Woodworker Bryan Nelson has built a solid business over the years. He shares his success story.
ABI: How did you get started with woodworking and evolve your business?
BN: I’ve always had the desire to work with wood. I took a basic woodworking class in Jr. High school which I enjoyed greatly, but had trouble with the lathe. It wasn’t until 30 years later that I really jumped into woodworking. I was given a trailer load of oak pews from a church that was being remodeled. Then with the purchase of a radial arm saw and a planer, I made beds, bookcases, tables, benches, etc. for family and friends.
Once the pews were gone, I found a supplier of lumber who also carried exotic woods. The next few years I spent working with all kinds of woods and a lot of exotics, and learning the rights and wrongs of working with them. I purchased a lathe around 2003 and found that I had a knack for turning, despite my earlier encounter in Jr. High. As the finished items were piling up around the house, my wife suggested I try selling online through eBay.
With modest success, I continued in this venue for years, honing my skill with each item sold. By 2008 I was turning between 70 and 100 items a week, the bulk of which sold each week. All of this was done after a full-time job. I spent many an evening making sawdust and exposing the works of nature.
ABI: Your sales are mostly made online. How and where are you selling?
BN: When it comes to selling my items, I’ve tried several different avenues. First I started with eBay and it was great for a number of years. But I switched to Etsy around 2010 and that is now my main source of income. I have tried other venues with minimal success, but none compare to eBay and Etsy. I post to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to help drive traffic to my Etsy store. Just recently I got into Instagram, so I’m still looking at what that will do. I also have a couple of websites. One is more of a portfolio and the other is linked to Etsy. Both help direct traffic to my Etsy store.
Almost two years ago, I lost my full time job of 22 years and was hit with the reality of finding employment at my age. It didn’t go so well, but with the support of my wife and a little luck I have applied my efforts full-time to my woodworking and turnings and have enjoyed moderate success. I’ve sold over 6,000 bowls and my items can be found in homes and businesses around the world. From Canada to Australia, South Africa to the Ukraine and Japan, I have literally covered the globe. I find this very humbling…. A woodworker in Texas, selling bowls and hooks around the world. Who would have thought?
ABI: Tell us about the niche market for the crochet hooks you make, and how that is working for you.
BN: About a year ago, my niece wanted me to make her some wooden crochet hooks and a yarn bowl. Well, I gave it a try and she just loved them. She convinced me to make more and list them online. It was a little rocky at first, especially working with large hooks. But a few of my customers were willing to work with me and I developed a working hook, which my reviews show!
Like my bowls, I’ve expanded the crochet hook line to use some of the exotics that fill my shop, with over 160 different kinds of wood. I have found that all woods are not meant to be hooks. Hooks are now a good part of my monthly business. I’m working on a yarn bowl line, so stay tuned!