thing. Like you have a book of dreams, like you talk about. You have this whole book of dreams and things you want to do. At what point do you finally say, "This one's not it, I'm turning the page on this one, it's okay." I think for me, that was finally with music, sitting down and realizing I can't write a song. It's not good. It's okay. Or I can't write a good song. I could write a song, but can I write a good song? I'd start to look at different people, whether it was my friend Chris Rice that I grew up with, or Ray LaMontagne, Chris Martin with Coldplay, Jay Z, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, whoever. You start thinking about these people and you go, "They had a melody inside of them that had to come out."
James McKinney: It was their DNA. It would have been a miss for the world had they not done that.
Clint Harp: exactly. Like we would be so in a world of hurt if Johnny Cash had not done what he did.
James McKinney: Yes, yes.
Clint Harp: And only he could do that. I just didn't have tune inside me. I had a different tune. I didn't have a musical tune inside me that needed to be shared with the world or with anybody for that matter. I think we all do have some sort of something that we are meant to offer the world. It doesn't mean that it's going to be mass produced or in front of millions, but even if it's just the small world that you live in, your own little-
James McKinney: Your family, right?
Clint Harp: … sphere. Yes, your family, right. We all have something only we can offer, and it just came. When it came to me and music, it was just finally going I don't write now, maybe one day it'll be given to me, but I don't have that tune in me, whereas I actually think that literally people are born with a tune in them that has got to come out. I was finally just okay with admitting I didn't have it, and I was going to find my other melody.
James McKinney: What was the transition out of music to what? Were you married at this time?
Clint Harp: Yes.
James McKinney: Okay, so you're married. So now there is a level of responsibility.
Clint Harp: That's right.
James McKinney: Adulting is a real deal at that point. So what was that transition?
Clint Harp: I never took on music where I quit everything else and was only trying that. That was always my side hustle. I never was like… I didn't have the confidence in it or anything. It was like okay, I'm going to quit what I'm doing and I'm going to go and do music. There were times where I wanted to. I went to see Coldplay, the X and Y tour at the Smirnoff Center at Dallas with Kelly. When that was over, I sat down, and I think the next day I went and bought recording equipment, for just a little home recording studio. Just this is amazing. I thought I was so inspired. It was just amazing to see how that one guy could get up there with his three band mates, and they could literally just affect an entire audience to where we're all just so happy. And for a moment we're singing, and the melody is unifying us. I was just amazed.
James McKinney: That's so great.
Clint Harp: And I wanted to do it, man. I wanted to do it. But I never was bold enough to do it to the point I was going to quit my job and start music. What's funny about that, James, is I have even to this day, I have infinitely probably more of or at least a longer portfolio when it comes to music than it comes to woodworking.
James McKinney: Really?
Clint Harp: Yeah. I have been singing like forever. I was in junior high youth choir. I was through college, I was playing in front of thousands of people every summer. In college, I was playing every other night I was playing somewhere. We're talking years and years of night after night after night, playing music. This is what I thought I was going to. But furniture, with literally not even a book to start a portfolio with, I jumped into the garage and quit my job to build furniture. Isn't that funny?
James McKinney: That is unbelievable. Unbelievable. Now, the job that you quit to really pursue your dream of woodworking was medical device sales, correct?
Clint Harp: Basically, yes. We sold the ability for people to go home and receive an infusion at home.
James McKinney: Got it. Okay. Perfect. Now let's talk about that seasons of life, because during that season where you're in sales in the medical industry, good salary I'm assuming because that's what medical device was.
Clint Harp: Oh yeah, six figures.
James McKinney: You had two kids at the time?
Clint Harp: Yeah. We moved to Houston with one kid. He was four months old, Hudson. Then right around when he turned 3, that's when we had our second kid.
James McKinney: Got it. While you're employed doing medical sales.
Clint Harp: That's right, medical sales.
James McKinney: Was Kelly working at the time?
Clint Harp: No. In Houston, she was never employed in Houston, but she was definitely working as stay at home mom-
James McKinney: Of course.
Clint Harp: … and raising Hudson. So not working in a sense.
James McKinney: Not employed, but she was-
Clint Harp: That's right, that's right.
James McKinney: … doing a more important than you had at the time.
Clint Harp: That's right. That's exactly right. But then she also started her business, Alacrity Designs, where she was making kids clothing out of our dining room.
James McKinney: Oh, that's awesome.
Clint Harp: Yeah, it was really cool. So she was doing that, so she created her own job.
James McKinney: The reason I'm asking all these multiple layers is you left a very good paying job that provided for your family. For the most part I'm assuming Alacirty Designs, I'm assuming most of the income was from your job for the household.
Clint Harp: Oh, for sure, yeah.
James McKinney: You had two kids, a mortgage. Let's talk about the thought process in your head where you're saying to yourself, "I don't want this anymore. I want to do woodworking." What was that conversation you were having with yourself or with mentors in your life, or whoever was helping you process through that? Because it was not a light switch moment where you just flipped a switch and said, "I'm quitting and I'm going and doing my own thing." It was a process for you. Let's talk about that journey a bit. So how did you start having those thoughts that this isn't what I want to do long-term?
Clint Harp: In college, I took a course. It was my favorite course, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, with a professor Dr. McCormick. He's still over at Baylor now. One day, he asked us the question, "If you could just immediately be transported from this room to another situation, your dream situation, what would it be?" I said, "I'd like to be on a hill in Ireland or Scotland, herding sheep and every once in a while, some dude would be in the background playing bagpipes."
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Clint Harp: So, where am I going with this? Where I'm going with that is that was a neat moment for me of unlocking that part of my brain that allows yourself to go, "You know what? Everything aside, let's dream. Everything aside, let's just actually vocalize something that's ridiculous." I don't really want to be a sheep herder. At the moment, that sounded fun and I was really into bagpipe music at the time. I don't know. Whatever, that was the answer that came out. Woodworking did not come out. But what it just exercised that muscle of being crazy and thinking like, "If I could do anything, then this is it."
When we moved to Houston, I was already wrestling with those questions what do I really want to do, and making money sounded like the best option. So that's what I went for. But that didn't satisfy me at all. I just literally was like empty. That coupled with sitting down with a mentor, talking with Kelly, wrestling with that over and over again in my head, just began to with every thought, with every conversation, it was a little more dust was blown off of that idea that was just kind of in the back of my brain, which was just go and build furniture.
What is funny to me is that what I'm learning now, in my head that was the book that I was blowing the dust off. Go build furniture. I think what I'm realizing, James, is that really what I the title of the book that I was blowing the dust off of was a life of adventure, and a chapter of that book is woodworking. If I could re title my book, I would maybe write, "It's not about the furniture," because quite candidly, it's not. I love it. I love building furniture, but I'm not married to the idea of… I'm not sitting here going, "I have to build furniture for the rest of my life." I'm actually learning, as I go forward in what I'm doing, things are being revealed to me through jumping out and doing furniture, and making that my full time job I'm realizing other giftings, other things, and other opportunities and reasons behind what I'm eve doing. Does that make sense?
