Student Profile: The College Woodworker
Zac Jone’s girlfriend stands in front of an unstable tripod, gripping an adhesive gun on a weatherworn deck inside a fenced-in backyard a few miles from the ODU campus. The couple listens to the sound of college students conversing on their way to class and the crackling pavement as the Monarch bus makes its daily route.
Jones, a 2015 ODU graduate, is a woodworker and is growing his business through a tutorial YouTube channel, which has slowly gained a following.
Jessica Kilmurray, his girlfriend, is about to set some glue on what will eventually be a corn-hole board for Jones’ latest woodworking tutorial.
“If it gets messed up, it’s okay, we can fix it,” Jones says as Kilmurray anxiously expresses her concern of messing up his project.
Three years ago, however, Jones decided to pick up the hobby by making his very first woodwork piece–a beer pong table. He studied several YouTube tutorials learning the ins and outs of woodworking. Once he felt he had sufficiently mastered the skill, he decided to post his own how-to videos on building decorative cork boards, coolers and light-up corn-hole boards.
Although he was already familiar with woodworking when he started, James had to experiment with unfamiliar skills on the technology side of his projects.
It was challenging at first, but he says, “I learned the technology side more and more as I did each tutorial.”
Jones’ videos have a proficient quality about them. It’s hard to tell he learned his skill purely through experience and picking up tips he observed from other tutorials.
His practice seems to be paying off. Jones has generated 196 subscribers to his channel called “The College Woodworker,” which has 11 videos. He’s gained 31,015 views and 114 likes on his most popular DIY corn hole board tutorial.
Despite the seeming popularity, Jones believes his business is only a 4 on a success scale of 1-10.
“The beginning of a business is the hard part,” he says. Although more orders are starting to come through, getting the business going hasn’t been easy, but with support from the people close to him it’s been an enjoyable transition from a hobby to a business.
Every entrepreneur needs moral support, and Jones’ girlfriend is quick to stand by him.
“I definitely support whatever he decides to do,” Kilmurray says. She is an ODU alumna and supports Jones by handling the marketing side of the business and creating and handing out flyers to help promote his products.
Jones is taking a different approach to his woodworking channel in order to appeal to women and expand his target audience.
“It’s not just for college people, it expands to everybody,” Kilmurray says as Jones nods in agreement. For both the bonding and marketing aspect, he would like Kilmurray to be more involved in his tutorials. He plans to incorporate some of her interests, like baking, into his YouTube channel.
Jones’ dad shows moral support by watching the tutorials and being his most honest critic. He’s constantly showing Jones ways to speed up production and reminds him that the most important thing about making wood pieces is the accuracy of the cut. Jones may get advice he didn’t ask for, but “the videos always come out better when I listen to him,” he says.
Jones is currently working on a light-up beer pong table. “My pride and joy,” he says. He continues fine-tuning his business, just as he’s done with his woodworking skill. With a team of support reminding him that the sky is the limit, it won’t be long before he brings his company, from a 4 to a 10 on his scale. Although he hopes to move past the backyard and the unstable tripod stage, Jones’ main priority is to have fun and inspire others.
“I want my customers to look at my product and wonder how I made that and attempt it themselves,” Jones says.