We had the good fortune of connecting with Hillary & Ford Waters and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hillary & Ford, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
We live by the motto “Without great risk there is no great reward.” That doesn’t mean we don’t feel fearful at times or question our abilities or the decisions we are making. Some of what we have done has definitely felt like gambling at times. It just means that we keep going anyway. There have been some really, really hard times but so far, it has had way more benefits than not.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are Ford and Hillary Waters of FMW|FabLab Badass Design, Fabrication & Products. We help small to midsize businesses in the corporate, higher education and hospitality industries to create unique, multi-material architectural elements and furniture in their workspaces to stand out amongst their peers. We have 40 years combined experience between us in commercial design, construction and product fabrication. These skillsets allow us to offer an integrated yet casual approach to niche projects that create big impact, highlighting what makes businesses unique. And we take the process from design all the way to installation to save our clients time and make sure that all aspects of a project are well coordinated. We started our business in our 400 square foot back yard shop with $1000 doing residential furniture projects for any and everyone who would hire us. We didn’t have a business plan, a marketing approach or a client demographic. We barely even had tools. Hillary was still working a fulltime job in the design industry and would for several years after we started our company. Every step of growth we’ve had has come from our own work and money. We finally took our first, small loan ever last year. But by that time, we had already moved and outgrown 5 other fab shops using our own funds. Each level of growth and move has been so hard because we had no outside help. But it also left every single ounce of control in our hands and that has been key to our success. Along the way, I think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves as individuals. We both do things daily now that we had no experience in when we started. We just had to buckle down and figure things out. So when challenges occur (and they do almost daily), it doesn’t feel as intimidating. It’s just a part of who we are now to be comfortable not knowing what comes next. Designing and fabricating custom, one of a kind work is pretty much always like that. Sometimes you have imposter syndrome but most of the time, it’s just another day. We always figure things out. I think what we would want people to know about our brand is that we care so. damn. much about delivering the best possible outcome to our clients. It’s part of our core values. Do more than expected. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. We don’t look for shortcuts.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Y’all, Houston is the BEST. There’s so much to do here and within a 6o mile radius of the city. Here’s a list of our favorite eat/drink spots. (This is going to be long.) Good Dog for the best hot dogs and wings. LOCAL GROUP Brewing for beer, Texas wine, french fries, pimento cheese, and pretty much everything else on their menu. Moontower Inn for the Cash tacos and beer on the patio. CAVO and Xela for coffee. El Tiempo for fajitas and margaritas. Brothers Tacos for breakfast tacos. Pinks Pizza on the University of Houston campus is the best for pizza and 30 beers on tap. Cottonwood, 8th Wonder Brewery and The Truckyard are a blast for a cool, Saturday afternoon. Tout Suite for late night dessert. VooDoo Queen for frozen drinks. Pretty much any local brewery. Hanging out: Sawyer Yards (The Silos, Spring Street, Winter Street) for the biggest collection of studio artists in the country. We had a showroom at The Silos for three years and it was the most incredible experience. The studios are open to the public every Second Saturday. We love 19th Street for quaint, local shopping that’s walkable. We are incredibly lucky to have Galveston so close by for a beach day. We like to spend a couple hours laying in in the sand or crabbing/fishing and then stop at the waterfront seafood market if we still need fresh food for dinner. We have a boat which we store on Lake Conroe. A day on the lake is one of our favorite things. Pre-COVID, we would definitely have taken guests to an Astros or Dynamo game. Also, pre-COVID, the Heights Theater is our favorite live music venue. We love the smaller setting and the performers who come through it. Also, House of Blues. Discovery Green is always a big hit with our nieces and nephews. A drive through River Oaks and Memorial is always fun just to look at the houses and architecture. Specs. No explanation needed.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Wow, so many people. Close friends, family, peers in the industry, brand supporters….I mean there are a ridiculous amount of people who have kept this machine running for the last 8 years. But I guess if we were going to dedicate this shoutout to someone, there are two employees (one current, one former) who have been an integral part of building FMW|FabLab. Russell Lee is our shop lead and has been with us for the last 3 years. If it needs to be done, Russell is usually the one to do it. He has a fantastic work ethic, disposition, attitude and energy level, he has worked his ass off to build his skillset since the day he came to work for us and he is hands down, the most dependable person who has ever been employed at FMW. He is all of these things despite having a lot of personal challenges and works another 20-30 hours a week on side jobs outside of his daily work here. He’s been a huge part of building our client base and company culture. Arturo Barrera left us about a year ago to pursue an advanced degree but was here for 3 years and was our first fulltime employee. He has an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design and helped build our processes and systems not only in the fab shop but also in the design office. We were really spoiled with Arturo. He really set the bar here for all employees following him with his commitment to good design, eye for detail and love and learning.
Kennon Evett Rick Frank