James McKinney: That is so powerful. That is so powerful what you're talking about there. As you're going through that process, though, before you became woodworking, all these other things that you're learning about yourself, what was that like? Obviously, Kelly's not here to answer this question, but what do you think that was like for her, knowing that her livelihood was based on is my husband just going to follow dreams or is he going to stay the course of the 9 to 5 to provide? What do you think her thought process was?
Clint Harp: I think it was really difficult. I know it was. I don't think, I know it was. I know it was really difficult for her. I also am incredibly fortunate to be married to someone who likes adventure as well. She would maybe not jump out and admit it as much as I would. It's almost like she's a closet adventure person or something. She is like not risk averse. She is not afraid, and I love that about her. I am incredibly fortunate. But it was hard. She had to watch me struggle through, often very awkwardly struggle through, figuring out what it was that I wanted to do with my life. This is everybody has to do this. Everybody. The way that I did it, it wasn't easy to be around because I actually tossed and turned and did different things, and tried different things. I didn't just talk about it.
We actually, and we both wanted to move to Paris. We did that together, but like I definitely was up for the adventure and pushing that, and, "Let's go! Let's do something crazy!" I wanted to do this job over here, or try this thing over here. It wasn't like we got married and I had a desk job, and for 20 years I just kind of threw out ideas here and there, and whatever. I actually like went for them. Or I got tired of one job and said, "You know what? I am going and…" I think I talk about this in the book. "I am going to go and try sales," and I got a job as a copier salesman, and I did it for three months. Three months, James. That was it, and then I switched back to my old job. That's not easy. That's unsettling.
So Kelly had to go through all that with me. She did great, man. She really did. She had her moments. I'm sure she just was ready to crumble and did a couple times, and that's okay. That's normal.
James McKinney: Oh man, I love that. In your book, you cover… there's a lot of things that you mention right there about going to Paris and the adventure that was, and the transition and that. I really encourage listeners to grab the book and get into the detail of some of these chapters in Clint and Kelly's life. It all plays to what it is that you, the listening world, know Clint for on the show Fixer Upper and his other shows, and Harp Design Co. But let's talk about starting Harp Design Co. You leave Houston to-
Clint Harp: Started it before we left Houston, though.
James McKinney: I'm sorry, that's right. You were collecting palette wood throughout the area for your garage. So let's talk about starting of Harp Design Co. You and Kelly had this conversation, she knows you're a dreamer, she also knows you're a doer so it's inevitable, it's going to happen. What was that building process, no pun intended, for you to actually start moving on Harp Design Co. to become a reality, to get the ball rolling?
Clint Harp: Some of it was, and again I go back to that class Conflict and Resolution. We learned how to kind of dream and brainstorm, and not be afraid to throw out ideas. That's funny when you're married. Are you into the Enneagram at all?
James McKinney: I am well aware of it. I've done numerous other versions, but not the actual Enneagram.
Clint Harp: Okay. So apparently I'm a seven. I've never taken the test, and seven's hate the thing. They hate the thing. They don't like the Enneagram, because they don't like the idea of being put in a box. But my wife loves it. She is all about it. It's great. So what I've learned is to appreciate it, because it actually is really, really like… it's very meaningful. I'm sure that our numbers would probably help describe the problems that we were having in those early stages, which were I would just throw out any idea and for her, it's like, "Whoa! Back down, buddy. Hold on. You want to do what? Uh-uh, I don't think so." I think that those are always funny days to look back on. I wanted Harp Design Co. to be a nonprofit company at one point.
James McKinney: Oh wow.
Clint Harp: I wanted to start this thing. I didn't know what it was going to be called. I thought it was going to be called River Dog Furniture Co., because my granddad, he built the house on a river where I grew up. They always had dogs, we always called them the river dogs, so it was going to be River Dog Furniture Co. and that was it. I had this dream of creating a table or people to sit around. That's what I believe in. I think it's so important. I was reading an article today where the lady was actually, a friend of mine sent it to me, and she was pointing out in the article that I get it, sometimes a table is a symbol of a lot of stress, and I talk about that in my book to that hey, I get it. Some people remember arguments and just pain and stuff around the table. But ultimately, I think more times than not if we will sit around a table together, so many wonderful things can happen.
I have this belief that there's simple things in the world that people need that they're dreaming about the simple things and so they never move on to dreaming about the other stuff. You have a kid growing up, and they're thinking, "I'd love to just sit at a table and not eat my macaroni and cheese on a stepladder every day or on the floor. I'd love to have a table." Well, maybe if you give that kid a table, they're thinking, "I can't wait to have my own apartment one day and get out on my own."
James McKinney: Aw, love it.
Clint Harp: You get what I'm saying?
James McKinney: Absolutely I do.
Clint Harp: And so this was this passion in me that's still there, but then it was like it was driving me and pushing me. So I wanted to start this business that was very much like Tom's Shoes, where you bought a table from me and then I had a very simple table design that I then gave to somebody in need so that they could then go and sit down and have a meal around the table. Because there's so much division in our world, in our country for crying out loud. It's we have social media, we have phones and TVs and computers, and by the way I love all those things. I'm not against them, I love them, but you've got to shut them off. You've got to sit down at the table and focus on your crew, man, and just love each other and talk.
Well, that's where the early days of Harp Design Co., that's what started kind of… that kind of was the birthing place or the original thoughts of it. I've got to tell you, James, a lot of that is because of spiritual guilt that I had, thinking that if I was going to do something, if I was going to go for a dream, that there also had to be a redemptive purpose behind it, a spiritual purpose. I had to almost like I think they call it the savior complex or something like that. I had to do something that was going to save the world, because that's what I was kind of brought up with. It's like go out and save the world. You grow up in the church and you think this is what I have to do. Whatever I do, I've got to go and save the world, as opposed to what about just doing something good that offers something else good for somebody else, and see where that goes?
My wife had the foresight to go, "It's also good just to have a good business, Clint, where we treat our employees well. It's also good just to have a company where we make money and create something on our own, and create an opportunity for other people. Maybe those opportunities that you're talking about, maybe those will come later down the road if we have a business that can sustain itself." That discussion was had many, many times, and I fought it many, many times, and I finally said, "You're right."
James McKinney: Did you fight it, though, because you thought you were capable of doing it all, or it truly was embedded in you that if I'm going to do something good for me, I have to do something good for-
Clint Harp: It's both, because I definitely thought I could do it all, and I also felt like I need… if I'm going to do this, if I'm going to be successful, I can't be successful without it having a deep purpose. Because I also come… I don't come from a lot of money. A lot of the people that raised me didn't see their dreams realized necessarily. So if I'm going to go and realize my dreams, I better damn be sure and have like a really redemptive purpose behind it. If I'm going to have this business, if I'm going to be a CEO of a company one day, I better have something that they'll at least look at it and go, "Yeah, he's rich and he's got his own company," and all this stuff, "but he's helping save lives." So it's okay. You see what I'm saying?
