LIVELIHOOD:When did you open your business? Was there anything specific that prompted you to start your business at that moment?
Victor Kragh: I started my business in 2011, nearly two years after my job as an Employment and Training Coordinator with Ulster County ended. As many people were back then, I was collecting long-term unemployment. I had joined the Woodstock Timebank, another alternate means of exchange, and I was doing odd jobs for people related to what I do now to keep busy while looking for a permanent job.
Some of these folks began asking me if I could do more elaborate projects that exceeded the two hours a month I was offering, so I began to see that this might become a viable way to earn a living, and at that point I went off unemployment and started my business. This was a real act of faith because, truthfully, I had no idea how to run a business. I just trusted that the universe was leading me toward something in which I could be of service—a fundamental part of my Aquarian nature—and which also had the potential to fulfill me professionally.
LH: What makes your business unique from competitors?
VK: Honestly, I have no idea how I contrast with other businesses like mine. I’ve never really compared myself to others to know the answer to that question.
What I do know is that it is important to me to deliver the very best quality product to my customers at an affordable price, while doing work that I enjoy. What’s more, I really try to make connections with my customers to help build a sense of community and good will. I need that for myself and I want to offer that to my customers.
If it seems important to the individual customer, I do make an effort to suggest ways to save money and, in all cases, I try to stay conscious of how my product selection, my design, and other aspects of the work will affect the environment.
Because I have made so many friends among the folks who were originally just customers, and because they keep calling me back for work year after year, I figure I must be doing something right, and I feel very good about that.
LH: How would you like to see your business grow?
VK: At first blush I’d say, “I’m not interested in growing my business. I’m happy to be a one-man operation.” Besides that, I’m still learning how to be an entrepreneur. But, taking a second look, I’d have to say that if I ever get out of dreamer mode, I’d like to develop some of my inventions and set up a web-based business, so that I can make some residual income through affiliate sales and coast my way into retirement. And travel. That would be sweet!
LH: What is your favorite part about what you do?
VK: It used to drive me crazy that I was always having to learn how to do new things. It stressed me out. Instead, I wanted to do something in which I could achieve a level of mastery in my craft. I had to learn some lessons about being in business—like when to say “No” to a project.
I held out to myself that I don’t have to know everything, but I still like to be able to offer my customers alternatives, so now I provide that service by networking with a host of other contractors, artists and craftsmen who can provide those services if I can’t reasonably deliver them.
Now I can focus on the things I most enjoy doing, like tile work and carpentry. I just love remodeling and creating new looks and new spaces that are pleasing to my own eye and to my customers’. Hence my business name—New View—I really dig standing back and looking at a job I’ve done well. I feel really good when I deliver that to people I have come to like and care about.
LH: How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
VK: Mainly by way of the spirit in which I do my work and by my affiliations. I believe in what I am doing, in the importance of building a sustainable future through social interdependence, creating an alternate means of transacting business through the Hudson Valley Current, in preparing for the future through the work of the Transition Towns movement, by volunteering as a Repair Coach for the local Repair Cafes, and in educating myself about the new economy, food, and health and wellness issues. In short, I am willing to open myself to the possibility of generating love through not only my personal, but also my business interactions.
LH: What measures do you and your business take to support local economy?
VK: I partly answered this in a previous question. In addition, I try to buy locally produced products and food through my Current membership and seek to purchase the services of small
businesses in the Current marketplace. I patronize small businesses outside the Current marketplace as well when I source building materials, so that my money, whether Currents or dollars, circulates within my community rather than flowing out of it.
LH: How have you been using Currents in your business? And/or how do you plan to use them?
VK: My use of Currents thus far has been to purchase massages for my favorite boss and employee, yours truly, and this is something I plan to continue to take full advantage of. I’ve also paid a designer in Currents to create my logo, and I recently earned Currents by renovating a cabin in Kerhonkson. Moreover, this year I am planning to expand my use of Currents to get a CSA membership and to buy one of those nifty Current t-shirts, among other things. In addition, now that I know I can use my Currents at the Big Cheese and Immuneschein in Rosendale, I’ll be frequenting these establishments more, too.
Finally, I’m hoping and praying that the Current begins to see more widespread acceptance throughout the Hudson Valley, so I can use Currents when making building materials purchases at local suppliers like Herzog’s, Woodstock Building Supply, Williams Lumber, and Security Supply (hint, hint). Q: What other measures do you and your business take to support local economy?
A: I’m starting an organization based on the principles of permaculture called Apricot Forest Community Wellness Cooperative. Right now we’re a small group of complementary practitioners and growers who have an interest in permaculture. We are getting to know each others’ practices, encouraging ech other and cooperating to get the word out about how natural health and complementary care can benefit our communities. We’re creating a workshop series for parents that incorporates teaching from multiple practitioners skilled in movement therapies, acupuncture, massage, herbalism, nutrition and farming. We’re hoping to give people a fascinating and multifaceted view of the ways that they can create a healthy lifestyle and environment. Stay tuned!