For 20-year-old Cameron Snowden, the road to owning Chillicothe, Ohio-based Buckeye Designs & Engraving was a long and unexpected one.
After graduating from Chillicothe High School in 2019, Snowden set off for college, attending classes for a few weeks before realizing it wasn’t for him. After leaving school, he began working for his dad and stepmom at their barn-turned-wedding venue, Creekside Occasions.
“Things were going good, but it wasn’t really a direction I had planned for or really wanted, and that’s when my dad and Bethany (stepmom) took me to go see Ben’s shop,” Snowden tells GRAPHICS PRO.
At the time, Ben Barker was the owner of Buckeye Designs & Engraving when Snowden’s dad and stepmom took him to Barker’s shop unknowingly. Snowden recalls, “I was sweaty and had no shirt on from working, and they wouldn’t tell me where we were going or what the plan was.”
When they arrived, Barker started explaining the laser engraving machine to Snowden on the spot and completed a wine bottle engraving right then and there. They then let Snowden in on the purpose of the meeting: To show him what Buckeye Designs & Engraving was all about and put an offer in front of him that would eventually bring him to where he is today — the new owner of the engraving and personalization shop.
Snowden says it all happened so fast, especially considering he’s in his early twenties, but during that first meeting in July 2020, Barker piqued his interest.
“I thought about it for about three months while trying to figure out a loan and financial aspects of all of it until I finally just went all in, and we signed our contract on November 30,” Snowden recalls.
After officially purchasing the business in November 2020, Snowden worked under Barker, learning every aspect of the shop before officially taking it over in March of this year, after the ribbon cutting and open house weekend.
Snowden says the transition has been great so far, “Ben was a great owner before me and was particular about handing off his precious creation. He was amazing at getting me transitioned over to being the owner and getting the word out to people that he knew would be happy to see the business back up and running.”
Barker trained Snowden on the shop’s 60W Epilog Fusion and its software and has made himself available to Snowden for questions.
“He’s very knowledgeable about this stuff, so calling him is usually a better option than me going on the internet and playing trial and error for an hour,” Snowden explains.
Buckeye Designs & Engraving now and in the future
Right now, the shop offers all things laser engraving, from stainless steel tumblers and gun parts to plaques, trophies, and etch-painted slate.
Snowden says, “We pride ourselves in being able to engrave/mark anything that people bring into the shop, with a few exceptions, of course.”
In addition to the Epilog machine, he has a 160W Boss Laser almost up and running and is excited to see what products he can start creating with this new piece of equipment. He also plans to work in T-shirts to his offerings at some point and hopes to get into sandcarving.
When asked what kind of experience has helped him step into this role, he states, “I’ve always been a pretty independent person, and money was never just handed to me, so there’s always a bug in the back of my head that keeps me focused on what needs to get done and when it needs done by.”
He adds that growing up playing video games and creating YouTube content helped him advance in digital editing and video production classes.
“A lot of the same principles that I was using to make Minecraft video thumbnails come into play when making designs to be engraved,” he explains.
Although Snowden may be younger than most business owners, he sees it as an advantage.
“I think the sky is the limit for me,” he states. “Being young may turn some heads away, but what most see as a disadvantage is actually just more room for me to learn. I know myself enough not to let people try to talk me out of my own blessings or take advantage of me, and I think having a young mind that still has time to mold itself will only take me up from here. There’s beauty in doing things the rigid way that’s worked forever, but I am here to do things in my own way based off of what others have laid ahead of me.”
For example, he hopes to take Buckeye Designs & Engraving online as soon as possible. “I love to travel and meet people, so being able to have them go online and order stuff would be awesome as a lot of us connect through social media,” he explains.
Thinking ahead at his five-year outlook, Snowden hopes to have an interactive website and a better system for order tracking and price calculation. He also has ideas of bringing in some extra hands to help with the workload.
From what he’s learned so far, Snowden has some advice for other aspiring business owners: “Take the leap! I am living proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way. I have no college degree, banks wouldn’t give a 19-year-old, at the time, a loan, and I’m still working to get comfortable. But after all of these months doing this and stressing for rent, groceries, inventory, pets, internet/phone bills, and whatever else decides to pop up; at the end of the day, I am proud of myself and am happy to wake up and do what I do for money instead of feeling like a robot that wakes up and does the same thing every single day with no say-so!”
His ambitions as an entrepreneur have even inspired his family. He tells GRAPHICS PRO that after signing the LLC into his name, his mom bought a local pizza shop and quit her insurance job of 20 years.
“That’s as long as I have been alive,” he says. “That’s breaking generational curses. To hear her say that I inspired her is a feeling I will never forget. Take the leap!”