‘Made In Milan’
Furniture maker gives kids a step up
By Steve Short
When you’re feeling small, it’s hard to step up to a challenge.
Roger Stiles is helping young folks overcome that problem.
Mr. Stiles builds customized step stools for young children in his backyard workshop building.
“I love working with wood, and my specialty is creating unique step stools for kids,” said Stiles. “Each stool is individually crafted and inspected by my wife (Debbie) for quality control!”
The stools, usually two steps in height, are made from spruce. They are designed to help children reach the sink, countertop, shelf or toilet. The stools are sold direct and online in different forms – unfinished, stained and hand rubbed with beeswax and oil, or painted.
A retired Milan Express employee, Stiles started making children’s stools and marketing them online in 2015 through the Etsy.com website at stools4kids.com.
He has shipped over 150 stools to customers in the continental U.S, Alaska, Hawaii and Canada.
On the Etsy site, his stools receive the highest 5-star rating and praise from customers.
“Roger custom made our piece, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” said a client. “He was great to work with. I would refer anyone looking for a high quality children’s stool to him.”
“The stool was exactly what I was looking for,” said another customer. “Roger made it look amazing. He had it finished over the weekend! He went above and beyond.”
“Hi Roger, thank you for the stool,” said another. “It is high quality and my daughter loves it. I had tried a couple of others, and they would tip without much effort. I love the sturdy design.”
To make his stools, Stiles uses 1 x 12 spruce boards cut to length at a lumber yard. Each stool takes two or three hours to construct and cost between $40 and $50 plus shipping costs.
“I offer the step stools unfinished, painted, or stained,” said Stiles. “If customers don’t want a chemical stain, I make a natural stain using apple cider vinegar, extra fine steel wool, and coffee grounds. I finish these with hand rubbed beeswax and olive oil. I also do some hand-painted graphic designs and put names on them as requested.”
Some stools are designed from patterns available online. Other stools are custom designed by Stiles to meet particular needs of customers.
“I had one customer send me a picture of a plastic and metal stool she had as a child, and I designed a matching one out of wood,” he said.
Stiles uses several tools to make his stools – a sliding compound miter saw, table saw, jigsaw, band saw, drill press, drum sander, orbital sander, router, and several hand tools.
Why is his business successful? Stiles says he offers a solid product at a reasonable price and provides good customer services.
Working with wood
Stiles began learning woodworking when he was in junior high school and built a professional looking demilune table that is in his home today. “I never did anything with woodworking until the past few years,” he said. “My shop was built several years ago by one of our sons-in-law. I looked into several woodworking ideas – making furniture, etc. – but settled on step stools for children.” He’s also built book cases and storage cabinets for friends and family.
One of Stiles’ most popular stools is a “Get up and Go Potty” stool. It helps small children learn to use a household toilet, a transition that parents welcome enthusiastically.
“(The Go Potty stool) is built using the dimensions of the customer’s toilet, and it fits snugly up against the toilet,” Stiles explained.
Rebecca, the mother of a two-year old, purchased a “Get up and Go Potty” stool from Stiles. She said in a written, online review that the stool was a big help to her daughter.
“I absolutely LOVE this stool!” Rebecca wrote in her review. “We had it made for my 2-year-old daughter, who is on the verge of being potty trained. I looked all over Amazon and other sites, and couldn’t find a stool that I thought was safe and would give my daughter the confidence to climb up onto our toilet. We have tall toilets.
“As soon as I saw these stools, I looked no further!” she added. “Roger upheld wonderful customer service, keeping me informed of the progress throughout. He even checked in with me, once the stool was delivered to make sure everything was ok.
“The stool is sturdy and well made. We had ours painted a soft yellow, and I love the color. It also fits our toilet perfectly and is ready for use! I would definitely recommend this product and will not hesitate to order from him again in the future.”
· Name of company: Stools4Kids.
· Number of employees/shifts: 1
· Location; size of plant: 20’ X 12’ workshop at private residence in Milan
· Owners: Roger and Debbie Stiles
· Date firm started operating in Milan: April 2015
· Products: Handmade wooden step stools for children
(Editor’s note: What are some products that you would like to see included in our Mirror-Exchange “Made In Milan” series? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 731-686-1632.)