For Brett Marcuson and Paul Hvidsten, playing the guitar was just another thing they learned along with tying their shoes. This early start to playing guitar began their strong passion for music, leading both Brett and Paul to pursue jobs at various local music shops as well as take part in the Yamaha Guitars Rosewood Dealer program in Japan in China in 2009. Paul also earned his Luthiery Certificate, a certificate that qualifies him as a professional maker and repairer of guitars. Because of these experiences in the industry, combined with their passion for the instrument, Brett and Paul knew they had what it takes to pursue their ideas and open a shop of their own. It wasn’t until 2014, however, that Brett and Paul decided to come together and open Flatland Guitar and Lutherie.
“It was a matter of what we knew, what we knew how to do, and what we wanted to do. We just wanted to create an avenue where we could keep doing that,” said Paul.
The only thing that was holding Brett and Paul back from this leap was financing. In hopes of finding additional capital, Brett and Paul worked with SCORE—a guidance association that seeks to assist small businesses with attaining the financing they need to pursue their dreams. SCORE informed the two co-founders about the ILP loan program offered by Dakota Business Lending, which provides financing to small businesses in need of working capital, equipment, inventory, and real estate with a low down payment, fixed interest rate, and a 5-15 year term. After learning more about this program, Brett and Paul knew that this was their next step in making their dreams come true.
“Within our first few meetings, it was pretty easy to see that this was going to be the best route. For us, it was something that was just a no-brainer. It worked out really well.”
So, Brett and Paul decided to move forward.
“Our experience with Dakota Business Lending was great. It was an easy process and everyone was so willing to help us out and work with us throughout the process,” Paul said gratefully. “It made the initial jump a lot easier than it may have felt right away.”
Flatland Guitar and Lutherie seeks to provide a wide range of inventory from as simple as parents purchasing their child’s first guitar to professional musicians. At the start, their primary focus is on providing acoustic guitars and repair opportunities to their customers—something that sets them apart from their other competitors. However, as time went on and success began to build, Flatland Guitar and Lutherie expanded their inventory and now carry a large selection of electric guitars, amps, and effects as well. With a strong focus on being customer-orientated, Flatland Guitar and Lutherie built their entire shop around a vision for high quality inventory and an extensive repair shop in order to provide customers with a place to come in, browse a large selection of guitars and accessories, talk “shop” with other guitar experts, try out their products, or bring in their own for a repair by experts if needed. Other than this, Brett and Paul’s plan was just to see where it takes them, let it grow, and do what they’re able to do from there. “It’s worked pretty well for us so far,” Paul said with a smile. And their success throughout the past 4 years confirms that testimony.
Flatland Guitar and Lutherie thrived even shortly after opening, thanks to the ILP loan program.
“The funding that we got made it possible for us to open up,” explained Paul. “We didn’t start out with a real high budget, but this funding helped us get the initial push through we needed to get up and running.”
Because of their success, Brett and Paul started looking for ways in which they could expand the business and keep up with the space demand needed. It was then that they decided to reach back out to Dakota Business Lending in hopes of re-doing their first loan. With this second loan, they were able to move Flatland Guitar and Lutherie to a larger, more accommodating location that gave the more visibility and parking space and brought in many new faces. In addition, the new facility was also much friendlier for the instruments.
The guitars need to be kept at a certain climate.” Paul explained. “We have to try to keep a certain humidity level for the instruments and this new place really allows us to do that.”
Today, Flatland Guitar and Lutherie operates out of the larger location on 25th Street in Fargo, ND. While they specialize in acoustic guitars and other folk instruments, they also serve as a full service repair shop and Taylor warranty center. By offering these features, they have been able to differentiate their shop from their competition and remain ahead in the market. Flatland Guitar and Lutherie choose the brands they carry wisely, ensuring that they can sell the best products available. Some of these brands include Ernie Ball, Elixer, D’addario, L.R. Baggs, and Seymour Duncan, in addition to Taylor and Yamaha being their primary inventory. All of this has helped Flatland Guitar and Lutherie provide a fun, unique, and fulfilling musical to every person that walks in the door. Despite the various challenges and obstacles Brett and Paul faced, they are more than happy with the success of their business have no regrets in their small business journey so far.
“I love having the luxury to enjoy my job every day,” Paul added, “It’s a tough journey, but it’s definitely worth it.”