Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Startup wows in specialized market: 3D-printing furniture

Wth a Texas lineage well-versed in dreaming and doing big things, Jay Rogers makes St. Pete a focal point of his latest venture: robots that make tables and chairs.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. March 8, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Jay Rogers believes Haddy can be a $100 million business by 2030.
Jay Rogers believes Haddy can be a $100 million business by 2030.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
  • Share

St. Petersburg manufacturing entrepreneur Jay Rogers has worked and lived in multiple time zones and countries. In the states, spots range from Phoenix to Boston to San Francisco to now Florida. He led military units as a U.S. Marine in Iraq. Before that he helped grow a medical device startup in China that Bristol Myers acquired. And when he was a teenager he sailed around the world with his parents — for seven years.

In all those experiences, Rogers has had some extreme highs and lows. In one way, those travels have prepared Rogers for his latest, and what he believes can be his greatest, venture: making stylish yet functional furniture from AI-powered, robotic 3D printers. In another way, this new company, Haddy, is both a bit of deja vu and a chance for the opportunistic Rogers to build upon some ideas with his most recent previous business: Local Motors.

That company, which Rogers founded in 2007 and was based in Phoenix, also had a futuristic strategy: use engineers via a crowd-sourced model to make motor vehicles with 3D printers. And do it across a series of microfactories across the world, to spread the innovation and minimize over-capacity issues. “I wanted to be Elon Musk,” says Rogers, “and I was well on my way.”

It sounds crazy, Rogers admits, and probably sounded even crazier in 2007, the same year Apple debuted something called an iPhone. That was even a year before Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, hit the market. A military general Rogers knew well told him making cars from 3D printers was a “dumb idea,” he recalls. Others in Rogers’ circle threw some doubts his way, too.

“I tend to get challenged when people tell me things like that,” Rogers says. “I’m not naturally gifted. I'm just gifted at working hard.” 

Rogers went to work on Local Motors, raising $350 million from some hefty investors. The company had some success, and debuted an autonomous electric-powered shuttle named Olli in 2016 that generated a lot of buzz. But Local Motors struggled to sustain a market, Rogers says, and ultimately shuttered in 2022. Rogers left the business in 2021.

In blogs, stories and podcasts while helming Local Motors, Rogers talked regularly about the power of failing fast and failing often to build a strong culture when growing a startup with big dreams. Of late Rogers has honed something of a different, or enhanced, perspective. 

“People love failures,” says Rogers, 50. “I love successes.”

Sleek and sharp

Rogers believes Haddy will be in the latter category. 

Also utilizing the 3D printing microfactory model, Haddy uses sustainable and recyclable materials. The company’s 3D profiting robots, Tom and Jerry, use machine learning and artificial intelligence to get smarter with each product run. 

Haddy's 3D printers can produce tables and other products in 30 minutes.
Courtesy Image

Haddy has so far built tables, chairs, bathtubs and more, in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Some products are multi-functional — Rogers likes to stand on a table for visitors to the facility to show how sturdy they are. Haddy’s designs are sleek and sharp, and materials include wood, marble, leather and metal. A chunk of Haddy’s products can be made in 30 minutes or less, while prices start for some wares at $400.

The company has some lines that could compete with furniture you might see at a Crate & Barrel or Restoration Hardware, says Rogers, with another line that could be seen at or compete with Walmart. “We are a low-end disruptor,” Roger says.

He also takes pride in the company’s environmental ethos. “I like to tell people things come in here in pellets, and go out as a table,” he says, “because everything is recycled.”

Follow the people

Haddy, which stands for Heroic Agile Design Durable and Yours, opened its first factory in early 2023 in St. Pete, at 1921 5th Ave. S in the Warehouse Arts District, near Brick Street Farms and the Morean Arts Center. Rogers says Haddy has already outgrown that 10,000-square foot space and is moving into a 30,000-square-foot space sometime this spring. 

