We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Top and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Before my business was an actual legal business, I was doing it part-time as a hobby on the weekends. I always wanted to do it full-time, but it was never a good time to “take the leap”. I have two children, one 12 and one 6. My wife and I discussed it many times, but thought we needed stability for our family. My full-time job at the time was a surgery nurse. When COVID hit, my job became very stressful, which led to some unfortunate circumstances, and I quit my job abruptly. I just needed to get out of there. I had never done anything like that in my life, so it was quite a change for me. After looking for new jobs for a few of weeks, I talked with my wife and basically said that if there was ever a good time to try the business full-time, it was now. We decided that I would give it a go for a while and see if we could make it work. It has been over a year now and the business is doing ok. It continues to grow as the company name gets out there and my customers have been great with referrals.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My business is called Mud Creek Countertops. The general description of the business is I fabricate custom countertops and cover them with epoxy to make them look like real stone. I can manipulate the epoxy with different techniques, color dyes, and metallics to replicate pretty much any stone. Whatever the client can dream up I can do. For the most part. Some designs can get pretty complicated and hard to match perfectly, but I will try to the best of my ability. What is great about my product is the countertop is custom made. I can have a customer that see’s a countertop I’ve done for someone else, and they can say I want mine to look like that one. But the cool thing is, epoxy does what it wants to. You can’t totally control how it is going to move or how the colors are going to meld together. So every piece I do is one of a kind. There will never be another one like it. The colors will be the same and the general idea or design will be similar, but will never be a perfect match.
I am the only business within 200 miles of my location that does this type of work. So, it is a new type of concept in the countertop world in this area. This is good and bad. Good for the fact that I offer something that nobody else does, I am the first one to do this in this area so if there are copycats in the future, I still have the most knowledge and the most experience with it. I have figured out the do’s and don’ts. The bad is the fact that I offer something that is new in the area. Clients have never seen it before, so they don’t quite understand the product. A lot of client consultations require a lot of explaining the process, the product, and reassurement of the product.
When I first started making countertops for people other than myself, I was pretty intimidated. It was pretty scary to think that I would be making something for somebody that they would have in their house for up to 20 years. They were going to be paying thousands of dollars for something I made. They would be critiquing my work. My functional art. I am very critical of myself and my work so I was kind of putting myself out there like I had never done before. I had to convince myself that I could do it. In the beginning, I basically told myself if you mess something up, so be it. You will learn from it and it will make your work better. And over time as I learned more about my craft, I became more confident. One thing that I did have to keep reminding myself, was to not become complacent. I found that when people think they know it all is when they stop wanting to learn. When one stops wanting to learn, their work begins to fall. I don’t want to know everything, I want to learn new things every day. And it doesn’t need to be something that has to do with epoxy or fabrication. It can be something that has to do with dealing with customers. Or something that just makes me a better person. A better husband. A better father to my children. I want people to not only enjoy my product or service, but I also want them to know that I am a good person. That I don’t just do this to make money, but I do it to make people happy. I love seeing the smile on there face once we have the countertops installed in their kitchen. And I love hearing them say, “I can’t wait to show my friends and family my new countertops”.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in a small town in southwest Minnesota. The closest major city is Sioux Falls, SD. It’s only about 20 minutes from where I live. Most of my business comes from that area. One of the things that is great about this area are all of the small town, hole in the wall places to eat. There is a small city about 15 miles away that has a great little, old school, drive-inn. The kind that has about 4 booths to sit in and eat inside or you can walk up to the window and place your order. Then you take your food and shake or malt or whatever other cold treat and sit in your car with the windows rolled down and enjoy the weather. After you go to there and have a great meal you can head out of town about a half mile and go to the drive-inn theater. You get to see two movies back-to-back in the same night. It’s an amazing atmosphere. If you are in to hiking or just being in nature, there are a couple of state or county parks in the area that can be explored. My daughter and I have a Youtube channel, just for fun, where we travel to different places and explore. We have been to Blue Mounds State Park, Pipestone National Monument, and a few other little attractions in the area. One of the great things about living in Minnesota is the fishing. We have over 10,000 lakes to choose from. Of course, we live in the only county in Minnesota that does not have a natural lake, but we do still live close enough to some lakes. My daughter has found a great love for fishing. Sioux Falls has the falls to check out and they are beautiful any time of the year. And their downtown has really developed into a great place to hang out with restaurants and bars and lounges.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There is no way that my business would be a business without the support of my wife, Erin, and family. Erin basically took the lead on getting the business side of the business going so I could continue working on getting jobs done. I also need to give a lot of credit to Mike Quist of Stone Coat Countertops. If I wouldn’t have seen him on Facebook one day demonstrating his product, I would not be doing this. I do not know him personally, but I consider him a “silent” mentor. I have learned everything about my kraft from watching countless hours of his videos.
Facebook: Mud Creek Countertops