Aaron Matthew recently took time out of his busy schedule running the day-to-day at DangerFox to chat with us about what makes his studio desks so special, where he got the inspiration for their innovative design, and what he has planned for the future of the company.
Tell us a little bit about why you started DangerFox.
I started DangerFox out of my own need, really. I was working as a producer and I needed a desk for my own studio. When I started looking into it, I couldn’t find anything that worked for what I needed in terms of quality matching the price. I was pretty picky, but spending that much money is an investment, and I want to buy a piece of quality furniture.
So, I built my own desk. I built it to fit my needs, with the quality level I wanted. I ended up selling that one a few weeks after I built it because I wanted to build a better one. I threw it up on Craigslist and it sold in three hours. The dude drove up from LA to pick it up the next week.
That really got me thinking that there could be other people out there in my situation. Some of my friends suggested I start a business and I was like “Nah.” I had no desire to be outside of the studio or to start a company. I was really happy with what I was doing and where I was at in my career.
That same week, I had five or six people email me and ask me to build desks for them, too. One of them ended up talking me into starting the business. He said, “You need to start something. You could have a really awesome company because you have a great product.” He ended being our very first DangerFox customer.
So I called my close friend Brad Jackson, who owns a company called Jackson Ampworks. He gave us a bunch of sound advice and helped us build the prototypes. I then bought all the equipment we needed to start the company, and the rest is history.
What do you think makes your Genesis desks so special?
In our industry, we all want to make a good impression on our clients and our peers, we want people to feel like we’re professionals. When people step into your studio, they really see what you're about. They see your gear, your furniture, your environment, and all of those things reflect your professional work habits.
Our desks help people feel like they’ve got the right equipment, like the centerpiece of their studio makes them look and feel like professionals. That really is a big deal. When you have meetings in your studio or invite clients over, you want to make a good impression. And I think having a DangerFox centerpiece in your studio makes that impression. It makes people think that you’re a total pro and that you’re going to turn out a quality product.
When we started working on the design of the desk, we knew we wanted to use the best materials. We didn’t want to compromise on quality, even if it meant our margin would be lower. But we also wanted to keep the price low enough where people could have an amazing centerpiece for their studio without spending a fortune.
We build our desks out of the highest quality Baltic Birch you can find. The structure is extremely solid, there’s no give to the desk. When you’re working on it, it feels solid. You could literally sit on the desk and it’s not going to break. It just feels really sturdy.
And the assembly is really simple. When you open up the box, there are no paper instructions at all. We created a video that walks you through assembling the desk, not because it’s complicated, but to demonstrate how easy it is. Anybody can do it, it takes minimal tools.
We want to take the obstacles out of the everyday life of studio professionals. We want to make desks that are easy, comfortable, and sturdy, but we also want our desks to make you feel inspired to create the best music possible.
Where did you get the inspiration for their unique design?
The first set of legs we built weren’t strong enough to support the desk. The center of gravity made it want to fall forward. We have these decorative side panels that hold up the front and rear shelves of the desk, and when I redesigned the legs, I also redesigned the side panels to match. That’s when the personality of the desk took shape.
To be honest, I was just drawing lines in 2D format, trying to come up with something that was intriguing or different or just a cool shape of some sort. A lot of people have mentioned that the side of the desk looks like a fox head, but I had no intention of that at all. I didn’t even realize it until somebody pointed it out. I would love to say that I was just in a creative space and this great idea just burst into my head, but it was honestly just trial and error with 2D lines.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned since you first started DangerFox back in 2017?
The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting DangerFox is to never make emotional decisions in a business. Separate your emotions from your business decisions. “Respond, and don’t react” is a big key for me.
Running a business isn’t easy. It takes a lot of sacrifices. My life motto, even before I started this business, has always been “big risk, big reward.” When you risk big in what you believe in, most of the time it pays off. Sacrifice and hard work is a part of the reward. They’re not comfortable, but if it was, everybody would be doing it.
We’re almost two years into the business, so we’re still kind of developing our company culture, but I think it reflects my wife and I as owners. It reflects our personality and demeanor.
Regardless of your position, or where you work at in the company, your ideas matter. Your input matters. The way our company and our production line is set up has come with a lot of influence from people who gave their input. We want it to be a team. Your input is valuable. We value you as someone who works for us.
We also like to pay people well. You can do no harm to your company or your employees by paying them well. Investing in people financially will also reap a massive reward. Wherever you give and are generous, your company will benefit from that.
That’s what we’re setting up. When we have 20 or 30 employees, we want people to know that we’re investing in them. We have no interest in shaming people for giving their input. There’s freedom in our company for everybody’s input because it’s all valuable.
What’s a typical day at the office like?
My day always starts with coffee. Every single day. It doesn’t actually start unless that’s happened. After that, I start off with emails and communicating with customers. We like to communicate with our customers all throughout the process of their desk being built—from the moment they order until the day they receive it. That’s really important to us.
When we get to the shop, our focus just really depends on where we are at in the process of fulfilling our orders. Some days, I’m just cutting a bunch of wood. It’s automated pretty well, so there’s a bit of computer work to do even on those days. Every couple of weeks, it feels like we run into a block of time where we just sand parts for days. Fitting legs together, finishing edges, pounding hardware, wrapping bolsters, that’s when the momentum feels like it’s building.
The best feeling is the packaging days, when we’re fitting everything into boxes and sending the desks out to the owners. We have a CrossFit on one side of us and a restaurant and bar on the other side. After lunch the CrossFit place starts bumping music as loud as they can, so we’re dancing a lot in the shop. It’s really a great place to work. We have a lot of fun.
Well, I can only speak from our perspective. For us, it’s the personal touch from start to finish. We have a thing at DangerFox where we refer to each desk by the name of the customer throughout the entire process. So when you order a desk, it actually has your initials on it. We refer to it by name in the shop, like “this is Robert’s desk.”
It’s just that personalized thing. And nobody really knows about it, because it’s our internal process, but every desk that goes through is an honor for us. We’re a two-year-old company, and we feel like we favor with tons of people who trust us to build the centerpiece of their studio. That’s a big deal for us. We take it personally.
What’s in store for the future of DangerFox?
I mean, I could say scaling. “In two years, we want to scale to this or that.” But I think that’s kind of a cookie-cutter answer. I think for us, the future of DangerFox is investing in more people. We have a big, big heart to invest in our city and the people in our city.
There have been opportunities for our company to take manufacturing overseas and get these big accounts, but we’ve declined them because that doesn’t invest in our city. That doesn’t invest in the people of our city, and that’s a big deal for us. We want to be known as someone who’s active in investing and improving our city.
We love to inspire people when they’re in the studio. We want our desks to create an environment that’s inspiring and we want to create more products like that, more products that remove obstacles. The Future of DangerFox looks great from the business standpoint, but we want to think beyond creating another product for revenue—we want to create another product that’s inspiring.