Jon Watson and Mary Spencer Interview The Metal Gardener

Interview Questions


Who are you and what business did you start?

We are a husband and wife team- Jon Watson and Mary Spencer. Like many creative entrepreneurs, we have several gigs going:

The Metal Gardener-

WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear- /

Watto’s Wfie-

Outlaw Kritters-


What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Jon worked in advertising and did spot illustrations for many years. I (Mary) had a background as a product manager in the social expression, puzzle and board game industries.

*In 2005 Jon wanted out of advertising and went to work as an apprentice metal worker for a local metal shop.

*In 2007 Jon began doing his own custom work under the name The Metal Gardener.

*In 2009, I was laid off and looking for my next adventure. Jon came inside one day with a belt buckle and we decided to start our own accessory street brand named WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear. Jon’s buddies used to call him “WATTO” as a nickname. Belt buckles were hot at the time and we developed a line buckles, key chains, chains and money clips.

*Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther (cat style expert) discovered us and introduced our stuff to Jackson Galaxy of My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet. He wore our Outlaw Kitty charm on his show. That encouraged us to break out that line of products into it’s own brand – Outlaw Kritters

* While doing art shows, I noticed we were missing out on the younger market who liked our stuff, but it was too expensive for them, so I started a line of jewelry that I designed and assembled using purchased parts that was edgy,a bit more girly, and lower priced called Watto’s Wife.


Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.

For the metal products, we sketch the designs out the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. Jon scans them into the computer, cleans them up then redraws them then cuts them out with a plasma cutter. He then grinds, welds, pounds on them, paints or rusts them then powdercoats or seals them. We do a mockup one first and make any changes then we make multiples. Most of the time, we only make a few, then make them as we sell them. This keeps our inventory low.


Describe the process of launching the online store/business.

When launching WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear, we were very strategic and did an analysis of the target market, competitors, researched pricing in the marketplace, made customer story boards and put together a business plan document. When we first launched this business back in 2009, there weren’t a ton of easy quick ecommerce sites to launch quickly like there are today. I took an HTML class to try to learn coding. We had a friend design a site for us in exchange for some metal work, but it didn’t have an online payment option. Nowadays, you can open a store in an afternoon. So much easier!

Our other businesses were not as well laid out and were done on the fly as the opportunity or need arose.


Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I think the thing that has kept our repeat customers coming back after all this time, is the great craftsmanship of Jon’s work. He really cares about each piece he makes and takes pride in his work. I am just as concerned about my customer service with each person. They are individuals to me and I know that each of them has a reason for investing in our product. That’s special! Maybe they are buying a buckle for their boyfriend to celebrate their first year together, or they are buying the same ornament for each of their siblings in remembrance of their father who just passed. I’ve had lots of heartwarming stories over the years from customers. One can’t help but feel special when you are contributing to these special moments in their lives, so I try to make them feel special as well with a thank you note in every package.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We feel very blessed. We are focusing more on local art shows at the present with a somewhat new line of Peteroglyph inspired metal sculptures under the Metal Gardener Brand. We need to fine time to get some of the smaller items on line to sell as we’ve had repeated requests for that. We meet people from all over the country at the shows who want to buy more at a later time. We will be working on updating that website soon.

I am selling off my Watto’s Wife jewelry to focus on other things. We are keeping our WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear site and Outlaw Kritters sites going and working on getting some new product going for those as well.

What’s your average monthly revenue today and what do you project it to be in next 6 months? Sorry, some things we like to keep to ourselves.


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Styles and needs of your customers change. You have to be willing to make the change to what they are looking for or you can’t keep going. Throwing a bunch of money at advertising and social media don’t work if you don’t have the right audience or the right product. Move on to something else. There are always other opportunities.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Facebook business pages, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Etsy, Shopify and Wix


Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

*Test your ideas out before investing a lot of time and money.

*Sell something people need or something they think they need.

*Save money for a rainy day.

*There is always a solution to your problem, sometimes it’s just not the easiest or most apparent.


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at this time.


Where can we go to learn more about you?

The Metal Gardener-

WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear- /

Watto’s Wfie-

Outlaw Kritters-

Author Kevin Urrutia

Kevin is the founder of Voy Media. Kevin is an avid outdoorsman and nature lover; when not in the concrete jungle of New York, he can be found trying to explore a real one. Follow Kevin on Twitter Voy Media has been named the #1 Facebook Marketing Agency and one of the fastest growing marketing agencies in NYC. Voy Media crafts custom digital marketing strategies for clients, including services in Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Amazon Ads, email marketing and more.

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