Small business success story: Saltwell Designs LLC

Nestled amongst fields of farmland in Gallatin County lies a woodworking haven known as Saltwell Designs. Here, artisanal craftsmanship meets made-to-order furniture, cabinetry and home décor tailored to the desires of each client. From utilitarian purposes or aesthetics, each piece is made to order, down to the last detail.

This venture marks a significant departure from owner Matt Jenkins’ previous career in the mining industry. After nearly two decades in that field, he sought a change, driven by a passion for woodworking that had long been his solace.

“Woodworking was a passionate hobby for me and in an effort to turn what I love to do into something I could do every day, I started Saltwell Designs,” said Jenkins. “I love being able to take material and give it a second life, turn it into something beautiful that will hopefully be used for decades and passed on to the next generation.”

However, transitioning from miner to artisan entrepreneur presented its challenges.

“Knowing all the “ins and outs” of a business was a challenge,” said Jenkins. “I don't have a business background and finding the time to research on how to run a business can be hard but the Workforce and Illinois SBDC at Southeastern Illinois College has been a great resource in helping me find the answers I need.”

Despite the hurdles, the journey of entrepreneurship has been profoundly rewarding for Matt as he has turned his dream into a reality and had the opportunity to meet people he may have not had the chance to otherwise.

His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs combines his own experience with information he learned working with the SBDC. "First, find your local Small Business Development Center. Second, talk to friends that own a small business or research books on business in the industry you specialize in. Third is network, network, network.”

"The SBDC has been able to give me advice, answers, or put me in contact with someone who can,” said Jenkins. “It’s a great resource for someone that is starting a small business or that is already an established business that is looking to grow further. The SBDC is invaluable in many aspects.”

Looking ahead, Saltwell Designs envisions a future steeped in expansion and innovation. "We hope to continue to grow and develop ourselves into a "brand" that is known for quality and uniqueness,” Jenkins said. “And hopefully expand to offer employment for the area and one day have a store front and gallery.”

As Saltwell Designs continues to weave its narrative of craftsmanship and creativity, Jenkins has also worked to carve a niche for himself on social media. From partnering and featuring other craftsmen and women to giving a birds-eye-view of his process and special projects, his videos and posts have been viewed by thousands. He can be followed on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram @saltwelldesigns.

In a world driven by mass production, Saltwell Designs remains a beacon of individuality, where every creation tells a story, and every piece is a testament to the artistry of the human hand.

The WISBDC is a part of the Illinois Small Business Development Center Network which serves as a dynamic, integrated, small business assistance delivery system. The Network's mission is to increase the competitiveness, profitability and growth of Illinois businesses in a global economy. The WISBDC has been developed through a partnership involving the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the college as a service to Illinois small businesses in Gallatin, Hardin, Pope, Saline and White counties and portions of Hamilton, Johnson and Williamson counties. To become a client, set up an appointment, or to learn more about the Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center, email or call 618-252-5400 ext. 2312.