Taking your woodworking from a hobby to a business – Part I (My Experience)

I would venture to say the majority of modern-day woodworkers began their woodworking business organically and possibly not even consciously. This is how it happened for me and many others in the woodworking community that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

I’ve always had an interest in working with my hands and creating things. For as long as I can remember I gravitated towards woodworking as the medium to express this interest. I’ve always been a “DIY” guy refusing to pay a third party for a good or service I thought I might be able to produce myself. I would make the occasional box, end table, cutting board, etc for my wife or mother on special occasions.

Building some deck stairs with my girls

 

A dining room table I built for our growing family

One year I decided to make all of our Christmas gifts for family, I’m not really sure why but it sounded fun! I made a wooden patio cooler cart for my in-laws, a wooden American Flag with hand carved stars for my wife’s grandfather, a pallet wall mounted wine rack for my brother and his wife, a table tray for my mom, and wooden NC flags for my brothers. I jokingly burned “Borkwood” on all of these gifts……

A few of the Christmas 2015 gifts!

The response was outstanding! Even my wife’s grandfather, an accomplished woodworker and retired shop teacher, seemed to show some kind of approval and appreciation in his own special way. I posted a few pictures of these items on my personal Instagram and Facebook accounts and began to get lots of engagement from friends and some requests to purchase similar items.

Early BorkWood branding

Two months later I opened an Etsy store, because this seemed like a cheap and easy way to reach a large audience in a relatively short amount of time. I sold a few items on there, the painted NC flags and a Carolina Panthers painted wood sign (pretty sure this was a copyright infringement..). It was obvious I was not going to make a living this route, or even cash flow a new tool purchase using this method on its own.

My first Etsy sell

My wife is a wonderful photographer who has been active and successful on social media for several years now. She convinced me to start an Instagram account to share my woodworking projects and maybe even sell some things. Well despite being on Instagram (primarily to share family photos with friends and family), I had no idea of the deep and rich woodworking community that was already thriving on Instagram. It was intimidating but I jumped right in and began posting with a mix of finished projects and how-to/in-process content on the go.

My first end grain board, look at those scratches!

Somewhere along the way I became interested in cutting boards so I began focusing more on these and worked to grow my Instagram audience outside of the woodworking community to Chef’s and Restaurants who might actually purchase my products. As a prime example of the power of social media, somehow the personal chef for Mark Wahlberg stumbled upon my Instagram account and wanted me to make him a custom end grain cutting board. Well I had made a few end grain boards at that point but nothing in the size he was requesting. He gave me full creative freedom so off I went.

Right side is my first custom end grain board, it’s still in Mark Wahlberg’s kitchen today!

I learned a lot making this board and posted a lot of Instagram content along the way sharing my methods for cutting juice grooves, flattening the board, oiling, etc. This single board and all of the content it provided was a huge factor in what I consider to be a successful Instagram growth story. At the time I probably had around 1,000 followers and quickly grew to 5,000 in a few short months around the time of this board build. Kind of like a snowball, this board built momentum and resulted in a few more custom board orders, that then built more momentum, and the snowball keeps rolling.

3’x4′ Custom End Grain Island Top finished recently

I’m now at the point where I believe my pricing is competitive for the quality of product (future blog entry on pricing to come). I grew my Instagram to 15k followers in about 1 years’ time with somewhere around 550 posts. Instagram has been a great medium for learning, sharing, and even selling a few things along the way!

That brings us to where I am today……starting up this blog as the next step in my adventure in BorkWood. I would likely to slowly transition from product sales to more content creation. I hope and believe this will allow me some more flexibility with my family life and will be more personally rewarding as well. I understand not everyone has this option as many of you are already or planning to take on woodworking full time. I believe this is possible on the content creation side, but you have to work really hard and be very good at what you do. It is probably a necessity to sell your wares to at least supplement your content creation side until you really prove that concept and start earning some cash, a slow process by any measure.

Next up, Part II – The Tools


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