Name: Michael Thiem
Name of business: T5 Customs
Gift Store Item: Laser-etched Turtle Tumblers
Location of business: Stuart, Florida
How was your business founded?
I started my business in January of 2005 with very little knowledge of the things I do now. After being laid off from a good paying job with very short notice, I decided to take the leap of faith and open my own business. I had extensive background in plastic fabrication, scale models and prototypes and product design and development, so I borrowed money against my house, bought the equipment I needed (only what I could afford) and rented some space. It was scary at first and I worked many long nights and weekends. Having a family with three young children and all that goes with it, I had to succeed to provide for them. That was my motivating force. Success is earned through hard work and dedication to your goal... there are no shortcuts. After a few short years I purchased my first laser engraving machine and taught myself how to use it. Very soon, I was creating new products for my customers and creating lots of new exciting things. I engraved everything from cutting boards and coffee cups to guns and rocks. I found some new direction! I now have six lasers of different kinds for different applications and I still love doing it. I also do small label digital print and specialize in small labels for fishing rods, lures and warning and safety labels for equipment and manufacturers of many different types of products.
What was the inspiration?
My inspiration for the more recent boards I have been making with shell inlays and sea turtle and marine life designs was inspired by my love for the sea and the beauty and diversity it brings to our lives. I wanted to create natural products that could be used functionally but also would bring art, design and color into the home. I also have a long history with the sea and Juno Beach. My parents met on the original Juno Beach Pier around 1960 while fishing. My mother had caught a large snook and it was wrapped around a piling. My dad, a fearless young angler, climbed down the piling in his bare feet and freed the fish so she could catch it. They have been inseparable ever since, and they still go fishing together almost 60 years later. Some of my fondest young years were spent fishing on that same pier and walking with my grandmother on the beaches - even spending many hours with her dear friend Eleanor Fletcher, aka “The Turtle Lady,” marking nests and watching the turtles lay their eggs. I guess you could truly say I love the sea because it is a part of me.
What was the initial response to the designs?
The first shell inlay cutting board I made was the sea turtle of course - and everyone I showed it to was absolutely astonished and the beauty of the shells inlaid into the woodgrain. They all said “I want one!” I have made a number of other designs on different blocks and boards and the response from friends and customers has been astounding to say the least. This is a part of T5 that I am very excited to nurture and grow into perhaps an entirely new business, and one I personally enjoy the most.
Tell us about your product and what separates it from similar products?
All of the wood that I use in the cutting boards is renewable. Whether it is acacia, bamboo or teak, it is all farm raised and replanted year after year on the same land to preserve our environment. I also personally have a hand in each piece and everything is made here in my production shop in Stuart. These products will never be mass produced in an offshore factory somewhere like many of the products out there. I love what I do, have a passion for sharing that with others and try very hard to reflect that in all of my work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard when it comes to chasing your dreams?
The journey to your dreams always starts from within. We all have gifts, passions, hopes and fears within us, but often it is fear that holds us back from finding out who we truly are and what we can do. Don’t let fear take you down the broad road of failure. If you’re going to fail, fail forward doing something you love and are passionate about. Success is a journey, not a destination, so don’t be afraid to try.
What do you love about your work?
My work is creative and the only boundaries are those that I set myself. I also enjoy sharing what I do with others and helping them get excited about their own possibilities and ideas. Sometimes if I am fortunate, I get to be the spark that starts a creative fire for someone else. There is truly no better feeling.
Where do you find ideas for the designs?
Nature. That is as simple as it gets. This earth is the greatest gift that we could ever have and the joy it brings me every day to be part of it, to see it in every detail, is where my inspiration is born. The sun, the sea, the sky and all the amazing creatures are here, and all we have to do is appreciate it.