James McKinney: Yeah, absolutely.
Clint Harp: I really felt like this if I'm going to do it, it at least, there has to be a really good reason behind it so that nobody can say, "Well all he cares about is money."
James McKinney: Yeah, got it. Well, do you remember that moment where you actually started hearing and processing Kelly's advice on everything she was saying about-
Clint Harp: Isn't that a great question by the way, the moment when you actually started hearing.
James McKinney: Really. That's the reality of it. Before you answer that, I just want to speak real quick to the listeners. If you do have a spouse, and that book full of dreams and ideas, do not go it alone. You have to have that conversation with your spouse in consideration of your family. It is of no good to build an empire if you lose your immediate castle. You have got to walk that journey with your spouse. So back to my question, when did you actually hear what your wife was saying and move forward on this mission?
Clint Harp: It was after multiple conversations and arguments, James. I mean I fought it tooth and nail. I just really thought that was the way we needed to go. I didn't like the idea of just owning a business for profit. I felt like I'd be letting go of my dream and the redemptive part of my soul, and all of those things. One of the things was the more I looked into what it actually took to doing that, and realized, "Oh wow, this is cumbersome." And then all the sudden, you do start to hear your spouse, your partner, your whatever and you start going, "Oh, wait, this feeling I'm having, it sounds a lot like what she was trying to describe a couple days ago when we were talking about this, that this was going to be a headache, and that you're trying to start a business, something that's going to sustain us and while you're doing it you're trying to sustain all these other people and dreams. This intense need, that's going to be really hard, Clint."
It was like wow, you know what, she's right. By the way, that's not necessarily true for everybody. Some people, it worked for them and they're able to do it, and they're able to scale it. Tom's Shoes for crying out loud. So you can do it. I just think for us, it became clear that it wasn't the way it was supposed to go. That conversation happened, well many of them happened but when I really started to hear, and when it really started to hit home was probably I think it was either soon before I quit my job or right after I quit my job. When things really got intense and it was like, "okay, we're starting this business," that was when it was finally like okay, she's right. We just need to make a business. Make something that can sustain itself, and then the opportunities will come.
James McKinney: So when you jump full tilt into Harp Design Co., I'm assuming it's a total rags to riches story where as soon as you go full time, you have a pipeline full of table orders and there were never any hardships, and it was smooth sailing from the moment you said go, right? That's what the story is?
Clint Harp: That's right, exactly. Perfect.
James McKinney: What was the true startup story for Harp Design Co.?
Clint Harp: The true startup story was Clint and Kelly sitting at their dining room table, agreeing on some things, disagreeing on a lot of things, trying to figure out what we're even going to call the thing, what were we going to offer. Me trying to figure out how the heck I was even going to build it. Again, I didn't have a portfolio of furniture to say, "All right. Here's all this experience I can take this into the garage." I had a few pieces that I had built, but there was nothing that it was like, "Okay, I'm trained enough, I'm knowledgeable enough to go and do this full time."
The startup story, it's clunky, man. It's very clunky. It's not at all okay, all these orders started coming in and I just didn't know what to do. In fact, that whole summer of 2011, I didn't get a single order from anybody. The closest I got to an order was the Christmas before, I had taken some pallets into the garage because I had started making some stuff. I built my son… actually, it might have been two Christmases before, yeah. Anyways, I built him a kitchen, a little play kitchen just out of pallet wood. Well, fast forward to I've quit my job and here we are, we're going for this dream. Our house is for sale and a realtor comes over to our house to like think about listing our house or whatever. She sees that kitchen and she goes, "Oh my gosh, can you make one of those for my grandson?" I'm like, "Yes." I'm looking at Kelly, and I'm going, "This is it! We're getting our first business! This is fantastic!"
I was so excited. So she left and I was like, "Okay, this is great. Let's start looking into this." Then it was like okay, well wait, this is a children's toy so what do… uh oh, wait. So kind of all the sudden, you're like uh oh. It started to sink in, well there's a liability here so let's look into this. So I started making all these phone calls and I found this company that would like test our stuff, but it was going to cost like $1,200. I had to build them one that they were literally going to tear apart and set on fire. So I have no money really to afford this, and so I'm going, "Oh man, but Kelly, this realtor, this is one person that's walked into our house .maybe this is it. Maybe we need to start building these things. This would be great. If we sold it for $400 or $500."
Well, the realtor comes back over to our house. I've done this research and everything, and she says the thing that so many people have heard. "You know," because she took pictures of it, she goes, "You know, I showed the picture to my daughter and don't worry about it. Her husband said he can make it, so he's going to make it." And you sit there like man, I've really just been on the phone, emailing back and forth trying to figure out how I was going to make another one so it could be set on fire, and your son in law is going to make it? And by the way, it's not that easy lady. That was a lot of hard work to make that thing. No, you can't just go into the garage and make what I just made.
But that was the summer of 2011. That was it. It was thinking we could do this, and then realizing this is going to be harder than we thought. I then finally made some tables. We threw them in the back of my Honda Pilot, our Honda Pilot. My mother in law came. She was living in Kerrville, Texas which was a few hours away from Houston where we lived. She came and she stayed with the kids at the time, and we had two. We literally took a table that was exactly the right dimension to fit into the back of our Honda Pilot. We drove to Austin, and we would pull it out of the back of the Honda Pilot and put it in a parking lot of a Home Goods store in Austin. We'd go in and find the manager and say, "Will you come out here," and then we'd show them our table in the parking lot of their store and say, "Would you interested in buying something like this?" We got nothing.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness.
Clint Harp: It's like the whole summer, I mean we're working so hard and this is it, we're going to go to Austin and we're going to get some wholesale orders. We kind of thought that was maybe the way to do it, maybe this is what we should do. We should do whole sale, which is insane by the way because what you're trying to do is you're trying to make a table for half the price that they want to buy it for this, then they're going to double it. It's just, it's insane. I can't do wholesale at that point. What am I thinking? But whatever, you still try it. So we literally went and peddled these tables out of the back of our Honda Pilot to as many stores as we could. We tried to follow up with people and it never metastasized into anything.
James McKinney: What did you think sales of tables was going to be like before you moved into the business?
Clint Harp: I thought it was going to be people would just need a table and go, "Oh, this guy's making them. I'll call him." I mean, it's that simple. It's like… and you start to realize a lot of people already have tables, you know what I mean? And especially with the people that actually have the money to buy one, they already have one, you know? So yeah, it was a very simple thought. It wasn't very complex. It was just like you know what, I'm going to start making tables and the people that need them, that just want like a cool table, will find out about me and I'll sell it to them.
James McKinney: So how did you end up in Waco, because that story right there is still in Houston. How did you end up in Waco?
