“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This age-old wisdom is often attributed to Chinese philosopher, Confucius. It sounds like a dream. But, if you start a business centered around your passion and find a way to make ends meet as you get it off the ground, the business could grow into a successful enterprise that spans nearly 50 years.
We’d like to introduce you to Matuska Taxidermy – a business that started with a passion and a dream.
Since 1974, the Iowa-based business has been delighting customers with award-winning taxidermy. Like so many businesses, Matuska Taxidermy began humbly in the owners’ basement. In the beginning, founder Tom Matuska personally performed a range of taxidermy services. Fast forward 49 years – Matuska now employs over 30 staff members in a 12,000 square foot facility.
While taxidermy services remain the heart of their business, they’ve expanded their operations to manufacture and sell taxidermy supplies along with educating others on techniques.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tom and Vicki Matuska, owners of Matuska Taxidermy.
New business ideas often start with a passion
The art of preserving animals is a unique business concept but a lifelong passion for some.
“I’ve always been interested in wildlife,” said Tom. “I was fascinated with taxidermy at a young age. My mom enrolled me in my first taxidermy course through the mail when I was 13, and then as an adult I attended a taxidermy school in Wisconsin. Early on, I might have had ten fish to work on. But over time that number grew.”
“Tom’s an artist,” Vicki said. “He’s been successful because he’s constantly honing his artistic abilities and combines them with a sincere passion of both the outdoors and helping other taxidermists.”
“We don’t have unhappy customers,” said Tom. “Customers are okay with our waiting list because they know the end product will be exceptional.” The waiting list is for taxidermy services, which is now the smallest part of Matuska.
At the start, Vicki was a schoolteacher while Tom grew the business. “We had to make wise use of our resources when the business was starting out,” Vicki said. “But we always put as much as we could back into the business.”
Sharing your passion and growing the business
In addition to creating the most realistic mounts in the industry, Matuska has built an extensive product research and development program. They now manufacture high-quality taxidermy supplies that ship around the world.
“When we started out the supply and manufacturing side of the business, everything we offered would’ve fit on one wall,” Tom said. “Now, we have a couple of warehouses and customers can order from us using our catalog, or they can shop online.”
They’re also passionate about sharing their craft with others through education. Matuska leverages social media to offer Thursday Afternoon Live, a program designed to educate beginner taxidermists, but one that is attended by artisans at many levels.
Quality people, products and service are key
When asked what challenges Matuska is facing, like many businesses, it’s getting harder to find employees. “We could easily put more people to work,” Vicki said. “Our manufacturing, warehouse and shipping departments are very busy. On the plus side, as Matuska has grown, we’re able to share our success and are excited to begin offering insurance to our employees later this year.”
Matuska’s 2023 catalog is over 200 pages. “Matuska doesn’t offer the most products,” said Vicki. “We remain focused on providing the highest quality products possible. This combined with excellent service and a great team are keys to our success.”
“I believe we offer the best products anyone can buy,” added Tom. “I’m proud of our products.”
When meeting with Matuska, they were planning for upcoming taxidermy event in Wisconsin. “We attend quite a few shows. It’s a lot of work,” said Tom. “But it’s a great way to stay connected to our industry. By listening to our customers, it gives us new product ideas. This helps us meet their needs while growing the products we manufacture.”
“From the start of our relationship, Bank Midwest believed in us,” said Tom. “We’ve worked together to make this a partnership.”
“The team at Bank Midwest has been easy to work with,” said Vicki. “From the very beginning they asked, what do you need.” From banking to insurance, they’ve bent over backwards to provide great service. They’ve even brought cinnamon rolls for our team.”
Learn more about Matuska Taxidermy by visiting their website, www.matuskataxidermy.com. Or find them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/matuskataxidermystudio and https://www.facebook.com/MatuskaTaxidermySupplyCompany.
For help turning your passion into a business, reach out to a business banker near you at Bank Midwest.