Hoschton entrepreneur Joel Gephart is among the finalists in the design category of the Martha Stewart American Made competition, which had its online voting begin Monday.
When his job went away due to cutbacks in the economic downturn, he ventured into business on his own to take control of his own destiny. He had moved his family south in 2007 to escape the Northeast’s hustle and bustle, and the family settled in Hoschton.
His company, Railhookz LLC, hand-crafts an innovative line of deck accessories that attach to the uprights of a deck railing to enhance outdoor living spaces, and the design resulted from efforts to enhance his own family deck with hanging baskets, bird feeders, tiki torches, shepherd’s hooks and umbrella holders.
Gephart’s Christmas present in 2012 was the patent for Railhookz LLC’s universal clamp — several of which can be seen on the new and expanded deck at the Hoschton Depot, one of the venues for this week’s Hoschton Fall Festival.
Railhookz has donated several of the universal clamps, which will used to provide additional shaded areas on the deck for the popular festival and other future events and activities at the depot.
The depot was restored after an arson fire earlier this year. No arrests have yet been made in the case. But a reward is still being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage to the popular building, which Mayor Theresa Kenerly has called “the heart of Hoschton.” The arson hotline is 1-800-282-5804.
Martha Stewart’s American Made spotlights innovators, supports locals and celebrates handmade. Those who have turned their passion for quality craftsmanship and well-designed goods into a way of life are the nominees for the annual American Made contest.
Railhookz is American-made since 2012, and the Gephart family, including wife Shelly and children Jace and Cooper, gets involved in the production efforts that take place in the family home, as does the inventory and shipping.
It’s also a family affair when traveling the eastern United States to reach Railhookz’s market at home and craft shows.
The freedom of being entrepreneurs and homeschooling their children matches the couple’s sentiments.
“We are inspired by independence, nature, the beauty in simplicity and the love of travel,” said Gephart in his profile for the American Made competition. “Starting our own business provides independence, the opportunity to be purposeful in a simple life which then has provided us the means to spend time in nature and travel with our kids. Our kids understand the process of metal bending, welding, finish work, assembling and boxing orders … we can see the pride in their eyes. Watching the entrepreneurial spirit come alive in their eyes buts the pride in our eyes. We are inspired every day.”
The Martha Stewart American Made website, where you can see all the 2015 nominees, says, “We believe we are in the midst of a shift in our culture where creative entrepreneurs are defining a new American economy … Our country’s makers are sparking this change by taking a leap, banking on their creativity and craftsmanship, and living their version of the American dream.”
Winners in the contest will be announced Oct. 23. Railhookz is competing in the Garden & Outdoor Living subcategory for growers, nurseries, garden tools, garden accessories and sustainable gardening products.
The judges will be considering innovation, originality and creativity, workmanship and craftsmanship, customer appeal and embodiment of the American Made theme.