Tree to Table founders grow friendship and business

It all started in a church in Oxford where a Finnish Miami graduate met a registered nurse and ended with both quitting their jobs to start a small business building tables.

Tree to Table, founded by Vilppu Anttila and Ryan Murphy, has seen a steady stream of business since its opening in January 2022.

Vilppu Anttila, originally from Finland, said he moved to the area after his dad brought the family over to take a job in Eaton. After graduating from Miami University in 2017 with degrees in engineering physics and mechanical engineering, Anttila married his girlfriend and began looking for a place to start his career.

What he also was looking for was a friend.

“I just remember one time praying and just asking God, ‘God would you give me a friend?’” Anttila said. “I went to church the next morning and Ryan was there. I remember thinking that morning, he might be that friend that I was asking for.”

Ryan Murphy, a registered nurse, came to town from the Cincinnati area around five years ago. After beginning work as a nurse, Murphy began to express some doubts over his career choice and looked for another way to get the most out of life.

“It’s a lot of student loans, and I had gone to school for a long time,” Murphy said. “It’s like, alright, well, you do that full-time for a couple of years, and it’s like 40 more years of this?”

To help fill his time away from work, Murphy said his wife, also working in the medical field as a pharmacist, would ask him if he was able to build some arts and crafts she would come across on Pinterest.

“It’s kind of fun to use your hands to see a picture, and then you make it roughly, and it’s a very satisfying feeling,” Murphy said. “I think woodworking is a really cool opportunity because it’s tangible, and a lot of work is intangible.”

The ability to fit work around life was a plus for Murphy, which was a change from his current job schedule that would prevent him from seeing his wife days at a time.

“After working corporate-type jobs for a while, out of necessity because of debt, it really, really made me value time,” Murphy said. “I really started thinking long enough, it’s like, this is not going to stop, so this is the track that we’ve been kind of put on, how do we step off it and maybe try something different where we actually just have time to be with people.”

After meeting with Anttila at church, the two partnered up and began work in the shop of Virgil Otto, an old mentor of Anttila who provided help with his senior design project.

“I just stopped by the shop to see him and I came to find out that he had like 10 years’ worth of projects that he was behind on,” Anttila said. “He needed a hip replacement, so he couldn’t do a lot of the physical labor, so we started going over there and helping out.”

As repayment, Otto began to give tips to the duo on their crafts.

After a while, Tree to Table was born, and Otto was more than happy to give up his workshop space to help.

“In that time, we started realizing like, maybe there’s a business here,” Anttila said. “neither one of us started entrepreneurship, we’ve never owned a business before, but it was just like, this could go somewhere.”

In the beginning stages of January 2022, the duo committed to two days a week, alongside their outside commitments, however, when business kept the two afloat, they decided to go full-time. They also decided to move out of Otto’s workshop, and store their own equipment in a barn off Stillwell Road in June.

The two say although they’ve taken a risk, so far, it’s paying off. Business has been steady, their most recent accomplishment; a large community table in the popular college student coffee shop Kofenya Coffee House.

“I feel like the American dream was you get to work for yourself, and you do take risk, and there’s this level of unknown and uncertainty and dependence,” Anttila said. “I think we’re so risk averse as a culture these days, try to go for what’s comfortable, what’s steady, predictable, but many times it doesn’t work out that way.”

“Time is more valuable than money,” Murphy said. “And that’s being put to the test, but it’s good. There’s something about working for yourself.”

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