Local Colorado entrepreneur, Josh Strimbu, learned the art of woodworking from his dad, and today he’s passing his love for the craft along to his own three kids. After visiting a renaissance festival with his children several years ago, where one of his sons pointed out a wand that he wanted, Josh decided to get back into woodworking and make the wand himself from scrap wood. He began selling the wands on Etsy, where they ended up being quite popular, until he earned the funds to start his own company: WoodRiver WoodCrafts.
Josh’s company focuses on high quality, handmade cutting boards that make great gifts or decorations for the kitchen. We love that he makes everything from over 90% recycled scrap wood, and puts each piece together by hand – no small feat as a busy dad! We talked with Josh to learn more about his passion for woodworking, his growing company, and how he still makes family a top priority.
1. How did the idea for WoodRiver WoodCrafts Come to be?
I got back into woodworking several years ago. My equipment was limited essentially to one table top belt sander, so I set out turning pieces of scrap wood by hand on the belt sander into magic wands for my son. My first attempts were crude indeed. After sharing the dozen or more wands I had created with friends on Facebook I was encouraged to create a store on ETSY.com to sell them.
My first store was called WandsAndSwords and to my very great surprise my product actually sold! I used the proceeds of almost every sale to purchase new equipment and over time my quality increased and so did my sales. All good things must end however. When a certain historic movie franchise wrapped up its 8th and last movie, the market for magic wands dwindled. Now I had piles of scrap wood and was in need of a new direction. On a whim I threw together some of my scrap into a cutting board and now I had something truly unique; high quality, hand crafted, gourmet cutting boards made green from reclaimed scrap wood. I shy away from standard squares and rectangles, though I do make some, and craft boards in shapes such as Guitars, Apples, Wine Bottles, Hearts, Buffalo and more. My boards are truly functional art. My work can now be found locally in a couple stores and I’m hoping to expand that to several stores this year.
2. How do you find inspiration for designs?
I find inspiration in all I see around me. I make cutting boards in the shape of animals, instruments, Islands, and more. I aim to please, and many of my designs have come directly from my customers requests.
3. What is the biggest challenge in the business? Biggest reward?
My biggest challenges is balance. My company is largely a one man show and it is a challenge to meet the growing demands of increased exposure and the time I desire to spend with my family. I look forward to the day where my workload requires me to hire my first full time employee.
My biggest reward is being able to see my finished creations being used and enjoyed. I recently finished my largest project to date at Root Down DIA! I created all the table tops and an 18 foot half moon shaped bar top. The restaurant opened in July on concourse C and, as with all my work, they were made from over 90% reclaimed scrap wood.
4. What do you most love about Colorado?
I was born and raised in Colorado. It is home. I love the snow covered peaks in winter time, the golden leaves in the fall, and all the mountains have to offer year round.
5. What is something readers would be surprised to know about you or your business?
All of my work is hand crafted, hand cut, hand sanded and hand finished. This is getting harder and harder to maintain as my company grows but I take pride in the hand crafted quality.
6. What do you like best about your line of work?
I like that I can find inspiration in the everyday, and in short order create a product that will bring beauty to someone’s kitchen and put a smile on their face. One of my designs literally came to me in a dream and 24 hours later was being finished in my garage.
7. Tell us about the recent growth of your company.
I’ve opened up in a new store, Connexions, at the Colorado Mills mall. I’m also in negotiations to work on another restaurant that will open later this year or early next year in downtown Denver. The tables will be made from reclaimed wood from the building itself, which is over 100 years old. I also just recently hosted a local troop of girl scouts and enabled them to get their woodworking badges. Each girl, with my assistance, created a 6 x 8 cutting board from my stock of reclaimed scrap wood.