The History of Sevenfold Home
Sevenfold Home is celebrating their 23rd anniversary this year! In light of the excitement, I sat down with the company’s owner, Michael Davison, to learn all about him and how this company started. In this blog, we will learn about the person who started it all, his motivations, and the history of Sevenfold Home.
Meet the Owners
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Michael moved to the West Coast at a very young age. Growing up against the chaotic counterculture in the 60’s and 70’s, it was a tumultuous time for many families and he recalls his family experiencing a fair share of chaos. As he looks back, Michael notes that he was interested in a lot of things but like many of his peers, he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a career. He started college at UCLA and after migrating to north to the bay area, he finished his degree in music at San Francisco State University. He specifically notes studying foreign language and mathematics, but he felt mathematics would be “too dry” for his artistic nature; Hence the music degree.
He met his now wife and co-owner of Sevenfold Home, Nisha, while in college. They both attended San Francisco State and often saw each other at a local restaurant where Nisha worked. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that they officially met and began dating. Michael happened to bump into Nisha outside a Macy’s in a remote part of town and struck up a conversation.
While reminiscing he said, “She was unlike anyone I had ever been with. In the best way possible.”
Their original courtship was short-lived, but a strong bond and friendship remained. Post college, Michael moved up to Oregon, having plans to teach English overseas and Nisha moved back to Thailand to be with her family. After some time and many unique circumstances, life brought them back together and they married in 1990.
Michael never planned to be a business owner, let alone own a wholesale linen business. However, at a young age, Michael got a taste of sales which he believes may have helped him later on his journey to becoming a business owner.
At age 15, Michael was offered to tag along on a sales trip through town with a family friend. Going door-to-door, selling household goods, Michael began to learn how to sell with a personable demeanor and build relationships with everyone he met. He also felt that learning how to hear “no” and not be discouraged was very important. After about a year of sales, Michael felt it was time to end that phase and move on. He began working in restaurants and hotels to support himself through college: doing everything from workhorse jobs like serving to back-of-house positions, like accounting.
When Michael moved to Oregon, he worked for a local restaurant in Portland. He left his position there for a new opportunity with a small franchise. This position started as an outside sales job, but in time grew to operating the franchise. This position gave him the opportunity to home-in on his sales techniques and learn how to speak with vendors.
He said, “In hindsight, working for a very small business was a big opportunity because you can make yourself very valuable to the owner by taking responsibility for more things than in a larger business.”
In 1997, soon after Michael and Nisha’s son was born, the owner of the franchise experienced some personal setbacks that began to affect the business. Michael was scared because he did not know what would happen next. He felt that “necessity became the mother of invention” and with some encouragement, he decided to start a business. Knowing he would need help, he chose to visit the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, to get some help.
Creating a Company
SCORE is a federal, non-profit mentorship program where retirees help and advise those who own or wish to start a small business. At the facility, Michael found the needed resources and more – his inspiration.
Michael had the idea to acquire products and be a supplier for other companies, or as he would say, become the middle man. Upon learning more about Michael and Nisha, one of the retirees pointed out they had a strong connection in Thailand because of Nisha’s family. This opened many opportunities for them. Michael consulted with trade federations to ensure he followed all the rules of conducting business properly. Then, he and Nisha set out to find their products.
With help from family, research and many catalogs, they settled on linens – bed sheets, towels, robes, etc. Michael had not yet made the connection to his earlier jobs in hotels, however, that would sink in later. Now that he had his products selected, Michael put together samples and officially created Pan Im-Ex Pacific.
Trials and Tribulations
With his samples and newly named company, Michael set off to this first convention in New York City. He met many existing wholesalers, and got valuable advice. However, the trip yielded no sales. Feeling a bit discouraged, he set for home, knowing he would need to think creatively. Then it hit him – why not try speaking directly with a local hotel?
Michael approached the Governor Hotel, now known as the Sentinel Hotel, with high hopes. After speaking with the manager at the time, he got his first order! He even remembers that she ordered robes! This first order lit the fire the company needed and now Michael had his customer base.
The company grew rapidly over the next three years. Unfortunately, the bubble burst, more commonly known as the dot-com crash, in 2000 and the infamous event of 2001, created major challenges to this new company still working to gain traction in the industry. Although it was a bumpy road, things began to turn around in 2003. The following year proved to nerve-racking, but became rewarding, with a consistent growth to follow. The recession in 2008 posed many new challenges, as customers and vendors alike were forced to restructure or down-size their business.
