Owner of Shield Co Art
After a three year tenure at a prestigious accounting firm, Frederick-native Luke Markey decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Quitting the safe career path before him, he returned home to learn the trade of blacksmithing from his father.
When his metal design concepts began to diverge from his father's model, he & his brother split off to form a separate business. Now, Shield Co Art operates independently offering 3-D custom metal artwork - often used as signage - to high end commercial clients. The rapidly growing business currently has seven employees, and has placed signs as far out as Hawaii.
Here's what Luke had to say on his unique career moves...
On Taking the Leap
While I was still with the accounting firm, I was reading a few different books. One was the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think the cover called it ‘the quest for quality.’ The book makes you start thinking about your daily life.. and why would you spend your life doing something you don’t find fulfilling?
All these thoughts just start to infiltrate your decisions. I quit my job at Deloitte, but didn’t have the idea that I was going to start a business. My dad is a blacksmith locally. His company, Creative Metal Design, creates gates & railings, and decorative furniture. I went to work with him to learn from him and see how he’d supported our family.
My brother and I started experimenting with some new types of designs while working with our dad. I said, 'Dad, this is how I want to change your business,' but he was happy with what he had set up. So we branched off and that led us here.
When Did It Sink In You Were A Business Owner?
I always say, even today, as a joke but also as a reminder of how far we still have to go – ‘We almost have a real business.’ Everyone says you DO have a real business. We have seven employees, hundreds of thousands worth of sales shipped across the country, and signs all the way out in Hawaii. I guess they have a point that it could be called a serious business by this point. But I’ll keep saying we almost have a real one.
How great employees can be. Well, co-workers. Everyone here has a say and is on an equal footing, so the word co-worker fits better. But some people really care and are really interested in working hard.
We did an awesome project for a business that will be seen right here in Downtown Frederick soon. I can’t show it off just yet... but people are going to like it.
At a broader level, the business keeps moving to that top right corner of commercial business. Nobody else can offer the kind of signs we do – as big as you want it, as many layers, with lighting, all in one place, and with repeatability. Because of what we can offer, we’re moving into a high-end client base, and that's a good place to be.
If an idea keeps coming back to you, you have to do it. If you keep dreaming of it, you got to give it a shot.