In our continuing series on Leaders & Influencers, we talk with Amelia Baxter, president and co-founder of WholeTrees Architecture & Structures, a company that re-brands round timber for urban and commercial environments in place of steel. Their work is included in the new Festival Foods grocery store, now under construction on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue, Madison.
Tell us about WholeTrees.
WholeTrees is an eight-year-old company that brings the power of trees into buildings, opening high-value construction markets for an underutilized natural resource (small trees). We are a proprietary products company with high-margin, competitively priced natural timber structural systems in the fastest growing segment of the structural systems market. Our software and IP enable a sustainable competitive advantage and will allow our acquirer to scale globally the use of small trees in engineered structural building systems.
I co-founded the company with Roald Gundersen, AIA, to encourage more sustainable forest management by carving new markets for forest management waste. I have a passion for nature and our role as humans in nature, and I believe we need economic solutions that work for our buildings, our sense of beauty, and our interconnection to our ecosystems.
What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?
Entrepreneurs need access to capital, but they also need early adopters for their products. I’d like to see Wisconsin commit to purchasing from early-stage companies, driving demand, while assisting in beta development.
What book do you think every aspiring entrepreneur should read and why?
The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of its Footprint Chronicles, draw on the their 40 years’ experience at Patagonia–and knowledge of current efforts by other companies–to articulate the elements of responsible business for our time.
What do you find most interesting and rewarding in your position as president at WholeTrees?
I am fascinated by the way little building blocks of daily excellence come together over years to build a new company. I am enjoying that the many, many mistakes we’ve made as we innovate and discover do not necessarily knock down our previous building blocks of growth, but teach us new ways to build upwards. I am rewarded by a growing number of people who are delighted with the feel of our product in buildings, and the way in which everyone—from the media to passers-by on the street—picks up on our message of interdependence with forests and grooves on it.
Visit Fine Point Consulting for more information about the great tools and services we use to help organizations like WholeTrees succeed.