The St. Pete factory, Rogers adds, will also be the blueprint for the kind of microfactory he intends to build worldwide, starting, he says, with Chicago, Los Angeles, northern Europe, Japan and the Middle East. “I want to be wherever there’s going to be people,” he says. 

Rogers has led multiple capital raises for Haddy since 2021, bringing in around $6.4 million. Investors include former AOL CEO and chairman Steve Case’s Revolution Rise of the Rest Capital, according to the St. Pete Economic Development Corp.

Haddy has eight employees and eight clients, including Room and Board, a Minnesota sustainable furniture retail chain. With a run rate in the mid-six figures this year, Rogers projects the firm will do about $2 million in revenue in 2025.The big success, he adds, is expected to come in 2030: By then he projects to have microfactories in at least five cities, doing a combined $100 million a year in revenue. 

Motors and mentors

The Haddy model and Rogers’ unique background has caught the attention of many in and around St. Pete. For one, when Rogers sought his next venture — and next place to live — after Local Motors, he reconnected with former State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who recommended the Sunshine City. Brandes and Rogers, who has considered running for office, first met at the Florida Automated Vehicles Summit. 

“Jay is a man of intense curiosity,” says Greg Holden, managing director of wealth management at Manning & Napier in St. Petersburg. Holden is a longtime civic leader in St. Pete and a former board chairman of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, among other roles. “He’s done a lot of interesting things over the years that have led him to where he is today.” 

Jay Rogers founded St. Petersburg-based Haddy in 2021.
Photo by Mark Wemple

“He’s always 10 steps ahead,” adds St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership CEO Jason Mathis. “He really is a renaissance man.” 

Rogers, at least in terms of being a businessman, brushes off that chatter. “I feel like I’m an accidental entrepreneur,” he says. “If someone asked me when I was growing up, ‘do you want to be an entrepreneur?’ I would’ve said ‘what is that?’ 

On being bold and different — making tables and chairs from a 3D printer would seemingly count — Rogers can point, in part, to his family ancestry. Rogers’ dad, John Rogers, was a prominent and successful real estate developer in Texas who later got walloped in the 1980s Savings and Loan Crisis. That led the Rogers family to move to the east coast of Florida, and then later go on a worldwide, yearslong sailing journey. (Sailing around the world, says Rogers, is where “you learn how to be independent, you learn how to fix things when they’re broken.”)

Rogers’ grandfather Ralph Rogers, meanwhile, is the personification of renaissance man, a person Jay Rogers calls an “indefatigable industrialist.” Ralph Rogers owned the Indian Motorcycle Co. for a time, and also founded concrete and steel giant Texas Industries. A major philanthropist in Dallas, Ralph Rogers is also credited with helping to save the Public Broadcasting System during the Nixon Administration, when he co-founded Sesame Street creator Children’s Television Workshop. “He and I looked at the world very similarly,” says Jay Rogers. “He was a huge inspiration for me.” 

Believe it

The high-energy Rogers leans on that inspiration as he bounces from client meetings to factory tours to brainstorm sessions to even planning and attending a community ice bath session. The last one, held in July, was a cool down de-stress event, where a few hundred people gathered for ice baths, chilling in bathtubs Haddy manufactured.

Looking ahead, Rogers is excited about several new 3D printing robots headed to St. Pete, purchases he made for Haddy with a recent capital raise, He says the new factory, with the new machines lined up “will look like a train station with robots.” He’s also excited about the Haddy team, which he says is the best he’s worked with in 3D printing technology.

Also looking ahead, Rogers says the company’s wow-like calling card of 3D printed furniture is also, in some ways, its biggest challenge, in proof of concept and customer education. That goes for furniture stores and end-users, and even bankers. Five banks rejected Haddy for a SBA loan, Rogers says, before SBA specialist Newtek One said yes. “Making furniture out of robots is something everyone wants to talk about,” he says, “but to really believe it you have to see it.” 

Challenges like that and other obstacles seem to fuel Rogers, not dissuade him “I’m optimistic about using technology innovation to solve problems creatively in America,” says. “I’m excited about it.”



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.