Feb 6, 2024 | Leadership | 0 comments

Carving Success From Faith and Necessity

Leadership | 0 comments

Eleni Owens


Carving Success from Faith and Necessity

In the quaint workshop of KC Wood Words, amidst the scent of fresh timber and the hum of machinery, Kent Carlson crafts more than just wood. Each chisel stroke and laser engraving tell a story of faith, resilience, and innovation. For Carlson, the genesis of his now-thriving business is deeply intertwined with personal necessity and a profound spiritual journey.

Kent’s foray into woodworking began as a hobby, a means to create beautiful, custom-made pens and other items for missionaries. These handcrafted pieces were more than just objects; they were tools for fundraising and assisting on humanitarian missions. However, life’s unpredictability soon steered Kent towards a path he hadn’t envisioned. In 2016, his wife, a retired elementary school principal, faced a debilitating disability that put an abrupt end to her cherished career. Her doctor’s prognosis was clear: she could no longer work. Following numerous falls and subsequent surgeries, Kent faced a heart-wrenching decision. To care for his wife, he left his job, stepping into uncertainty but fueled by determination and love.

The transition from hobbyist to professional wasn’t smooth sailing. In 2017, Carlson ventured into craft shows, hoping to transform his woodworking skills into a sustainable business. Yet, success was elusive. His creations, while skillfully made, didn’t resonate with the market. Years of frustration and failed attempts could have deterred any entrepreneur, but Kent’s story took a divine turn. In April 2022, during a moment of reflection in his workshop, he prayed for guidance, seeking a breakthrough idea to revitalize his faltering venture. The answer came unexpectedly at a Bible study session. A young attendee’s wish for a bedroom plaque featuring her favorite Bible verse, 2nd Timothy 2:15, sparked a moment of inspiration in Kent. Excitedly texting his wife, “A Plaque!”, he received an immediate and supportive response: “Do it!”.

Kent’s woodworking journey took a significant turn when he reconnected with Andy Garza, a local marketing expert and the president of the magazine for which this article is penned. Their initial meeting years ago at a craft show was a casual introduction, but it was their reconnection that marked a significant turn. During this later encounter, Kent faced a challenge while engraving a pen commissioned by Andy, which unfortunately broke in the process. In an admirable display of integrity, Kent crafted a new pen for Andy, refusing payment due to the mishap. Impressed by Kent’s honesty and craftsmanship, Andy offered his marketing expertise in exchange for the pen. This beneficial partnership became a turning point for KC Wood Words.

With Andy’s guidance, Kent plunged back into the world of craft shows, his primary source of inspiration. By actively listening to his customers, he could tap into their creativity, leading to the development of products that resonated with the market. This customer-focused approach led Kent to a niche yet fruitful idea: crafting for crafters. These individuals, regulars at craft shows, not only provided valuable input but also appreciated the craftsmanship of Kent’s work. His creations, always regarded as works of art, began to attract even greater appreciation for their unique blend of functionality and artistic expression.

Kent’s distinct approach to woodworking centers around innovation and uniqueness. He often contemplates whether everyday items used by crafters can be reimagined in wood, blending aesthetics with durability. Collaborations with other artists have also enriched his portfolio. For instance, a partnership with an artist friend resulted in a hand-painted, handcrafted wooden fly box, ideal for storing “memory flies” from cherished fishing trips.  This piece beautifully merged the artistry of painting with the natural texture of wood. Another innovative idea that emerged at a craft show was Kent’s creation of book-shaped wooden plaques, onto which he engraved the image and opening lines of classic books like ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ This unique concept was received with great enthusiasm.

“Despite his artistic success, Kent acknowledges the challenges in managing the business aspects of his venture. He compensates for his limited experience in business by utilizing online resources and seeking help from knowledgeable individuals.

For Kent, business is more than transactions; it’s about building relationships, understanding needs, and offering help, leading to unexpected friendships and a strong network, including continued connections with the missionaries he initially supported.

Looking ahead, Kent aspires to expand his workspace, balancing business growth with the necessity of caring for his wife. He sees craft shows as an ongoing part of his business strategy, not just for sales but for inspiration and networking. The follow-up business generated from these contacts is where he envisions significant growth.

Kent offers invaluable advice for fellow artisans, emphasizing the importance of flexibility and customer feedback in creating marketable products. He suggests not taking it personally if a handmade item isn’t exactly what a customer wants. Instead, being adaptable, actively listening to customers, and incorporating their feedback can lead to products that truly resonate in the marketplace. Additionally, Kent highlights the significance of having a well-designed website. He advises finding someone skilled in website design to handle this complex and vital aspect of business, as it can be challenging to achieve a professional result on one’s own.

Kent Carlson’s story underscores the power of faith, the value of customer-centric innovation, and the importance of adaptability in the ever-evolving world of craftsmanship. Kent Carlson’s story is a testament to the power of faith, the strength drawn from a deep commitment to family, particularly in caring for his wife, and the support of a like-minded community. His journey in woodworking is as much a narrative of personal devotion and spiritual guidance as it is about craftsmanship and business savvy.

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