Clint Harp: Yeah. So in that summer of 2011, that clunky summer where we're trying to sell tables out of the back of our Honda Pilot, and by the way we double dipped when we were in Austin. We tried to sell the tables but then we also took pictures of our table close to… I'll just say close to a very cool looking place that apparently you have to have an agreement with the people to take pictures there, and you might even have to pay for it. We just quickly took the table out of the back of our Pilot, set it up, took pictures, and then like ran away.
James McKinney: It's those little hustle moments of the early days, I don't care what it is, I love all of them. I love all of them.
Clint Harp: Isn't it great? Oh man, yeah. Those were funny, funny days. We actually went there and Kelly actually had this idea at one point that we were going to, and there just wasn't enough pages in the book. I really wish I had written about this more. We actually, her mom had an airstream trailer. It was like her great uncle's or something that was sitting there in the family land, and it was collecting dust. We were going to like maybe get that Airstream trailer and we were going to move to Austin. James, we had no money, man. I don't know how in the world we thought we were going to do this. But we were going to go to Austin. We were going to try and buy a house. We were going to live in an Airstream trailer outside of the house and flip it, and that's what we were going to do before. That was how we were going to get into the furniture making. Well let's do this, we'll flip some houses, make some money for the furniture business.
James McKinney: There you go.
Clint Harp: So we literally, we just had all of these like clunky ideas. We tried them. We almost moved out to the middle of freaking nowhere Texas in this little, it was a street called Church Street and there was this dump of a house. We were going to go there and then try and rent some space in the little, small town and start a furniture town in a little small town. We had all these crazy ideas.
At one point, I can remember driving around with this realtor. I can't even remember his name to this day. Super nice guy, and we were driving around in middle of nowhere Texas, all these hill country town, these small little country towns, and looking at all these different properties. I wonder to this day, there were a couple people that were home when we showed up at their properties. I wonder to this day if any of those people watch HGTV and think, "Wait a second, I think those two people came into my house and thought about buying my house."
James McKinney: Oh, that would be awesome if they show up one day at the store and said, "Well, Clint actually tried to buy our house in the middle of nowhere."
Clint Harp: Yes, totally. Then I mean there were some weird locales, man. It was like what are we doing here? Why are we driving in the middle of nowhere right now? So we kind of searched, and searched, and searched. We were doing all this stuff. We're still in Houston but we're going to Austin, we're trying to sell tables. We're going to the hill country and maybe going to buy a house and flip it, although we have no money. Or we're going to do that in Austin, although we have no money. We're trying all this stuff, none of it's working out. And Kelly one day says, "I want to go back and get my master's." Okay, great, that makes sense. I was joking, but serious at the same time, going, "That makes sense. We have no money. I don't know how you're going to go back and get your master's." but I was serious in that I literally, when she said it, it was like the light went on. Oh my gosh, you just created the direction for our family, where we're supposed to go next. I remember telling her, as we were on a walk one day, "You're going to apply to get your master's somewhere, and you're going to get a full ride because that's the only way this is possible anyways. That's going to tell us where we're supposed to go next."
James McKinney: I love that.
Clint Harp: She's like, "Okay, we'll see." I'm like, "No, you're getting a full ride because you're super smart. I'm telling you. If this is what you really want to do, it's going to happen." She applied for an American Studies degree at Baylor University. She looked around all over the country. Virginia, New York, Atlanta, North Carolina, Austin, Texas, you name it. Looked all over, and she found this degree at Baylor and she's like, "You know what, that sounds interesting. That sounds really…" She had started, by the way, back when we lived in Dallas, right after we moved back from Paris she had started a master's degree in liberal arts at SMU. So she had taken a few classes there but never finished it. Then we moved to Houston and so on and so forth. Well, she wanted to pick it back up. She's like, "Let's go for it. I'm going to try this." Sure enough, she applies to Baylor and she gets a full ride. That's when we looked at each other and we said, "Okay, we're moving to Waco."
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Clint Harp: And that's why we even moved to Waco in the first place.
James McKinney: You know what's funny is hearing that story, I wouldn't expect it any other way. Based on your adventuring lifestyle and her being on board for the adventure, it makes absolutely perfect sense that is the story of how you got to Waco.
Clint Harp: Yes, totally.
James McKinney: It is so authentic to everything about you guys. I love that. I love that. So you end up in Waco and again, not a pipeline of orders, not a ton of things.
Clint Harp: Nope.
James McKinney: And the listeners, if you are expecting to hear all kinds of Fixer Upper stories and all of that journey, this is not the podcast for you, I apologize. But let's talk about from the time you landed in Waco to the time that the show got picked up. Let's cover those years, because in your book you do such a great job of painting the struggle in those years, and at the same time really staying in the game for as long as you did to hit that tipping point, to experience the opportunity that the show ended up providing for you. But there were moment where you were about to quit.
Clint Harp: 100%.
James McKinney: so let's talk about from the time you land in Waco to the time the show gets picked up.
Clint Harp: Yeah. So we're moving to Waco, and I've got to decide what am I going to do? I decided the most logical thing in the world to do was volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Go volunteer, that pays great. But that is literally what I decided to do. I was in my dining room in Houston. We were packing up and I just remember feeling this gut feeling of this is what I need to go do. I've said it before and I'm sure people think I'm weird, but it was like my grandmother was speaking to me from the grave because years before, she had worked for Jimmy Carter at the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta.
So I had always kind of known about the president and his wife, and Habitat for Humanity, and different things. I was always just attracted to whatever they were doing because my grandmother looked upon them so fondly. They looked upon her so fondly. So I just had this overwhelming sense of, "Go volunteer for Habitat. Just do it." So I called them before I left Houston and said, "I'm just giving you a heads up. I'm going to come down there and I'm going to volunteer like it's a full time job. Ultimately I'd like to build furniture." I'm giving them the whole story.
James McKinney: That is awesome.
Clint Harp: "Ultimately I want to build furniture, but I'm going to volunteer for you guys like it's a fulltime job, Monday through Friday if that's okay. Y'all work on houses Monday through Friday, right?" They're like, "Yeah, absolutely. We even do it on the weekends." I was like, "Okay, well I'm going to be at home with my family on the weekends, but I'd like to work Monday through Friday if that's okay." They're like, "Great, sounds good."
So I show up in December of 2011 when we moved to Waco, and I literally just hit the ground, day one, and show up on a job site at Habitat for Humanity with a tool belt and my own hammer, and just this desire to do whatever they needed me to do. Rewind the tape back to when I'm 11 years old and my granddad throws me on a rock crusher in the middle of his parking lot and says, "All right. Here's how you control this beast of a machine," at 11 years old. "Go forward, go backwards, crush all this rock in the parking lot and that'll get us ready for the next job of pouring concrete."
