A Year Later - Interview with Myself, John Leschak, Owner of SecondMoonshot

It has been over a year since I interviewed myself and thought it was time for a follow-up. John was such a compelling host, I felt so comfortable with him that I was excited to see what kind of curve balls he would throw at me. If you missed the first interview, you can find it here.

John: Welcome back, John! I can honestly say our first interview was fascinating and the best one on my hosting career to date.

JOHN: Ditto! I just feel so comfortable with you, it makes me just want to dig deep and share.

John: OK, let’s jump right in. How is the progress on the beard?

JOHN: I knew you would start off with the elephant in the room. Anyone would tell you your kinda cute…in a homeless boxcar-jumping vagrant kind of way.

John: Focus please.

JOHN: Right…sorry. Growth rate has slowed down quite a bit, but would say we are at perhaps 65% of goal.

John: Last we spoke, you were an eBay seller doing some Custom Framing, now your a Custom Framer doing eBay selling, what happened?

JOHN: So a couple things happened which caused the transition. First, I like the framing more than I like the eBay selling, so continuing with my drive to always do what I enjoy [the most], decided that I wanted to focus on the framing and less on the eBay selling. I still do a good bit of eBay work, although probably half of it is consignment selling on a referral basis.

Second, I met Bill Edwards! Bill was the owner of Edwards Reproductions at Lake Royale and was a custom framer ready to retire. He was selling all of his equipment and supplies, so I bought the lot. He also gave me some spot training sharing his knowledge and wholesaler connections. The equipment was older, but that doesn’t bother me as it was all in good working condition and I am a big fan of vintage tooling. Everything worked and got some good professional grade equipment which pretty much rounds out the full toolset needed.

John: What sets SecondMoonshot apart from brick and mortar or online framing options?

JOHN: That’s a great question. I mean custom frame shops are not exactly a growing market. Well, maybe growing in the online space, but it’s a shrinking business in the retail space.

Custom Framing in general has a well deserved reputation of being pricey, not necessarily unfounded. I can compete effectively on pricing by keeping my overhead low yet still prove high-quality workmanship. Retail space is expensive and by avoiding this cost and opting for a non-traditional model of small design centers, I can keep my overhead more than half of competitors.

While no custom framer can compete with a ready-made frame from big craft or Walmart-type stores where customer can just drop a print in and hang for standard sized prints, the value comes with quality materials, focus on conservation and preservation of the works, and having a large array on options to make it unique and best compliment the work. I guarantee satisfaction and offer lifetime maintenance and repairs for the cost of materials and a small flat service fee. I do not just throw options at the customer trying to get the greatest profit or a big sale, but work closely with the customer to come up with a cost effective solutions that meets their budget and is appropriate for the pieces, exceeding expectations.

I am a low-volume shop and rely heavily on referrals for new business. I can scale easily from economy simple solutions, to preservation gallery-level solutions, to complex object mounting. Being low-volume allows me to give each project my full focus.

I also do house calls and free pickup / delivery. I like visiting the location where the pieces will reside as it lets me take in the environment and prove better recommendations based on the surroundings. More often than not I end up hanging the pictures on delivery (also free of charge).

John: What attracts you so much to Custom Framing?

JOHN: One part is building something with my hands and having that product on display in someone’s home or business. Custom Framing has such a wide area of problems that need to be solved based on what needs to be framed so I find myself constantly seeking solutions and learning in the process…I love both of these aspects and have a strong set of skills to build on.

[goes off on a tangent] In my previous corporate job, I was miserable at work. When COVID hit and I had to work at home, I struggled heavily and was frequently side tracked. In the early days as a computer programmer, I had the same passion that I have now and would work excessively…somewhere over the last 25 years, I lost that when I moved into management and leadership roles. I enjoyed the leadership aspects in general very much, however, I had lost all respect for most of the corporate leadership and their out of whack values. 

Now I have found something that allows me to be creative and learn….on MY terms. I treat customers the way I would like to be treated, make house calls and pickup/delivery, hang pictures just for the asking, and if any customer isn’t satisfied then they don’t pay or I will redo it. I really want to make a change to the traditional model where people think custom framing has to be so expensive…it doesn’t.

John: Can you provide a few examples of “Learning” areas in Custom Framing?

JOHN: Sure. I am working on some skills related to doing French Mats where you do painted bevels, watercolor washes, ruling pen lines, and marbled paper. These work well with older works. Also recently have been working with fabric covered mats. These interest me as I can offer them for fair prices as I am not as driven like other frame shops to get top dollar by the hour or special works, so can make these options more affordable for pretty much anyone and provide a unique one-of-a-kind result. Not as driven by what some might say “what is your time worth!?”…I look at it as I have an opportunity to be creative and don’t need to charge so much for it. I also did my first sports jersey recently and it seems every new framing project has some aspect which is new.

