Small home - big impact
Building a seven-figure business in the tiny-home industry is a big, big, big job — and Ryan Donato is too busy to complain. Instead, he just hands over his cell phone.
He's got 43 text message alerts, 256 missed calls and about 3,000 unread emails. And the work day isn't even half over.
"I've gone as much as seven months without taking a full weekend off. Jeremy's done the same," notes Donato, one of two partners at the Gresham-based Tiny Innovations. "If my guys are here, you'd better believe I'm here too."
Co-founder Jeremy Killian, Donato's cousin by marriage, isn't clocking out when 5 p.m. rolls around either.
"We don't have a clock," he retorts.
The co-founders of Tiny Innovations watch their phones light up at least a half-dozen times during a recent interview at their headquarters in the Clear Creek business park off Northeast Glisan Street and 219th Avenue.
That doesn't include the client texting, emailing or a 90-minute conference call wrapped up moments before. Yet the idea behind the 12-person business was surprisingly simple.
"Why not build somebody a man cave in a box," recalls Donato, half-joking.
But the chic and modern Catalina, Tiny Innovation's flagship model, is anything but dark and cavernous. So if anything remains of that embryonic idea, it's in the lack of wiring. Everything from the indoor and outdoor lights — to music and even TV streaming — can be controlled by voice alone.
"The whole point of the Catalina was to, one, set the standard for our future builds extremely high," explains Donato. "Coming from (a background) as high-end home builders, quality control is our number one."
Roughly 13.5 feet high, 28 feet long and about 8.5 feet across, the Catalina packs 317-square-feet of living area into a ground floor and loft space. The wheel-mounted, triple-axle trailer weighs in at approximately 18,500 pounds, and retails for $140,000.
The miniscule manor uses a Hardie plank exterior and custom-milled, no-gap, tongue and groove cedar on the inside, comments Killian, plus a machine-stamped metal ceiling.
Unlike most roofs, which need flashing or fascia boards to protect the space where roof meets wall, the Catalina's "click-lock" system bridges that gap seamlessly. That allows the structure to weather class-four hurricane winds, Tiny Innovations says.
For now, the Catalina is assembled at the company's 8,900-square-foot facility near the Fairview Parkway exit off Interstate 84.
The co-founders say they love Gresham's business district, where their manufacturers for glass and trailer parts are just a couple miles down the road.
And while they're not located along a row of auto delearships, just the sight of the Catalina draws about 20 to 30 people into Tiny Innovation's parking lot each day. That's given Donato plenty of time to perfect his sales pitch.
"My tiny house is more spacious and has a better layout than (the apartment of) my cousin who's a lawyer in New York and lives in Brooklyn Heights — and pays three grand a month for it," he says.
"People don't need a 30-year mortgage when they could be debt free in 60 months," he continues.
For now, the company is keeping busy by helping other small home builders finish their orders on time. They've also partnered with several major corporate buyers, who need movable showcases for their products and services.
One of Tiny Innovation's roaming contraptions has traveled hundreds of miles this summer touring the continental United States. Another mobile workshop built in Gresham will premier on Facebook's new TV streaming service on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
For now, The Outlook can't reveal those clients' names because of contractual reasons.
Despite the buzz, tiny homes are still a bite-sized business compared with the traditional homebuilding market. In fact, Tiny Innovations estimates that just 50 tiny homes are sold a month in the U.S.
Most players are busy fighting over a slice. The two co-founders are trying to grow the pie.
"We're going to be the Costco of the tiny home industry," predicts Killian. "We'll help a competitor if it means that both companies can benefit. There's just nobody out there like that who has our mindset."