Fast forward back to that moment at Habitat, and the first thing they ask me to do was, "Have you ever been on a ditch witch?" I'm like, "No, but I'm absolutely confident to do it, because you know what, my granddad threw me on a rock crusher when I was 11 and I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but I did it. So you bet, put me on there." So day one, literally. I don't know anybody there. It's cold in Waco at this time. The volunteers at Baylor, they're all at home for Christmas vacation and so there really weren't that many people out there, so they're looking at me and they're going, "Hey, will you jump on here and do this?" I was like, "Sure." I'm backing this thing off a trailer. I don't know how in the heck to drive it. I don't know, but I just in that moment, I'm in my little 11 year old head going, "Well, if my granddad says I can do it, I can do it." You know?
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Clint Harp: So that's what I started doing and I just volunteered, day in and day out. The new year came and Kelly started her master's. That's just kind of what we got into doing. She was doing her master's, I was volunteering. We put the kids in a mother's day out program and that was only like a few days a week or something like that, two or three days a week. Hudson was inching close to that kindergarten age where that was going to have to start becoming a reality. We were living off of the little bit of savings that we had. We had a 401K with my old job that I cashed out of completely. I took the tax hit and everything, the penalty, and said screw it, I need the money. That's what we were living off of. It was dwindling fast. It was dwindling very, very fast.
It was at this point where, when we lived in Waco before the money was dwindling like super fast or anything, but it was definitely dwindling we had been invited over to this couple's house, James and Adrianna. Kelly knew Adrianna back in college and was friends with her and whatnot. So they kind of connected again when we moved back to Waco. They said, "Will you come over for dinner?" We're like, "Sure, great." So we go over to their house for dinner and as you do when you're sitting with a couple, you talk about what are you doing. At some point, the husbands kind of break away and, "So how's work? What are you doing?" He asked me the question that of course you're going to ask, and I say, "Well, I'm volunteering right now, but eventually I'd like to build furniture." That was kind of the dream.
By the way, to all those entrepreneurs out there, that is I think, one of the most important things for you to do is to keep vocalizing that dream, even though it seems totally stupid. Like you're telling this other guy, who has a good job, who owns a house, who has all the things that you need to have, and you're like, "Yeah, I'm volunteering for Habitat. Eventually I want to build furniture." It sounds really stupid, but keep saying it. Keep talking about it and keep vocalizing it.
So anyways, I tell him and he's like, "Well, so do you have a shop yet or are you… how's that going to work?" I was like, "I don't have a shop yet. I hope to find one when I kind of have a need to do it, because right now I don't have any clients." We were living, by the way, in an apartment next to campus. I didn't have a garage anymore. I didn't have anywhere to build out of. He said, "Well, I'll tell you what. When it's time for you to find a shop here in Waco, you should call a friend of mine that I used to work with. he's a great guy and he knows a lot of folks here in town, and his name is Chip. Chip Gaines." I was like, "Okay." I have no idea who this guy is. I don't know anything about it, I don't know anything about the company that this guy apparently owns called Magnolia. I know nothing. This, by the way, there was no show at this point. No hint of a show.
James McKinney: He was just a guy in town.
Clint Harp: Just a guy in town, right, who hustled and worked really, really hard. That was it. So I thought okay, great, sounds good, give me his number. A couple days later, I reached back out to the guy and said, "Hey, I'd love to give that guy a call. Can you send me his number?" He sends me his number, super nice. I call this guy Chip and left him a message, and just said, "Hey, this is what I'm doing." Again, here I am. I'm vocalizing my truth. I'm vocalizing my dream. I'm saying this is what I'm doing. "I'm here in town, essentially I don't know you from Adam's housecat, but I'm going to just tell you what it is. And what it is, I'm volunteering for Habitat and eventually I want to build furniture, and I'm going to need a shop one day. A friend of mine that knows you, a guy that I just met really who's actually your friend James, told me to call you." Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was one of those, I joke about this, but really and truly it was a long message. Kind of one of those where you're just like-
James McKinney: Those really uncomfortable ones?
Clint Harp: yeah, it was just like gosh.
James McKinney: Where you're fully committed and you're like okay, I can't just end it now that's even more weird. What do I do? I'm going to keep going.
Clint Harp: You're hoping that lady who says, "If you're satisfied with this message, press 1." She did not show up that day. So I was stuck with it, so I just left it there. It was hanging out in the voicemail universe. That was it. I never heard back from him. It was just like okay, done.
I went back to volunteering. I was showing up, Monday through Friday. I was seeing a house built from literally the ground up. I jumped on this one project with them when it was literally, we were digging trenches, and now it was an actual thing so that was neat to be a part of and to be working with my hands. I was out there… it was funny, I was working one day and the director was there, kind of checking on everything. He looked up at me. I'm on a ladder and I had been volunteering now for probably two or three months, whatever. It was kind of becoming a thing like who is this guy? Like this guy's kind of around and he's just here. What does he do?
John is the director at the time. He's a dear friend of mine now, and it totally makes sense that he asked this question, because he's just like not afraid to ask the question. So he just looked up to me and he goes, "So do you just have like a trust fund or something? Are you just independently wealthy?" I almost fell off the ladder. I was just like oh my gosh, yeah, if you only knew. Definitely not, man, for sure not. But I get why you're asking. You would think that I did, because what the heck am I doing here every day? Y'all are not paying me. This doesn't make any sense. But it felt like that's what I website supposed to do.
Through that time, we would continue to dream about stuff. Kelly had this dream of buying another house one day and flipping it. Like I said, we talked about moving to Austin or the hill country and doing that. We had done that before in our married life, whether that was in Houston or when we had money or Dallas when we had a little money. We didn't buy houses as investments and not live in them. We would buy the house, live in it, flip it, and then one day we'd need to sell it and make a little money on it. So we had some experience there. So she's always kind of wanted to do that. She found this house in Waco. It was like this pink house and she dreamed about this thing. She's like, "I want to like buy this thing." I was like, "How in the heck are we going to… Not possible, but sure, why not. I'm up for dreaming."
We've now been in Waco for four months or whatever it is. The bottom sort of drops out. All I can think to do that day, when I just realize it, kind of like it was a slow progression, like finally realizing just music was not going to be it. This was probably more of an actual day than any other kind of thing that I had gone through. This was I remember a day where it was like okay, this was really stupid. I drove to that pink house. That sort of representation of the audacity of our dreams and our personalities, and the whole journey we were on. I drove there and I sat in the driveway and I called Kelly crying and said, "Listen, I made a mistake. This was stupid. I need to go find a job." She said, "You know what, our mentor always said when you feel lost, you just don't know which way to turn, go back to the thing that you love the most and that makes the most sense, that you're most passionate about, and that was our family." So she said, "Let's go to the park with the kids." I was like, "That sounds insane, but okay." I need to go look for a job. I was crying and everything, but I was like okay, that's fine, let's go to the park.
