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For Windermere-based entrepreneur Jolene Smith, much of the work behind her woodworking business The Rustic Barn is a one-woman show.
by: Danielle Hendrix Staff Writer
WINDERMERE On her Instagram account for The Rustic Barn, owner Jolene Smith often adds the hashtag “#girlswhobuild” to each post.It’s the perfect way to describe the Windermere-based entrepreneur.
Smith originally became interested in woodworking and building from watching Chip and Joanna Gaines’s HGTV show, “Fixer Upper.” She had always had a passion for building things on her own but never gave much thought to what she could do with it until she saw a headboard she liked that was out of her price range.
“I said, ‘I think I can make that!’ So I made it, posted it on social media, and all my friends and family absolutely loved it,” Smith said. “From the feedback from that I said, ‘Let’s see how one would sell.’ The day I posted it for sale on Craigslist it was sold, and I had people inquiring about it so I made additional ones.”
From there, customer requests came filtering in, for anything ranging from dining room tables, bedroom furniture and living room furniture to desks, entertainment centers, bookshelves and more. Business really took off in summer 2016, and based on the response, Smith decided to make a small business out of it.
She decided to create rustic-themed pieces, each made from high-quality wood and with a touch of Southern charm. Part of the inspiration for this came from none other than Joanna Gaines.
“She’s really big on the whole farmhouse theme and I personally absolutely love the farmhouse style as well,” Smith said. “I get to add my own little flair onto something I’m so passionate about.”
The Rustic Barn specializes in handmade and solid-wood furniture, and most pieces are made to order. For this reason prices range greatly, depending on type of furniture, dimensions, finishes and other special touches the customer requests.
Originally learning the tools of the trade came from her own interest in building and from watching others create their own pieces.
“I flipped a house and watching the handyman do degrees and use a saw, I learned from that,” she said. “From there I bought all the tools and watched YouTube videos. If there’s something I don’t know how to do, I just use Google.”
She uses various types of wood depending on customer preference, whether it be exotic woods or something as simple as cedar. Typically she will have three to four custom orders going at once, since each one requires multiple steps — while she waits for paint to dry on one order, she will move on to the next piece so no time is wasted.
Average turnaround time is about a week from the time building begins.
“My favorite thing was definitely the dining room tables, and it’s honestly because I can start with wood that day and by the end of the day it’s rewarding, because I can actually see the form of the table coming about,” she said. “It’s my personal favorite because people gather around the table, when you host parties you sit around the table, so in general the kitchen table is my favorite piece of furniture.”
Smith is taking custom orders for mid-March and later in the spring. All orders are pickup only, and much of that reason stems from the fact that she is a “one-woman show.”
“I have help here and there, but 90% of it is done by me. A lot of my correspondence is usually via email, so when someone comes and picks up a piece of furniture they’re almost shocked,” she said. “It’s considered a man’s job, and to know a woman can use these tools and put things together, for them it’s more shocking that a woman did it more than anything. I do get the shock like, ‘Where’s the guy in the shop?’ or ‘Where’s your husband?’”
Her biggest tip for other young entrepreneurs and women who have a passion for being creative is to follow their heart and do what they love.
“I had a background in medicine and I loved it, but it wasn’t my ultimate passion,” she said. “If people tell you that you can’t do something because it’s a man’s job, prove them wrong. If it makes you happy, do it.”