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A furniture biz starts from scrap

A head injury turned Carlos Salgado into an entrepreneur.

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(Fortune Small Business) -- Some people need a kick in the pants before they change course. For Carlos Salgado, 41, it took a knock on the head.

In 1998, the art handler and sculptor was working at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York City. One moment he was disassembling a 400-pound steel sculpture by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi; the next he was lying on the floor. Part of the massive artwork had fallen on his head.

Healing was a slow process. Fighting his workers' comp case was an even slower one. Salgado was relegated to his couch, where he found himself devouring books on furniture design and mulling a career change.

By the time he'd healed from the accident, an entrepreneur was born. Salgado got together with fabricator Bart Bettencourt. Together they hatched a plan: Turn salvaged scraps into sophisticated furniture.

The partners called their fledgling company Scrapile. In 2003 they unveiled their laminated-wood creations at two design shows before they even had a business plan. When orders started piling up, they had to develop an efficient production strategy, and fast.

"Our initial products were too labor-intensive," Salgado recalls. Advice from fellow artisans streamlined their method for assembling scraps into large planks.

Last year Scrapile brought in $80,000 in revenues. Now the company hopes to expand by repurposing waste streams from manufacturers of crystal, ceramics and glass.

The Future Perfect, a design store in Brooklyn, has carried Salgado and Bettencourt's furniture since the beginning. Owner David Alhadeff is impressed with the company's evolution so far.

"They have gone from offering a simple form made out of very beautiful material to making one-of-a-kind, gallery-worthy objects," he says.  To top of page

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