John: Tell us how your SecondMoonshot 2023 plans worked out and what’s in store for 2024.

JOHN: As expected, I have outgrown the storage units and actually up to 3 storage units, covering approximately 900 sq ft, and it is pretty packed. I have just signed a lease for an 1850 sq ft conditioned warehouse in Rolesville, NC centrally located in downtown area, right across the street from a new outdoor mall area called Cobblestone Village. The price was great and couldn’t pass it up. I can’t run a retail business out of it, but that’s where the small design centers fit in. This will allow me to centralize the cars, framing workshop, eBay inventory, books and pictures all into one location (as well as setup a social space within).  Kevin and Rick Eddins are some of the nicest people and do business with the same ethics and values as SecondMoonshot, a good partnership.

The other part of the plan was to establish a retail presence. A few things materialized which will get me started, more a small design center approach. The first one is a rented office at the One Man’s Treasure Auction and 102 W Nash Antique Store - this opened up in mid-2023. Next was a new relationship at recently opened The Makery which is a shared artist workspace and will also have an area which will provide framing samples and design center - I expect to have this open in mid-October 2023. What I like about this is that it will set the foundation for a stronger relationship with local artist and not as much interested in having a traditional retail business….staying more on referral and low-volume.

I was thinking I would have a need for my first employee in 2023, but this will likely move over to 2024, at which time I will also transition the business to an LLC.

John: And any more clarity on the 5 year plan?

JOHN: Most of the [loose] plan is still the same. Thinking more about employees down the road, I have decided I will take an approach which which will focus on providing an opportunity to a few people who need to build some skills in a trade, whether it be eBay selling or Custom Framing or something else I have to offer. It would be a good problem to have if I hired an employee that needed a boost or direction, could take what I can offer in skills and training and exceed what I have done and build something even greater. Yeah, that sounds pretty fun to me.  

John: I see you driving around in an Xterra, what’s with that.

JOHN: I picked up the 2006 Nissan Xterra as a gift from my sister. The catch was that I had to fly out to Colorado and drive it back....with turned out to be another gift more than a catch. She works for the National Forest Service and Zabrina and I both flew out and spent a week hiking and camping...wow, just a spectacular vacation. After that, Zabrina flew back and I hit the road taking portions of Route 66 along the way. Other than for gas and food, I didn't spend a dime....her husband told me about this Overlander app on the iPhone which will point you to free places to camp across the country. I spent one night in a small town park, one night at an Archery club, and the last night at rest area on the last leg as there just wasn't much to be had on the east coast along my route. I didn't mess with any tents and just slept in the back which was very spacious and easy. 

Other than the Porsches, I didn't have a good vehicle to use for auctions, estate sales and framing delivery, so having an SUV hit the mark.  Purchases some custom side magnets and voila, the SecondMoonshot-mobile. 

Thanks Pam and Tom!

John: You’re all over the place on your advertising, any specific direction?

JOHN: Yeah, kind of fumbling my way though it. My oldest daughter helps me with the branding and graphic design, but admittedly, I am less than savvy on working with social media. Primarily I get customers on a referral basis and through my Google Business Profile which largely is impacted by reviews. This blog is an outlet mostly as the primary web site for now and I provide most updates here and direct prospective customers here to view the online portfolio.

To a large extent, my overall direction right now is trial and error, see what work and what doesn't, again…I like the learning and hands-on aspect of it. Facebook has yielded a few customers as well as the Google Business Profile. Yelp was a bust and was a bit pricy so dropped that after a month. I do some indirect posting to Instagram though the FaceBook integration and starting to also keep an online portfolio in parallel on Pintrest. But I have not really investigated how to use those platforms and not really driven to do that as do not feel they will have a significant impact on local business as much as the ones I am working on now.

John: Tell us about Faith.

JOHN: Last year, one of your Speed Questions was “Biggest fear” and my response was one of my children dying before I do. In October of 2022, Mitchell Faith passed away.

I thought I could talk more about this, but I don’t think I am ready yet…I broke down just getting there few thoughts out. She is missed and no day or hour goes by that her family doesn’t think about her. 

John: Speed questions:

Are you still happy? I enjoy what I do immensely, I am happy to have those I love in my life, I hurt daily. 

What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t want to grow up.

Best Vacation? Hawaii, where we also discovered Brother Iz. Life changing vacation.

Favorite Hotel? Ritz (especially if I don’t have to pay), if paying, the hotel next to the Ritz.

Favorite part of your day? Nap time.

A few of your favorite restaurants? Shorty’s Hot Dogs, Chic-fil-A, Arby’s, Tacos El Primo (Sanford), a few special taco food trucks.

John: Any last words?

JOHN: We miss you Faith.


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