When we spoke with craftsman Corbin Clay for our January issue, he said his fledgling beetle-kill furniture business needed more manpower. Having been laid off in the past by companies that had hired too quickly, Clay was hesitant to add staff. But after the news—and a feature in the print edition of February’s GQ magazine—that Clay’s Aurora-based Azure Furniture Company topped 12,000 other entrants and four finalists in a nationwide contest for a $100,000 investment from Ketel One, some of that apprehension has faded.

“It’s extremely validating,” Clay says. “When you start a company, you quit your job, you spend your life’s savings, you sign up for a whole bunch of bills, and you hope for the best. You’re always questioning yourself, wondering, are we headed in the right direction?”

Ketel One will be working with the Azure Furniture Company for at least the next year, providing marketing advice in addition to its $100,000 investment. “It’s not just, ‘Here’s the money,’” Clay says. “Ketel One is genuinely, actively interested in curating and promoting the art of fine craftsmanship. It’s the beginning of something both brands are really excited about.”

Clay believes his efforts to promote the contest through social media helped him rise above the other finalists. But what really made the difference, he says, was how strongly the beetle-kill problem resonates with Coloradans.

Clay is already setting up meetings, and a new board of directors, to help him decide how to leverage his new infusion of cash. “We’re certainly sensitive to the importance of making the best possible decisions using this resource,” Clay says. All directions forward, however, will involve hiring more helping hands—and Clay is eager to get back to working on solving the problem of excess beetle-kill pine through a modern, affordable furniture line.

“We have a big year ahead of us—hopefully, a big decade—and we need to keep our enthusiasm up,” Clay says. “I’m ready to get cracking on these trees.”

—Image courtesy of Vice

Follow copy chief Jessica Farmwald on Twitter at @JessicaKF.