What is your profession?
For my normal day job, I am a Digital Channel Marketing Manager, but my passion is with building - which prompted me to start MT Farm Tables about 4 years ago. It keeps be quite busy as a side profession that continues to grow. Right now, pretty much everything I build is custom and made-to-order.
Are you all self-taught?
I went to school for my day job in the corporate world. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time on the trades. I had a lot of guidance and instruction years ago from my dad and some other folks who were mentors. When you’re young, you don’t always pay attention as much as you should, so now looking back, I realize how much I actually did learn and how much more I could have learned if I was listening more. A lot of great lessons and a lot of value in that.
How did you get into the profession / what inspired you?
My father was a builder by trade. I always was around him working - the smell in the workshop, the saw dust, the tools - all that brings me right back to childhood. I think that’s also part of the reason I enjoy it so much today. What's nice is that I still have a fair amount of his tools. My father passed away about 27 years ago, so the fact that I'm still using some of his tools – some of which being STANLEY and BLACK+DECKER - I just get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
Why would you recommend a career in skilled trades?
For me, that’s a very easy question to answer. I get a lot of satisfaction from making something for a customer and just seeing their reaction. Beyond the dollars that may go in your pocket, I thoroughly enjoy seeing my customers enjoy what I've built.
What advice do you have for students or individuals who may be considering pursuing skilled trades?
The first thing I would say is go for it! Don’t be afraid to try something new. You’re going to make mistakes, but you’re going to learn from those mistakes. When I sit down now and look at what I've created compared to 4 or 5 years ago... I’m like “Wow! I’ve really come a long way. I’ve really learned a lot.” And yes, I learned those lessons the hard way sometimes. The main thing there, is don’t be afraid to try and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
My second key piece of advice would be don’t under-value your work. You’re going to come across people where you say the price is X and they’ll offer you Y. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Don't under-value the quality of your work. I think that’s really important.
“You’re going to make mistakes, but you’re going to learn from those mistakes.”
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were looking into career opportunities?
That there are probably just as many opportunities in the trade world as there are in the corporate world. I think if you have the ability to mix your trade skills with business skills, that really gives you a leg up. Being able to utilize my marketing skills in my trade business has been extremely valuable. Just having that business acumen really helps a great deal. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without it, but it certainly does help. There’s a lot of things that apply to both worlds, so I try to leverage what I can from my various experiences.
“That there are probably just as many opportunities in the trade world as there are in the corporate world.”
What are your future aspirations?
I'd really like to continue the success I've had so far. What will be the challenge for me is that a lot of what I build is around the farmhouse style décor. It’s probably not going to stay in style forever though. Trends like that come and go. If and when the whole farmhouse décor trend starts to go, or at least starts to fade away a little bit, I'll have to find a way to pivot with what’s next and support a new trend. But I also believe that there will always be a market for hand-made, quality pieces of furniture, whether it’s a table or something else. So, I think just sustaining the success I've had – which I'm very gracious and thankful for – and then also being able to pivot as the industry changes or evolves.
What’s the Maker community like?
There are a million people like myself that are out there building - all you have to do is scroll through Instagram and you can see them all. I'm proud of all the side hustles and people who made that jump from a full-time profession. I respect everybody’s work and I love seeing their craft. You get ideas and tips from other people. I get quite a few messages from people who are just starting out asking for advice. The first thing I say is “Hey, I'm no expert. But just believe in yourself and believe in your work.”
Why are you #MakerProud?
I get a lot of satisfaction when I create something with my hands and when I see the reaction from my customers. Having the right set of tools and the right set of materials to do your job just creates a lot of pride when you’re done with the project. When you make that final delivery and you drive away saying, you know what BOOM, I nailed that. That’s what makes me proud.
Find Mark on Facebook and Instagram at @mtfarmtables