Small Biz: J. Backlund Design crafts cutting-edge axes on North Shore

Small Biz: J. Backlund Design crafts cutting-edge axes on North Shore

August 10th, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

Kevin Maxfield, left, and Bruce Bennett, both co-founders of J. Backlund Design, explain how the Retronix R-800 guitar is different from other models currently in the market at their workshop in North Chattanooga on Wednesday. J. Backlund Design recently started a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to provide more affordable guitars to a wider market.

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

Name: J. Backlund Design

Location: 100 Cherokee Blvd.

Contact information: 423-643-4999, jbacklund.com. The group also has a Kickstarter.com campaign.

Products/services: Handmade, high-end guitars designed to be comfortable and easily playable. Guitars are available for $3,000 to $4,000. But the company plans to begin production of another line of more affordable guitars if they can raise the money needed to expand.

Age: About four years.

Getting started: Founder and guitar craftsman Bruce Bennett has 30 years of experience playing and producing guitars. One day he came across designer John Backlund's sketches online. "I saw the designs online and loved them," he said. Backlund told Bennett he was more than welcome to his designs so long as he made a guitar for the designer. Bennett hung onto the idea and in 2007, started producing the guitars.

Target market: Guitar collectors, professionals and serious players. The wood-bodied guitars pack in a variety of cutting-edge technologies to give artists the best playing experience possible. They have been used by artists such as Joe Walsh, who played a J. Backlund Design guitar on the road with the Eagles.

Biggest hurdle: Finding funding. Bennett and his partner Kevin Maxfield started their business right as the recession began. The economic crunch threw up several walls to the start of production, but the company started gaining traction after displaying their product at several guitar shows.

Looking forward: Company president Steven Lewis said the biggest barrier to the guitars' mass appeal is the price point. They plan to come out with a line of guitars at $995 each, but first need to secure funding. They have started a Kickstarter.com campaign where they solicit reduced-price preorders and donations to get their first round of guitars made. So far they have raised more than $30,000 toward their $75,000 goal.