WINTERSVILLE - When Nick Krivoniak walked away from his family's business to strike out on his own, no one was more surprised than he - not that he was living his dream, but at how well he's done as a small business owner.
Krivoniak, a hunter from an early age, has dabbled in taxidermy for five years, but it wasn't until September that he decided to do it full time.
"When I was a kid, I really loved hunting," Krivoniak said. "I loved being able to hunt deer, to hunt bear or any type of game, and I wanted a career that would give me that opportunity."
ON HIS OWN — Nick Krivoniak left his family’s upholstery repair business to strike out on his own as a taxidermist. He opened his own showroom at 432 Main St., Wintersville, in September and said so far he’s been busier than even he expected.
-- Linda Harris
LIFELIKE ARTISTRY — Although he specializes in white-tailed deer, taxidermist Nick Krivoniak has done larger game, such as elk, mule deer and bears, as well as squirrels and other small animals.
-- Linda Harris
So after graduating from Steubenville High School in 2006, Krivoniak went to Georgia to learn from one of the nation's best known taxidermists. His apprenticeship was cut short, however, when his mentor developed health issues. He came back to Steubenville, and for the next five years he got by by doing odd jobs - working in pest control, attending mortuary school, joining the family upholstery repair business.
"Nothing clicked," he said. "But all the while I kept the passion going, I was doing work on the side."
Last spring, with his wife's blessing, Krivoniak decided to continue training with two prestigious taxidermists "with the intent of opening my own shop."
"Nobody in my family was surprised, they knew it was always something I wanted to do," he said. "But a lot of people were surprised at how fast I made it happen. I basically made my decision in the spring, late spring, of 2012, and ended up opening the door to my shop in the fall 2012."
His shop Vivid Taxidermy is located at 432 Main St., Wintersville, and so far, he said, business "has gone way better than I thought."
"I set a goal to take in a certain amount of work this year, and I'd already surpassed it (in November) and the season was not even done," he said, saying new marketing techniques and other things he's done to get his name out in the hunting community have a lot to do with his success.
"And I have a showroom of my own where people can come and speak directly to me," he said. "I'm very accessible. I can show them what they can get, what I can provide."
Krivoniak specializes in white-tailed deer, but he's also done larger game like elk, mule deer and bears.
"So far, the reception has been really good, and I'm really happy about it," he said. "It's been great."
He said taxidermy is a time-consuming process: While he tells customers they'll get their finished piece within a calendar year, unless he's deluged with work, "you should never have to wait a year to get a piece back." Turnaround time on, say, a white-tail deer is typically six or seven months. "But if I get a lot of work in, it could take longer," he said.
"It is time consuming," he said. "But I'm open to accept as much work as I can get. If it would get to the point where I couldn't do it all myself, I'd think about bringing somebody on or training someone to (help)."
Until that happens, though, it's going to be all him.
"With taxidermy, you either sink or swim," he added. "You can't make money if you don't provide good results. People recognize good work - if you provide good service, honest service, you're going to do well. That's what I stick by."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)