Not Your Usual Path to Success

Success can sometimes come in the most unconventional ways.

Sharon Barnes owns the new and very successful Dexter business, That Cabinet Company. Hers is a one-in-a-million story of how a passion grew and took on a life of its own until she had no choice but to make it a business.

“Well, I never planned on starting a cabinet company,” says Sharon. “I’m actually an engineer by trade. I’ve been in the automotive field for 36 years.”

As a side gig to exercise her engineering acuity, Sharon began investing in real estate in 2009. She bought old houses, renovated the properties, and sold them. Flipping houses appealed to her, and she kept at it all the while remaining an automotive engineer.

That Cabinet Company is located at 7200 Huron River Dr, Dexter.

The turning point came in 2018 when Sharon obtained a wholesale account for windows, siding, and cabinets to improve the bottom line in her real estate endeavors. As Sharon networked with other investors, they admired her work and prices, wanting both for their remodels. Things moved fast, and she was soon inundated with requests to design kitchens and supply the cabinets.

“I swear half of them didn’t even know my name,” laughs Sharon. “I would get calls through the week with people asking, ‘Are you the Cabinet Lady?’ I just started replying, ‘Yep. I’m the Cabinet Lady.’”

For the automotive engineer, demand continued to snowball in her side gig. The contractors installing Sharon’s cabinets for investors began calling her for their other jobs. One Servpro restoration franchise head discovered Sharon’s cabinets, telling her, “Prices keep going up, and we’re having trouble with the supply.”

In 2020, Sharon got sent home like a lot of folks. “My job as an engineer was basically testing the inside of vehicles. So, when I got sent home like all the other engineers, I had about three hours of meetings a week with nothing else to do.”

“We beat IKEA’s prices, and their product is particle board. Ours is wood,” says Sharon pointing to the preferred dovetail joints used her cabinets.

Sometimes things just work out, and they did for Sharon. Her wholesale business was exploding. People were required to stay at home. People who built kitchens were considered essential workers. “My phone was ringing like crazy,” says Sharon. “I was working until two or three in the morning. I just couldn’t keep up.”

“From a conversation with my son, I decided to make my wholesale business an actual company,” she explains. “We received cabinets from about seven different companies overseas, and we chose the ones we liked.”

She ordered a shipping container full of cabinets, which created the next problem.

“Okay, now that we placed the order, I have to find a place to put them,” says Sharon. “Nothing about this business was preplanned. I was making decisions by thinking, ‘This is the right thing to do. Let’s do it.’”

Once she started purchasing sizeable lots of cabinets, all the middlemen (distributors to wholesalers to dealers) were out of the equation with their cut. She undercut her competitors’ prices with a better product. The savings were passed on to the customer. Customers could save thousands on new kitchen cabinets through Sharon.

“It truly upsets me when people come in, and they’re thousands of dollars over where they need to be,” says Sharon with sudden passion. “I will never upsell someone. In fact, I’ll down-sell them if it makes more sense for what they want. I will deter them from spending more money than they need to.”

“I’m a terrible salesperson,” she laughs.

That’s debatable. That Cabinet Company has yet to advertise in any way, shape, or form. Check these numbers:

  • 2018 – $76,000 in sales
  • 2019 – $147,000
  • 2020 – $476,000
  • 2021 – $1.1 million

So far, in 2022, they’ve already surpassed last year’s sales figure. And get this, Sharon left the automotive industry just two months ago. Up until then, That Cabinet Company had been her side business.

Demand has the company working to expand its current facility to 32,000 square feet.

How does Sharon explain her success?

“First, I’m an engineer. Quality is number one. It’s quality, quality, quality,” she emphasizes by tapping her finger on the counter with each word. “So that’s what I deliver. Second, I’m a real estate investor, so I’m always looking for the best quality I can get for the lowest price. And third, I’m a woman and know what women want.”

That Cabinet Company now employs nine full-time and two part-time employees. Sharon loves the business more than ever.

“I know we’re doing something right because I care about the customer, and we do it right,” concludes Sharon. “It’s a wild ride, and I’m not willing to stop yet.”

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