Door Desk — A Startup’s Best Friend

Starting a business is a constant struggle between the dream that lives in your mind and what you have the time, budget, and team to create. For Freefly, the perfect example of this tension was our quest to create the most efficient workstation.

History

5 years ago we were working in the upstairs of my Mom’s garage. She had moved to Florida and left the place vacant so we decided to rent it out to give Freefly a home. Everything was so uncertain at the time; we were transitioning from being a fully service based company with Freefly Cinema to dipping our toes into selling products for the first time. We cleared out the garage and started laying grand plans for our “Freefly Headquarters.” Right away, we realized we needed desks and work stations. We had CAD and design work to do; we needed to build prototypes; and we needed to assemble, ship, and handle inventory.

We quickly realized we needed a workstation that checked quite a few boxes:

  • Modular
  • Rolled (we constantly move everything around)
  • Scalable (we needed some standing height, some sitting, some with akro bins)
  • Cheap (startups are always strapped for cash)
  • Short lead time (we needed to add stations quickly and easily as we grew)
  • Good style / feel

David and I spend pretty much every night of our life scouring the internet looking for solutions to the problems our business faces….so we pointed our efforts at desks. We found lots of options that were commercially available that looked nice, but the price was shocking and the build quality left something to be desired. They looked sterile, cold, and lacked character. About this time, I stumbled upon a blog post from an Amazon employee who mentioned that all the early Amazon desks were made out of doors. Immediately, I knew this was the solution for us.

We love finding and solving problems in an unconventional way at Freefly. We love spending 1/10th as much as other companies might and ending up with a better solution. It’s this defiance and quest for efficiency in our culture that drives us to constantly reimagine industry solutions.

V1 Desk — (dirt cheap, ultra simple)

The first desk we built was very similar to the same ones you will find in Freefly today. It’s comprised of a solid core door top, 4×4 legs, and casters. You can see the full bill of materials with links here:

V1 Desk Bill of Materials

The V1 desk design served us well as we grew the company from 4 people in a garage to over 50 in our current warehouse. We ended up building hundreds of them, in all types of variants to solve certain problems along the way. Just recently, we embarked on a version 2 design which addressed a few of the deficiencies in the first design:

  1. Tables sagged over time
  2. Raw wood table tops were difficult to clean (but looked great)
  3. V1 casters were ugly and less stable than we liked
  4. Strong tie brackets looked less polished than we hoped

V2 Desk — (refined, but more expensive)

We mocked up a prototype, showcased to the team, and with everybody onboard set out upgrading all V1 desk to V2.

V2 Desk Bill of Materials

The V2 Desk solution featured:

  • Laminate wood top
  • Steel tube to cure table sag
  • Higher end casters
  • Powder Coated strong tie brackets

We ended up with some variants.

Standing Table

Sitting Table

L-Desk

Akro Table

Double Decker

In the end, this created a desk which is rigid, robust, and makes you feel great sitting at it. It’s easy to move all over the warehouse, and can be adapted to just about any use case. We get many comments from people that visit Freefly asking where we got our desks and workstations, and it’s a point of pride for me and the team that we solved this problem in a way that showcases our ingenuity and tenacity. It feels great to take a handful of readily available materials and put them together in a way that solves a problem elegantly.
If you want to check out the desks firsthand we are in Woodinville, WA….and if you think you should be sitting at one helping us create products that redefine the world of cinematography shoot us an email at [email protected]

Future

The work on the version 2 desk inspired us to take a crack at a display table for our products…I am proud of the solution we came up with for that project as well and will talk about it more in an upcoming post…