I'm telling you this because it's funny how it all works out. When I was in college, I interned with a ministry in college, or I volunteered. When I was a senior, I actually interned and stayed at this house in the suburbs of Waco, and it was right next to this school that the ministry kind of worked the most with those students and whatnot. So I stayed in this house when I was in college. Well, fast forward to this moment. When she said, "Let's go to the park," there's an entry to that park that was literally like the driveway that I parked in every day when I lived in that house, so that's where I went in that moment. I just instinctively thought, "All right, I'll go over here to this park and that's where we'll go."
So we go there, we get out, and we play with the kids for awhile. Then we get back in the car, and it's like, "Okay, time to leave." I don't know, we had nothing to do, but it was just like enough playing, let's leave now. There was no reason, in other words. It was just all right, let's go. We get in the car and I turn the car on, and the light comes on saying you need to get gas. I was like oh brother. In fact, it was actually on I believe when we're on the way to the park and I ignored it, but then when I got back in the car, now it's on and it's like-
James McKinney: It's screaming at you.
Clint Harp: Yeah, nothing else to do, we're just leaving so it's like all right, let's just go get gas. And there at this place and the gas station that made the most sense to me from where I was, was this gas station next to this grocery store. I go to this gas station next to the grocery store where I wouldn't have gone had I been across the town at another park. You know what I'm saying? That's why that's important. I went to this one because it was kind of close in relation to that park. I sat there and I was filling up my tank with gas, and as the tank was filling up this black truck pulled in front of me and it said Magnolia on the side. I've told this story a thousand times, and every time I tell it, it always gives me chills to a degree. Not because my savior pulled up.
James McKinney: Yeah, of course.
Clint Harp: It's because I'm never at that gas station pumping gas if it's not for this wild, insane journey that I was on in the first place. And that guy pulling up in that black truck, he's never at that gas station if it's not for the wild and insane journey he was on as well.
James McKinney: Oh man. Oh wow.
Clint Harp: And we both ended up there at the same time. There was a whole back story leading to that moment. So this truck parks on the other side of the pump as me. In other words, we're about to both be entering into the next chapter of our lives, you know what I'm saying?
James McKinney: Yes, yes.
Clint Harp: We just don't even really know it. I told Kelly, "That's the company that guy that I called and left that message with." She's like, "Yeah, I think so." So I get out and I start. I say, "Hello, my name's Clint." He parks literally on the other side of the same pump as me, so it's like okay, I've got to talk to this guy. I said, "I was calling looking for this guy Chip," and blah, blah, blah. He stops and he goes, "Oh, I'm actually him. I'm that guy. I'm Chip Gaines." I'm like, "Oh, great." That was the moment. That was like there it is. This very nonchalant, just sitting at a gas station. You think you've made all the mistakes that you've possibly made in the world that you could make, and this car pulls up, and you just go sure. Or your wife just says, "I want to go back and get my master's. " you know what I mean?
James McKinney: Yes, yes.
Clint Harp: These are the moments. It's like there's not like fireworks going off everywhere and crazy. It's just like you're depressed, you're sad, you feel like you're a total idiot, and somebody pulls up in a truck next to you at a gas station and you start talking. There's your life changing moment. You know? It was from there, later that afternoon Chip and I started driving around in his truck, and just talking to each other. He invited me over to his shop and we drove around for three hours that day, just kind of dreaming and talking and all this stuff. Then they invited us over for dinner a couple nights later and we went over and talked, and that's the first time I met Joanna. Me and Kelly, and Chip and Jo sat there and we talked. Joanna literally asked me that night, "If I just sketched out a few designs on a piece of paper, could you build it?" Which was literally like what defined-
James McKinney: Your relationship and what everyone knows of your relationship.
Clint Harp: Yes, that's exactly right. That was it. It was all based on her taking a piece of paper and sketching out a little simple idea or whatever, and then letting me run with it. That was it. Even that, again, a very nonchalant moment. Neither one of us had any idea that would be such a like-
James McKinney: So huge, so pivotal.
Clint Harp: Yeah, such a big part of that show would be just that, that little simple scene. Obviously, the show was Chip and Jo, man, I'm clear on that, but that little part neither one of us had any idea that was going to be such a pivotal moment like you said. It was, and we had no idea at that moment.
James McKinney: I have to ask, because you were crying in front of the pink house. You called your wife, wrapping it up, this is it, I was dumb, I'm going to get a job. She said, "You know what, let's collect as a family because that's our place together, that's what is right, the center of our world." Within some period of time later on the same day, you're at a gas station with Chip, driving around for three hours. In that truck ride, was there any part of your mind thinking, "Okay, if only we had met six months earlier I wouldn't be thinking about wrapping it up now," or was there a bit of hope at that point?"
Clint Harp: There was a bit of hope. There was also a bit of man I wish I had met you six months ago. But Chip, I've got to say one of the things about him is that he is someone that can kind of stir up excitement and hope, and create something where there isn't. Create an energy. He comes with his own energy. It's like that musician has their own tune, whatever. Chip has his own energy that he's meant to give to the world. When he is in that sweet spot of his life, I think he's doing just some of the most amazing things because he really is good at that, where it's like, "Man, let's do it, let's go." He's going to make it happen. I love that about him.
That was the feeling in that car is like I don't know why I'm in this truck with this perfect stranger, talking about this stuff. And he's talking about his wife Jo Jo. Like who calls their wife Jo Jo? I'm thinking all these things, like who is this guy? Who is this Jo Jo person? They do what? They flip houses? They're also building houses? She sells home goods out of their living room, what? You're trying to wrap… because at that point, they definitely had a budding enterprise if you will. It was definitely Waco centric for the most part. There were some, when she did her sales out of her living room, there were people that came from outside of Waco, but for the most part what they were doing, it was there in Waco, and local.
It was hard even then to kind of sort of wrap your head around okay, wow. Y'all got a lot going on. That's just sort of them. They're good at that. They have the shoulders to hand it and to carry that burden. They're really, they're good at it. So I was taking all of that in. sort of also, sorry to have a little bit of a pity moment, but you also kind of as an entrepreneur how can you not feel also a little bit like self pity in that moment too, like I wish I was this guy.
James McKinney: Why not me.
Clint Harp: yeah, why not me. Why am I not sitting here telling the story of I've got this, and I've got this project and that project. All I've got is I'm volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. That's all I got, you know? Which is amazing. I love volunteering, but that's not… it obviously wasn't supposed to be the rest of my story forever. That was like the thing I was supposed to do at that moment. That's all I had. What's that movie, I think it was the girl from Friends and they're going back to their high school reunion?
James McKinney: Oh, Michelle and Romy, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.
Clint Harp: Yeah, they're like on their way to the high school reunion, they're trying to figure out what it is that they… what's the story that we're going to tell. They make up something about post-it notes or something, some crazy story. Because that's like, we all want to have that and I didn't have any of that, James. It's like I'm volunteering. Here's my dream, and this is what I'd like to do, but I've got nothing right now.
