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Student Entrepreneur Profile: Davis Graham '23 Knife Sharpening

Over the past 7 years, Davis Graham ‘23 has grown Davis’s Knife Sharpening, a business that grew from a hobby. We had the opportunity to sit down with him to learn more about it!

Q. How did you start this business?

When I was younger, my grandpa gave me a pocket knife. I was intrigued by how different knives worked, such as how they opened, the various blades, and the different mechanisms they used. I even would take them apart to learn more. Over the years, I started to collect knives, but surprisingly they can be costly, and I am often gifted nicer ones. From there, I began to sharpen them in order to maintain them. 

I started sharpening my family’s kitchen knives in 2016, which is how Davis’s Knife Sharpening emerged. I was 11 at the time, and other than my parents, my first clients were people who lived in my neighborhood. 

Q. How long does the knife sharpening process typically take? 

At first, it took me a long time due to trial and error. The process is pretty intuitive, and I honestly taught myself by watching YouTube videos, but that doesn't mean I didn’t make mistakes like dropping the knife or accidentally cutting myself. 

Now, I typically have a two-day turnaround period. Occasionally, I am able to turn it around in one day, but I usually tell my clients two days. I mainly sharpen kitchen knives, and recently I bought a Wicked Edge knife sharpener which is a semi-automated machine. Before, I used a wet stone that required everything to be sharpened by hand, and there was more room for error. Buying this new device has made the process much easier, as I am more likely to get top-notch results and razor-sharp blades.

I have learned that knives can never be too sharp, and people should have their knives sharpened at least twice a year, if not more. A good way to see if the blade is dull is to do the paper test: if your knife cannot make a clean cut through a piece of printer paper, it is time to get them sharpened. It’s funny because people typically do not realize how dull their knives are until they get them sharpened!

Q. What has been one of the most challenging aspects of Davis’s Knife Sharpening that you have had to handle? 

As I could not drive when I first started Davis’s Knife Sharpening, I needed to ensure that new clients were local, preferably within walking distance. I could ride my bike to those clients who were further away, but riding a bike delivering freshly sharpened knives was quite dangerous. My parents would help by driving me around, but that is a lot to ask of them on top of their jobs! So, people first learned about my services through word of mouth: family friends, relatives, etc. But I wanted to keep growing. My neighborhood had a Facebook group, so my original marketing tactic was to post about my services there. Although limited by geographical boundaries, I am happy that I could still expand my clientele through social media. Thankfully, I have my license now, so this is no longer an issue! Now, I have business cards that I hand out, and I have invested my earnings into a better sharpener that not only makes the knives sharper but also has increased my network through recommendations.

Q. What have you learned about having a business?

I feel like I have always been an entrepreneur. From lemonade stands to creating 3-D printed fidget spinners, I enjoyed the return on investment. Looking back at the evolution of my entrepreneurial endeavors is always fun as I can identify both personal and professional knowledge and growth.

Starting and managing Davis’s Knife Sharpening has been extremely rewarding. Time management has been the biggest thing I will take away from starting my own business. When I first started, I found myself overcommitting and unable to finish various tasks. Through time management, I have also been required to manage myself. I want to keep my clients happy, but I also want to keep my grades up, so I needed to find a balance between the two. I mainly conduct business on the weekends while focusing my time on school during the week.

Another aspect in which I have been required to learn is about advertising. How can I catch the attention of new clients, how should I reach out to them, and how do I retain them? When I first started, I constantly needed to explain myself and my business, but over the past few years, I have pinpointed the verbiage and visuals to use to draw in more people. 

Today, I have over 200 clients, and although I am not sure if this will be my line of work forever,  the skills I have learned through Davis’s Knife Sharpening are universal. No matter what the future holds, I will be able to bring lessons such as how to manage my time, marketing & advertising, and building relationships. Whether starting a business or working for somebody, I can use the skills I learned here to manage, market, and advertise. 

Q. Any advice for PD students starting a business?

Give everything 100% because people will know if you are not giving your full effort.  If you put quality into the product or service, potential clients will be more enticed to invest in your business. Continuing that effort will ensure that your clients or customers will be happy and continue to employ your services. Really, if you are good at doing something that not many people know about, it will open up opportunities by providing a rare or intriguing service.

Want to learn more about Davis’s Knife Sharpening?

Instagram: @davis.knives