Be Your Own Boss: Local DIY couple turns hobby into nationally recognized home décor brand

Stemming from a home renovation project, a local DIY couple turned their hobby into a nationally recognized home décor and lifestyle brand.

Surrounded by stacks of New England pine, Melanie and Brian O’Neil had no woodworking experience but loved doing home projects.

“We’ve been DIYers since before we even met each other, and then together we are a powerful duo of creating things,” said Melanie.

While renovating their home, this duo was searching for the perfect wedding gift. With no luck, they decided to use their leftover, small pieces of wood flooring and turn them into a sign for their families.

“They loved them and other people at the wedding happened to see these signs so we came home from our honeymoon and the next thing we know we had 30 friends looking for signs,” said Melanie.

Little did they know, their signature item and their business, the Rustic Marlin, was born.

“We decided okay, let’s do this as kind of a side gig and see where it goes,” said Brian.

But as the orders grew, the space in their house diminished – their products spilling out into their garage and yard.

“We were selling a million dollars out of our house, and it just wasn’t sustainable anymore,” said Melanie. “We needed to move to a facility. We were so reliant on weather – bad days were really hard for us – so we really needed to move.”

Their business found a new home in a sprawling 25,000-square-foot facility in Hanover. The expanded space allowed for more employees, more products, and even a space for people to shop.

“There’s always going to be curveballs and things that you never thought of that come up all the time. Certainly the pandemic was one that was on nobody’s radar,” said Brian.

In March of 2020, their machines came to a screeching halt. Melanie and Brian adapted their business model – while offering hope and inspiration.

“We said oh my gosh let’s just make signs, signs of hope, people need something to be more united than ever before,” said Brian.

“We started to make signs with hearts on them that people could put on their doors or anywhere else that show these health care workers to show our support and thanks,” said Melanie.

But the next challenge was to figure out how to get the signs to people since their shop was closed.

“We came up with the idea to just put a few signs in front of the Rustic Marlin space, and we created a Venmo and cashbox and it took off like wildfire,” said Melanie. “We couldn’t keep these signs in stock.”

In 2020, Dependable Cleaners let Rustic Marlin’s self-service kiosks sit in front of their business to help them stay in business. They were so successful that they remain there today, and even more incredibly, they rely on the honor system.

“Oh, that’s going to be crazy. I can’t imagine it’s going to work, but it does,” said Christa Hagearty, president of Dependable Cleaners. “Who wants these signs? They’re people who want to be inspired, who want goodness in life, they want good things to happen.”

Giving back to the community is what Rustic Marlin thrives on. The company has partnered with several schools and organizations, donating to their causes, as well as raising $15,000 for Ukraine efforts. Founded out of love – Rustic Marlin continues to hand out signs with their inspirational and personal messages – to help spread happiness.

“Everybody needs something, a pick me up or something like that. And what we’ve figured is that these signs do just that,” said Brian.

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