Like many Americans, as of March 2020, Pennsylvanian Rick Kalinowski found himself out of work. While he didn’t plan on making any big career moves, he soon found himself being inspired by some activity in his backyard. One thing led to another — and he took to his garage and produced a strange creation that ended up earning him thousands of dollars.
Meet Rick Kalinowski
If anyone has ever been fortunate, it’s Rick Kalinowski. Not only was he lucky enough to live in a beautiful town like Haverford, Pennsylvania, but he was also blessed with an amazing husband named Brett as well as a creative mind geared towards business excellence.
His years of working for companies and taking orders were long behind him, as he was the founder of two successful businesses. A few years ago, he introduced Pennsylvania to Rick’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling. Not long after, Rick opened up RB Properties 4 You, LLC. Yet even while things were on an upward swing, with business booming for a while, life handed this couple a very unexpected turn of events.
As 2020 dawned, news of the COVID-19 pandemic broke. While it seemed like a foreign concern to begin with, it eventually found its way into Pennsylvania. Rick and the lives of millions of others were soon turned upside down. The state Governor Tom Wolfe released a statement saying that all non-life-sustaining businesses were to be closed until the pandemic’s pace began to slow down.
Rick immediately became anxious from the frightening news. His job was important, but it definitely wasn’t considered life-sustaining. All he could do was relax, rely on savings, and wait for this to blow over. He had no other choice than to spend a lot of time in his backyard from that moment on — and it was there that he noticed something a bit strange.
With his two businesses sitting indefinitely on the backburner and everything closed down, Rick had a lot of free time on his hands, and not many options of things to do. This took him into his backyard more often than ever. He’d kill hours sitting out there and taking in the serenity of his natural surroundings.
While there were always birds and butterflies fluttering about that caught Rick’s attention, one creature definitely stole the show: the squirrels. They’d run up the trees, jump from branch to branch, and some of them were even bold enough to make eye contact with him. He’d even feed them from time to time. After a while, Rick’s brain started working — and he came up with a vision surrounding these little guys.
A Squirrelly Vision
Rick was used to working large construction jobs, and so, for the first two weeks of his time adjusting to a schedule without work, he passed the days by working on crafts and watching squirrels. One day while in his workshop, an idea would spawn for a strange creation that would bring those two worlds together.
While lost in thought, Rick suddenly remembered a photo he had seen some years back of tiny furniture that was designed with squirrels in mind. He looked at what he had at his disposal in his shop, and decided he would recreate the furniture straight from memory. The final product would take him far beyond what his imagination had originally conceived.
Creativity In Quarantine
Rick described the makings of a rather simple creation. He explained, “There were no plans, no drawings. I remembered what it looked like and just built it. Then I screwed it to the fence where I normally feed the squirrels.”
For a while, the squirrels paid no mind to the table. He placed some food on there to tempt them to sit. However, they would simply run up to the table, snatch the food off of it, and eat it elsewhere. Rick was not satisfied with this result — he’d had a vision when he set out with this quirky project. This is when a real game changer came to mind.
Just What The Table Needed
In an effort to actually keep the squirrels at the table, Rick decided to create a little bowl. He glued it to the middle of the table and put some sunflower seeds inside. This was the centerpiece that kept the little guys perched at the table to his liking.
Once his furry friends were actually sitting and feasting at the table, Rick kind of became like the squirrel version of the paparazzi. He’d stand outside for hours and take pictures of the little buggers eating. He’d then post them up in a Facebook group called All About Squirrels. The squirrel pictures were instant hits amid fans of these regal rodents. However, he wasn’t just getting likes and shares from these admirers.
Waking Up To a Surprise
While building his strange creation and taking photos of the squirreltastic activity in his backyard was fun, Rick and Brett had some serious concerns to face. While Rick had some savings put away, it was hardly enough to last him months and months. Meanwhile, hubby Brett was a waiter and had very little savings. It seemed if something didn’t change quickly, their life would fall apart before their eyes.
One morning, Rick saw what was a spark of hope on the horizon. His squirrel table post had gone viral. The people responding were there just to leave him such tremendously encouraging comments, and declaring they wanted to make squirrel tables for their backyards. While some responders would just give instructions on how to build the table themselves, the business-geared side of Rick’s mind awoke.
A Game Changer
Rick recalled the epiphany during an interview. He said, “I was getting lots of friend requests and people sending me messages saying, ‘I love your photo, would you build me one?’” These requests jumped from a handful to 60 in a single day — and that’s precisely when Rick saw a golden business opportunity in these little tables.
