Springdale furniture maker James+James hires Bill Akins as COO

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,699 views 

Springdale furniture maker James+James bolstered its leadership team recently by hiring retail data scientist Bill Akins as chief operating officer.

Akins worked in a leadership role for Walmart Global Tech (formerly Walmart Labs) since November 2018. He spent eight years (2010-2017) helping grow Rogers-based digital agency Rockfish.

“I have known Bill for years, and I could not be more excited to have him join the team at James+James,” said company owner James Smith, who worked with Akins at Rockfish a decade ago. “Bill’s operational and leadership experience will be instrumental in helping James+James continue to transition into a nationally recognized leader in high-quality home furnishings.”

Akins’ hiring will allow Smith to focus more time on product innovation and strategy.

“The team deserves some more experienced operational leadership,” Smith said.

James+James is primarily an online business and snowballing. Smith said sales this year are quadruple last year’s sales, and the company’s payroll has increased from 25 employees to nearly 100 in the past year.

Founded in 2011 out of a garage, James+James sells its handmade products to customers throughout the U.S. and multiple countries.

“Year 10 was our coming out year, and I’m even more excited about year 11,” Smith said. “Many of our larger competitors have started to take notice of what our little garage-started company has been doing. Our team is on fire, and over the next five years, we’re going to be making a lot of noise nationally.”

Bill Akins

Smith said various factors are fueling the growth. At the top of the list is the business’ relocation of its primary production facility in late January from West Randall Wobbe Lane to 1609 N. Old Missouri Road.

“That’s allowed us to set our sales and advertising teams free,” Smith said. “We’ve dramatically improved our website imagery. We used to rely mostly on customer-submitted photos. Now we’re generating photo-real CGI images that allow for better images, faster product innovation, and more intentional [product] cross-selling with rugs, chairs, light fixtures and others items.

“We’ve also invested heavily in Facebook, Google and Pinterest ad tests and have learned and applied a lot.”

To hear more from James Smith, click here for a recent interview on the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal Report, which airs each Thursday and Sunday on “Ozarks at Large” on Fayetteville radio station KUAF.