Don Ferris started Anvil Bikeworks as a home-based business. Now Anvil is the largest producer of frame-building tooling in the United States. And it still operates from Ferris’ home.
Ferris used to build custom bicycle frames, but when he brought his frames to shows with the frame jigs in the background, “my frames might as well have been made of Plexiglas.”
People asked about the frame jigs, and orders started to come. In 2004, he showed his frames and tooling at Interbike, and that year, the tooling took over his business.
He and his four workers now serve frame builders across the spectrum, building prototype frame jigs for Specialized, Giant, and a number of other big producers. They ship their products around the world.
Ferris attributes Anvil’s success to constant, hard work. He started the business on $10,000 in seed money, and unlike many businesses, “I had to make money in the first year.”
That year is well past, and he sees the seeds of success in the frame builders he serves. The critical factors, he says, are knowing how to run a business and boundless enthusiasm.
“You’ve got to have a passion for the building,” Ferris says.
That passion will generate genuine craftsmanship, Ferris says, and in his experience, Anvil has grown on an increased appreciation of craftsmanship, particularly in the United States.
And as the business has grown Anvil has grown into new challenges. The learning curve recently has included a big software purchase, reprogramming and CNC machines with every new part, and document control to ensure current versions are manufactured.
It’s been four years since Anvil was a one-man frame fixtures shop, and Ferris doesn’t miss having to do everything. A bookkeeper comes in now, and Ferris stays focused on design and proofing the jigs and tooling before it leaves the shop for its trip to somewhere else in the world.