James McKinney: So in that space though, and again everyone listening knows the Fixer Upper, how the show plays out. But even in the build up to the show being picked up, it got so dark for you.
Clint Harp: Yeah, yep.
James McKinney: That you, again, you had submitted a pilot and you were part of the pilot. Chip and Jo, now you guys are friends. You were key for them in this, personally. You're waiting to hear, or Jo and Chip are waiting to hear about the pilot and it's not picked up yet. There's still, in the midst of this, you and Kelly are having a conversation that I probably need to get a job.
Clint Harp: It was happening even before then. I think I wrote this in the book. I'm literally on the set of the pilot, being filmed so there are camera crews. There are PA's and just fun things happening, people running around and all this crazy stuff. And I'm literally over on the side looking on my phone, seeing if someone has replied to my job application. Like for real. This is a legitimate thing. I even had a conversation with Joanna at one point, telling her, "Hey, I'm just giving you a heads up. I don't know where all this is headed, but I can tell you where I'm headed is probably going to find a job. Just giving you a heads up, because I just don't know if I can do this anymore. Just as a friend and being a part of all this, I don't know. You need to know. I'm trying to hang on here, but I don't think I'm going to be able to."
James McKinney: I think why that's so compelling for the entrepreneurs listening, whatever stage of entrepreneurship you're in, or even if you're reluctant and you're thinking about it, you don't know what the future holds in that. Again, you're on set with TV crew and cameras. There's so much. You can dream about what it can possibly be, but the reality is still a reality. You've got to provide for the family. Why didn't you wrap it up right there?
Clint Harp: Because I got told no.
James McKinney: By who?
Clint Harp: The people I was applying for.
James McKinney: Oh. Because of the employment rejection-
Clint Harp: 100%.
James McKinney: … oh man, that is divine intervention right there.
Clint Harp: Yeah. It's not because I was like, "No, I'm going for this dream." No, I just kept being told no. I was literally knocking on doors, man. I definitely wrote about this in the book. I actually applied to be the director of Habitat for Humanity in Waco. That came up as an opening, because my friend John who was the director, he decided he was going to be retiring, and he kind of gave me that inside info. At this point, I'm renting the shop from him for $25 a month. All those scenes that were filmed with Fixer Upper, that was in that shop, that little $25 a month shop that I was renting from Habitat. He kind of let me in on some inside information that it was like, "Hey, I'm going to be stepping down soon." I was like, "Wait, so the directorship is going to be open?" He's like, "Yeah, you should apply for it if you want to do it." I was gung ho, man. I was like okay. This, James, to take it even a step further, this was a moment where I was like ah, so this is what it was all about. I was-
James McKinney: You started piecing everything together as though the directorship of Habitat was why all this journey was leading up to.
Clint Harp: Yes. It was like oh, okay. And I started to see how I'm going to be the director of Habitat, and I'm going to start a program where, with the houses that we build, with all the extra construction materials lying around, we're going to build tables to put into the house.
James McKinney: Oh man, oh man.
Clint Harp: Like it all, I was like oh.
James McKinney: It got real for you.
Clint Harp: Yes. I mean I was like this is it. I went to a restaurant with Kelly and her mom, a Mexican restaurant here in town. I remember sitting there over chips and salsa talking about this, and it was like I was fired up. It was happening. All of this, it was for this. And I was stoked. It was going to be a worldwide revolution within Habitat for Humanity, and they said no.
James McKinney: Man.
Clint Harp: I mean, I didn't get a… I got like an email back saying, "Thank you so much," or a phone call or something saying, "Hey, thank you," but I never even got an interview. It was just like I applied, no.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness. I'll be in the moment you were just so incredibly defeated. You had, just gut wrenching, but now sitting here with the journey you've been on over the last it would have been six years now, there's a bit of you that's just like man, it's amazing how short sighted we can be as humans, to think that was it, right? Yeah.
Clint Harp: Yeah. I fought like crazy to get out of it, to just say this was really stupid.
James McKinney: That is unbelievable.
Clint Harp: It just didn't work out.
James McKinney: And you know what's funny, when you talk about Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen and all the musical greats, had they not done what they were intended to do, the world would have missed out. It's funny. Had you been given any of those other opportunities, the world would have missed out on what you've brought to it with Harp Design Co., Fixer Upper, Handcrafted which the show is wonderful, but I think your book Handcrafted, and for those again I hope every listener gets it. That book Handcrafted will speak to so many people and give so many people incredible hope. It is an amazing book.
Clint Harp: thank you so much.
James McKinney: It meant a lot to me reading it because, like I said, I feel like our journeys are so closely tied in the way it plays out. More than any other person that I've met, just man, that's where we were and that's where we were. I would love to put on a timeline map to see how it played out. But one of the things, and again-
Clint Harp: Thank you, by the way, thank you so much. That's so kind.
James McKinney: I absolutely mean it. Again, listeners I'm going to keep saying it, if you're hoping for Fixer Upper stories, this is not the podcast for you. This is about Clint's startup story. But one of the things that I ask every founder that I get on the show, because I'm a firm believer in it, and that is looking back on your journey, who were the people that you point to and you think of with such immense gratitude because of how they played such a key part in your story. The reason I ask that is I'm a firm believer that if at any point in time we start believing that where we are and our successes are singular, based on our own effort, we are doomed for failure. It is within that community and that tribe, and that support system that happens. So who do you look back and think, "I am here because of these shoulders that I stood on." Who are those people for you?
Clint Harp: I am being 100% as candid as I possibly can be right now. It would be a whole other podcast, and I'm not saying it because it sounds good. I mean it, James, from the bottom of my heart. There are so many people along the way that I could look at and go he did this. She did that. My mom was here for me in this moment. My dad was here for me in this moment. My stepdad, my stepmom. There are stories that aren't fun with my family, and I've told some of those in the book. And there's pain just like any other family and all that. But I can find it even though there was divorce and pain, and things that I had to work through in my own life later on down the road. I can look at it and go thank you. I can see that.
My granddad, for putting me on a rock crusher at 11 years old. For making sure I mowed the lawn a certain way and for allowing me to clean up around the job sites, which allowed me to just sort of like watch and take in what he was doing, even though I couldn't really do it yet. I could at least watch it. For my youth minister Allen, for showing me what it was like. Although he was the leader of the whole thing, he would take us on a mission trip. He would be in the trenches with us, cleaning up a dirty house in some impoverished neighborhood. So seeing servant leadership, him actually doing the work with us. To my other youth minister Joe, who gave me a shot at leading worship for the first time as an eleventh grader, and said, "If you can learn some music, I'll give you, yeah absolutely. You can do it, no problem." So I went, I got my mom's guitar, and we drove to the beach that summer. I practiced in the back of our van, song after song, and learned a few songs. Went back to Joe after vacation and said, "Okay, I learned a few songs," and he gave me a chance. From there, I went on and did music.
