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Carving their own American dream

By Lauriel Cleveland, Special to CNN
updated 10:24 AM EDT, Mon September 2, 2013
After visiting a knife show, L.T. Wright and Dan Coppins were inspired to start their own hand-crafted cutlery business called Blind Horse Knives. After visiting a knife show, L.T. Wright and Dan Coppins were inspired to start their own hand-crafted cutlery business called Blind Horse Knives.
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The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
The story of Blind Horse Knives
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Blind Horse Knives was created in 2007 by L.T Wright and Dan Coppins
  • The business partners were once custom stair builders and made a fair living
  • Blind Horse Knives now employs 23 local craftsmen and the product is sold all over the world
  • The business name was inspired by Wright's great-great-uncle, who owned a blind horse

Editor's note: This story is part of CNN's American Journey series, showing how people have turned hobbies into jobs. Have you transformed your passion into profits? Share your story with CNN iReport, and you could be featured in a CNN story.

(CNN) -- L.T. Wright and Dan Coppins were craftsmen by trade when they decided to turn their hobby making custom knives into a sharp business idea.

The Ohio-based buddies, who worked in the construction industry and shared a love for hunting and crafting, attended their first knife show together in 2007.

The duo was so intrigued that they bought knife blades and products from the grocery store to craft their own knives -- all for $20 or less -- as a hobby.

"We went from a hobby standpoint and we were inspired by the knife makers," Coppins says.

Proud of their creations, the friends met one afternoon to discuss going into the knife-making business together to fulfill their shared dream of becoming entrepreneurs.

Over coffee, Wright told Coppins the story of his great-great-uncle, who built a shack behind his home in West Virginia with the help of a blind horse and few tools. Thus was born Blind Horse Knives.

"The name of the company and a business model were created before a knife for distribution was even made," Coppins said.

The legacy of a blind horse, a vision and hard work have led Coppins and Wright to craft their own version of the American dream.

Devoted to turning their hobby into a small business, the pair quit their jobs and set up shop in the basement of their homes.

Financially, both men agree that it was a struggle in the beginning. The duo financed their small business using their own savings.

"We never borrowed money," Coppins says.

"We were making a fair living before," Wright says. But after quitting their jobs and creating a business, "we couldn't afford a paycheck."

There were many nights when he second-guessed his decision to start his own business, Wright says. The will came from wanting to provide jobs for local craftsmen and family, and his passion for people and knives.

The two crafted knives by hand through sleepless nights in their basements and drive an hour and a half every day to meet and exchange products to distribute.

With several knives and nowhere to sell them, the pair attended a gun show where they met arrowhead maker R.W. Wilson, who began to mentor the men, teaching them about handcrafting and inviting them to shows to sell their products at his station.

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Finally feeling comfortable with the knives they produced, the two committed Blind Horse Knives to the cutlery show BLADE, where they received positive feedback and began taking orders.

As the business began to grow, their wives got onboard with Blind Horse Knives with part-time jobs. Wright's daughter and son-in-law joined the team shortly after.

They branded themselves through social media, gun and knife shows, and word of mouth.

Instead of focusing on hard times and financial difficulty, the men saw the bigger picture. Asked if they were happy with the results, Coppins says the business is a blessing.

"If you have faith and believe, anything can happen."

Much has happened for Blind Horse Knives. As of 2013, the collaborators have their own publication, Self-Reliance Illustrated, host BHK Outdoors Radio (a weekend show) and own the first knife show they ever attended.

Since it began, Blind Horse Knives has grossed more than $1 million and put 23 local craftsmen to work making 250 knives a week that have been delivered around the world, say Coppins and Wright.

Their success is measured by customer satisfaction and the personal relationship fostered through every purchase. "It's the drive," Wright says, "We develop a customer and a friend for life by always pushing to be the best."

"The American dream is having a house, car and family, but life has its ups and downs. The journey is what got us here. Believe in yourself and learn from the mistakes. Bad situations lead to good opportunities," Wright says.

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