Mike Wetsch is in the woodworking business, and Rockstar Woodcraft is his creative expression in action.
"I am pretty wide open as to what commissions I take on," Mike says. "I have done projects consisting from a simple door stop to a room remodel. Because I live in Bismarck, North Dakota, it's an area with a relatively small population, and the market does not really support a niche market."
To make his talents work for his business, he focuses on on furniture, chests, cutting boards, and carved signs. "Right now, cornhole boards are my biggest sellers," says Mike. "And in a way, not sticking to a specific niche allows me to continually expand my knowledge, provides me with the opportunity at trying new things, and lets me grow as a maker and woodworker." Perhaps the current pandemic and people being at home has something to do with the uptick in cornhole boards, but it's clear that Rockstar Woodcraft has many custom options for customers.
"I was fortunate to grow up in a woodshop," says Mike. "Some of my earliest memories involve my grandfather's shop behind the garage, and my dad's first shop, which was a 10x10 shed in the backyard. A few nails, a hammer, and a stack of scrap wood, and I would keep myself busy for hours."
As a kid, around six, he moved into a new house. "My dad took a section of the basement, and rather than make a standard room, he made a woodshop," he says. "I remember hauling a lot of lumber down those stairs, and a lot of completed projects back up those same stairs. Thinking this was normal behavior, I thought it weird when I would go to any of my friends' houses only to find that they did not have a dedicated woodshop."
Throughout his life, there was a dedicated woodshop in his life. After high school, he joined the military, went to college, and started taking the steps in life necessary to build a future. With everything going on he says he was "too busy" to play with wood and tools. After a few years away for any real shop time, I began my career, and he knew he needed a creative, positive outlet for stress management. It started with a table saw as a Christmas gift from his parents, and was reminded of his passion for woodcraft. "The first moment I flipped the switch and made my first cut on a scrap piece of 2X4 found in the yard, I was hooked once again," Mike says. "For over the last 20-some years, my woodshop has been my therapist, my church, my studio, and my place for reflecting on life."
With this passion for the craft, and with a dream of wanting to be a business owner, he decided to start out as a simple hobby business. "My first master’s degree was in business, so I had a basic understanding as to what it took to run a business," he says. "If anything, my intent was to make enough money to supply my habit and grow my tool collection both in number and in quality."
He initially started out as Cutting Edge Woodcraft and ran into a problem. "There were a number of other businesses with the “cutting edge” name; a construction company, a lawn business, and so on," says Mike. "Not wanting to be a follower, after a few years, I took the Rock Star Woodcraft, in honor of my love of woodcraft, my absolute passion for music, and my rock star way of thinking."
Since the start of his business, he has always had projects to complete. Starting before social media, his business generally derived from word of mouth. Since incorporating social media, he says he been very fortunate with a "continual To Do” list. "Rock Star Woodcraft has definitely grown from a simple hobby business," he says. "I want to say it has grown to a part-time business due to the fact that I still work full time as a department chair at a local college, but the truth is, I dedicate at least 50 hours a week to it….and absolutely love it."
His target audience is anyone who wants something handcrafted from wood. "The reality is, my target audience are usually those who want that “one of a kind” piece that is hand-crafted for their specific need," says Mike. "My clients are those who understand that custom perfection, high end quality, and a dedication to service usually cannot be found in a big box store. They are individuals who will pay for lasting value. In the words of Ben Franklin, they embrace the saying that 'The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.'"
His greatest growth has come from word of mouth and social media. "I have really upped my engagement on social media with not only posting pictures, but with posting video snippets," he says. "Additionally, I simply watch what others are doing and attempt to emulate their best practices in the hopes that my engagement, market, sales, and followers increase. The best marketing is the client's satisfaction, and with them letting the world know of their satisfaction."
To help promote the brand when a a new custom piece leaves the store, Mike uses a kiss cut sticker to give an extra bit of marketing. "I love the stickers that Sticker Giant made for me. I stick one to every project that leaves my shop," he says. "If I use a brown bag for items, one goes on the bag. I sticker swap with other makers in the community. I have noticed that some business have a board for stickers and business cards, so I will place place them there." He says his are the perfect size for placing on the back of cell phones, "which I was happy to see, this is where a few of mine have ended up," he says. "And finally, they are great swag! I simply give them away to anyone who wants one. And when it comes to kids, what kid doesn’t love stickers? Many of my stickers are no doubt, decorating something of importance in that child’s world."
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