Selling them initially for $25 a table, Rick and Brett definitely were able to earn enough to cover their rent and keep their living situation secure for another month. However, Rick didn’t plan on stopping there. He decided to do something that would make his quarantine woes disappear.
Brett’s Big Idea
While Rick was initially fine with just doing the 60 orders for squirrel benches and moving on with life, Brett saw an amazing business opportunity with this wonderfully strange creation. He chimed in with the idea of opening an Etsy shop dedicated to the squirrel tables. They would call the new business venture SquirrellyTreasureCo.
At first, activity was low. However, all it took was 24 little hours and they suddenly were swamped with 400 orders to complete. Rick stated, “It all happened overnight, and it was beyond our wildest dreams. I’m still in disbelief.” There was no time to rest. Brett and Rick had to get to work on more squirrel tables. That said, tables soon proved not to be enough. Rick needed to add to the business.
Expanding The Venture
Rick didn’t want SquirrellyTreasureCo to be a one-trick pony. With that hope in mind, he decided to add a special DIY kit to the Etsy shop. This would give people the fulfilling feeling of being able to construct their own table and getting to add all their own special touches to it.
The DIY kit proved to be a massive success, as half of Rick’s orders were for this kit alone. He described the process behind the DIY kit in an interview: “I predrill it, I give them the screws and parts with nice directions, and it’s a family project that’s perfect for people who are stuck at home right now.” However, knowing that some people would want to be even more independent, he added something even more intense to his shop.
For The Independent At Heart
Some people wouldn’t want the wooden pieces with the holes drilled already in them. Some people wouldn’t even want the wood. They would want to learn how to do everything for themselves — and what better time than being stuck at home during quarantine? With these individuals in mind, for only $7, Rick sold his design plan, instructions, and measurements.
With the community in mind, he donated all of his building plans to schools and other organizations that taught woodshop classes. With each day, Rick and Brett saw more orders rush in. Now that the popularity of these tables exploding, Rick was left questioning his future. It seemed that there would soon be a fork in the road for the squirrel enthusiast.
Before the world was quarantined, Rick was running two businesses, but with the rise of these squirrel tables becoming a hot consumer item, he has found himself at a crossroads. He said in a recent interview, “I have a solid plumbing business, but I’m seriously considering building this.”
It goes without saying that his love and passion for squirrels outfoxes his passion for pipes. He may have just discovered his calling in life due to the social repercussions of COVID-19. He has openly admitted that he has been basking in joy ever since these tables became a part of his life. And his customers are only pushing him down the squirrelly path with what they’re sending him.
The Fruits Of His Labor
One of the most rewarding things to come out of Rick’s squirrel tables endeavor came about a few weeks after sending out his first orders. Rick said during an interview, “Now that the tables are starting to arrive at people’s homes, they’re taking photos and putting them on their Facebook. And that’s exciting for me!”
The sensation that started in that Haverford garage has spread across the entire nation. The photos of those squirrel tables have gone far beyond Facebook and Instagram. They sparked a viral sensation that translated into a means of providing for Rick and his family. Soon enough, he found himself before the cameras and bright lights.
Hitting The Big Time
Rick soon found himself being pulled away from his small town life as he was approached by reporters from major news outlets. He was interviewed by Insider, The Washington Post, and many others. He also became quite the hit on a bunch of different Internet media channels.
However, not everyone was pleased by what was claimed by these news sources. One man took shots at publisher LAD Bible by saying, “He really needs to have that reporter from LAD Bible fix his story. I built many in the past 20 years and I got the idea from a ‘how to’ book before the Internet was even around. I have been selling them for years as well with my other outdoor stuff. This man nor I can take credit for the ‘idea’ it has been around for many years and I mean many.” The angry commenter went on to make even more damning claims.
Who Copied Whom?
The poster took great umbrage with various news organizations listing Rick as the brains behind this strange creation. He alleged: “Frankly, he himself is a copycat. As I was 20 years ago. However I myself have enough brains to tell the world where I got my first idea when I built many myself!”
He further claimed, “The video is sweet but the story by LAD Bible is kind of a low blow to many DIY’ers that have been building these. It was that news story I read today that bugged me. Don’t take credits where credit is not due. Keep up the great work on these types of videos is uplifting for many.” Regardless of the critics, most can all agree that those squirrel tables are uplifting — and a positive way to utilize the time during social distancing.
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