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Closing the Loop - Dan Shafer

Warren Miller

Dan Shafer’s life changed during a single week five years ago. At the beginning of the week, he was a motivated and successful salesman for a well-known truck manufacturer. On Wednesday, he was given an award in California for being one of the company’s top five salesmen.

On Friday, all five of the top salesmen – including Dan – were told that their services were no longer required.

Dan is the son of missionaries who had lived all over the world, and Dan himself served in the military before going into the trucking industry. It was a background that had equipped him to handle change. But when he was fired, he was at a loss about what to do next.

“My better half says to me, ‘I’ll give you 72 hours to be as upset as you want to be. But sometime in the 73rd hour, you need to have a plan as to what we’re going to do when we grow up.’”

Dan didn’t see getting a sales job with another truck manufacturer. Instead, he dreamed about a long piece of bamboo with cuts in it that six-inch clay flower pots would fit into.

“At 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning one day, I woke up and realized that a bamboo plat holder would work.” He made a few flower pot holders and took them to arts markets around Florida. He sold every one.

That was the start of Bamboo Creations. Dan and his wife Carel make the holders entirely by hand, and travel to arts markets in the eastern U.S. to sell them.

“We’ve made great friends who we get to see regularly,” Dan says. “I don’t see demand for this product slowing down.”

But harvesting and working with bamboo is physically demanding work. So is the travel. So Dan will have decisions to make.

“Do I fear change, or do I want to embrace it? I think that whatever I do will always be related to selling.”



Warren Miller is a writer and financial executive who lives near St. Augustine, Florida.