For Eugene, who he and his dad who paid for a plane ticket for me to come out here and check out Baylor for that first time when I didn't have money to come out and check it out. For Larry who gave me a check for $500 the day before I left for college. I cleaned his offices. Larry gave me a check for $500 the night before I left for college, and it was with that $500 that I bought my books. I had no idea how I was going to get my books. For the pastor at the church that I went to who gave me his Datsun B210, his 1981 orange Datsun B210 and that was the car that I drove out to Baylor, and that would get me to the places that I needed to go. I mean, it's all of those. It's just story after story after story, and of course I haven't even gotten to my wife. My mentor, all the different mentors that I've had.
My wife is a whole separate podcast in the list, in the collection of podcasts of people you would thank, she'd be a whole separate one, do you know what I mean? It's just really and truly I can look at all of this. Of course, Chip and Jo. It's crazy, because I firmly believe that you maybe look at it and go if you're a musician, this guy put a guitar in my hands for the first time. But who drove you to the lessons? Who bought you that set of strings when they broke? I bet you talked to musicians and they'd have five different answers for those questions. "Well, my mom took me to practice. My granddad bought me my set of strings. My uncle gave me my first guitar." A lot of times, that's how that happens. And each person, if they had not done their job, their role, we may not have Bruce Springsteen. We may not have Chris Martin or Johnny Cash or whoever.
So it's a long list, James. It's a long list, and it's one I'm so thankful for.
James McKinney: That's awesome. That's incredible. What a great example you've set for the listeners on just how deep that gratitude bench can go, and that perspective we should have, so thank you for that. As we wrap up our time with you on The Startup Story, we have people listening right now that maybe have just had defeat after defeat, failure after failure. Or maybe they have started a venture and just, it's constantly frustrating for them and they can't get anywhere with it. Or maybe they're just super skeptical of their own ability to pull something off. What do you say to those people that are listening right now, and hearing your story? What do you say to them?
Clint Harp: Oh man. Don't give up seems so like cliched. It sounds so not enough. But it's funny. I listen to this one guy on his podcast a while back, and he said sometimes it's cliche and everything because it's really important. It is a cliche because it's actually very, very important. I would say don't give up. I would also say don't be afraid to give up, which I know sounds crazy. But I had to walk away from music at some point so that the other things would become reality. I wanted to be a lawyer at one point. I had to give that up. Don't be afraid to say I'm going to look stupid when I let this go, because so many people in my life I have presented this narrative to them that this is the direction for me, this is who I'm going to become. Don't be afraid to say goodbye to that person for how you might look because of that. I think a lot of people are hanging on to that thing because their parents paid for them to go to this thing and that college or whatever.
I mean gosh, the movie Rudy for crying out loud. In the end, Rudy's talking to the guy who it's like his dad, he's there because his dad was a football player. He has to do it, but he did not want to do it. Rudy wanted to do it more than anything. Didn't have the body, the muscles, the legacy, the anything, the pedigree, nothing. And this guy had all of it, but didn't want to be there. He was… he saw no way out. He saw no way of saying, "Dad, I don't want to play football at Notre Dame. I know you did, I know your dad did and et cetera. I don't want to do it." And that was that turning point in the movie at the end, when somebody had to sit out and it was that guy who sat out and said, "You know what, you play in my place, Rudy." What an amazing thing, you know?
So to me, I think we have to be okay in our own skin and not afraid to look totally stupid and ridiculous to people, and even if it means that they're disappointed in us, like I can't believe you don't want to become an engineer after we spent all of that money. I never wanted to be an engineer in the first place, mom. I was just doing it because I thought that was what I was supposed to do, but really I just want to write a book. I want to be an author. I do it all the time. I'm going to write books, and you never even know it. I don't talk to you about it, but that's what I do, I write books. You know? I write things in a journal, I'm always writing, and I don't care about engineering.
That's a hard conversation to have. It's really hard, especially when you've gone all the way through to the point of college or even employment, and now you're 35, 40, 45 and it's like this is going to be really embarrassing or I'm going to make some people upset, but you've got to be able to say, "This is not me, this is not what I want to do," and be okay with going, "This is something I actually did think I want to do, but that's not it, and I've got to put it down because this other thing is the thing I want to do."
James McKinney: And you just keep going.
Clint Harp: And keep going.
James McKinney: I really could have sat with Clint for many more hours. This is why I love The Startup Story. There are so many podcast, vloggers, authors, and Instagrammers that preach about upside of entrepreneurship. The problem is it's an incomplete message. Yes, being an entrepreneur brings incredible opportunities, but it also brings tremendous challenges. Now, I'm not suggesting that challenges should deter you from moving forward, but please do not think all it takes is just hustle to make it happen.
The Startup Story shares the journey that most are unaware of. Stories like Clint's where he drained his 401K and maxed out his credit card, and was frozen with fear while crying outside of a vacant house. Stories where an entrepreneur calls their spouse to call it quits, and even stories where they are on the brink of quitting but then meets some that changes their trajectory completely and forever. The entrepreneurial journey is not linear, and there's no one size fits all form to entrepreneurship. Do not opt out of pursuing your own venture because media sites tell you that you're an imposter if you're not all in on your startup. There's not one way to do this.
Clint's story paints a great picture of what it's like to be fulfilled, even when all hope seems absent. It shows us how important it is to lean on those closest to us for support and encouragement, and Clint's story shows us how important it is to choose our adventure wisely. Had he held on to his music dreams too long, he would have missed out on the incredible journey that his life took him. When I think of Clint's startup story, I am reminded about what he said he would have re titled his book: It's not about the furniture. Many times, our entrepreneurial journey is simply about the journey. If you want to hear more of Clint's story, please visit HarpDesignCo.com/startupstory and get a copy of his book. I promise you won't regret it. I would also like to ask you that you follow all Clint's social media accounts and Harp Design Co.'s accounts. Our show notes will have all the links that you need to all of his social posts. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so please show Clint some support and help spread the word about Harp Design Co.
And now, for my personal ask. The Startup Story community has been so incredible with sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We are a startup and the most powerful way you can support The Startup Story podcast is to leave a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory.co. Share The Startup Story on your social media, either with a link or a screenshot. Make sure you tag or mention us @TheStartupStory.co so we can see your help and say thank you for it.
Lastly, share the podcast on your LinkedIn profile. The Startup Story is for entrepreneurs, so please do not underestimate the power of sharing The Startup Story on your LinkedIn profile so other entrepreneurs can discover us. In fact, most people struggle to share good content on LinkedIn anyways, so if you want to support The Startup Story then search for The Startup Story company page, follow us, and share our posts to help encourage other founders and spread the word about the podcast. Every single founder has a story, and the startup stories we bring you every week can encourage and inspire another founder. It might just be what they needed to hear to keep moving forward on their dreams. I look forward to sharing these stories every Tuesday with hopes to inspire you to start YOUR story.