Over the next several years, Michael worked tirelessly to keep the company afloat and maintain positive relations. Since the vendors were in this period of restructure, they were requiring larger order quantities. This meant that Michael and Nisha would have to decide to either trim their stock and hope for the best, or take a risk and continue order items – and at larger quantities than normal. Michael and Nisha made the unorthodox decision to take that risk, not knowing if and when the items would sell.
Although slow going, the business conditions eventually stabilized. Looking back, Michael realizes that many companies “followed the rules” and trimmed their stock, but ended up closing or taking much bigger hits than they did. He is thankful that he and Nisha made the tough decision to take the risk instead, and especially thankful that their results were fortunate.
What “Family Owned and Operated” Means to Sevenfold
Nisha was and always has been a very integral part of the company. Michael notes that in many ways, her positive attitude, constant encouragement, undying support, and high expectations became reasons for the company’s success. While busy with their son, she was still a part of all the executive decisions, filled orders, and invoiced customers. She and Michael had to make many business trips with their son in tow. Michael laughed remembering how people loved meeting his son, and he knows he wouldn’t have it any other way. When his son got older, he helped with data entry in the office.
Being a family owned and operated company, Michael was torn when considering hiring someone to help with the company. However, even with help from Nisha, and the bits from his son, Michael was doing the work of three people. He did his own bookkeeping, all the sales and customer service, and the extra bits of office work that were needed to maintain the company. He was falling into a habit that many entrepreneurs do: clinging to a self-led, independent ideal and overworking himself. Michael’s health and happiness declined as he developed poor sleeping and eating habits and reached an unhealthy weight.
In 2016, Michael finally dragged himself – “kicking and screaming,” as he would say – to a staffing agency to hopefully find someone to help. He ended up hiring Demi, our now Operations Manager. When speaking with Demi, she remembers thinking the job would not be permanent and was hesitant to take the job. What started as a small office assistant role, blossomed into a crucial part of the business. Michael felt an immense sense of relief and began to focus on his health while still maintaining a strong role within the company.
A Fresh Start
With Demi now on board, one of her first objectives was to push the company into the 21st century; They needed a modernized website. Michael and Nisha felt hesitant based on the amount of work that goes into it, as well as the marketing aspect that follows. After much deliberation, the team decided to take it to the pros.
Upon enlisting a marketing team, it soon became the consensus that the company needed to re-brand. Michael had never felt tied to the name and felt compelled to make a positive change. He remembers the experience being fun and exciting; He enjoyed the collaborative nature of the process and hearing advice from people in a different area of expertise.
Pan Im-Ex Pacific, also known as Pan Pacific Lotus, became Sevenfold Home. While the name had changed and the brand had been developed, the mission, ideals, and vision remained. Michael feels that the name and look now in place is the best fit for the company. Something that once seemed daunting, turned out to be a thrilling and joyous experience.
Michael’s Advice to Entrepreneurs
Looking back on the history of Sevenfold Home, Michael feels that his favorite part of the company has been the relationships he gained. Family has always been an important pillar of the company. Gaining a work-family as an extension of his own, came as a welcomed blessing.
When asked why he wanted to start the company, he says “I never would have done this for myself. I did it for my wife and for my son. The desire to provide for them was a huge motivator and galvanized me into action.”
Throughout this reflection process, he notes that he didn’t do things in a traditional way. Business is often overlooked as a creative outlet. Instead, people assume that it starts with a bright idea for a new product or way to do things. And in turn, people view the fine arts as the only path for creativity. When Michael started the business, he did not have a business degree, nor did he analyze the market or have a business plan. He created the company out of necessity. He accomplished his success inch by inch with his creativity consistently influencing his choices. However, he feels no regrets from the journey.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, he offers the following advice. Be willing to be a little unorthodox and to go against the grain. Sometimes what worked in the past or for someone else, isn’t what will work for you. See your business venture as a creative outlet. Also, be sure to buy accounting software and teach yourself how to use it. Knowing how to read and properly tend to the finances is very important. Having the software from the get-go will save you a lot of time and stress. Lastly, from “Field of Dreams” Michael offers this, “If you build it, they will come.”