HOW THE BUSINESS STARTED
Now a family business, Big Beaver Co. started out as a hobby. Owner Jay Butler was tired of paying big money for the same items that he was passionate about creating himself. Jay started this business with his family. With his brother-in-law as is his Arborist and co-worker, and family and friends as his support system, Jay hasn’t been let down.
Even though he is 100% self-taught, Jay took milling from a hobby to a business in less than a year. Specializing in live edge milling, he takes urban lumber destined for the chipper and turns it into something beautiful. From start to finish, he’s involved. He knows the wood, cuts it, and puts it in the kiln.
Jay started out milling for other people and soon realized that it was much more profitable to mill for himself. Jay figured this out by breaking metal on other people’s logs and losing a day’s profit on logs for other people. Realizing that it made more sense to keep the profits, he began to mill for himself.
Currently, Big Beaver Co. is linked up to sawmills on the West Coast, a place where hardwoods are hard to come by. Doing 30 to 40 slab orders once a month pays the bills and enables him and his family to sustain their current lifestyle.
On the other side of the coin, they also coach mom and pop stores on selling their wood products. Jay says that taking the time to get a feel for the customer’s specific needs and directing them down the right avenue helps everyone leave the sale happy.
WHY HE DOES IT
Explaining that he’s not destroying trees, but instead removing ones that are about to die and turning them into pieces that can be handed down generation to generation, Jay says, “You let the wood do what it wants to do, don’t rush the work, and work with the wood. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Loving what he does, Jay’s decision to pursue milling is a choice that he doesn’t regret. At the end of the day, it’s what he truly loves and is passionate about.
If you do good by one person, they’ll tell people, and then those people will come to see you. Be a person that people like and trust, and your business will grow.
A month ago, an order for 55,000 boards was placed (that’s about 150 dump trucks worth of lumber a year!)- a million dollar order in their first year of business… However, Jay and his family aren’t in this for the money. It’s for the enjoyment that comes from doing work that they’re passionate about. Knowing that this order would take over their schedule and lives, they passed on it for the opportunity to maintain their current lifestyle, one in which they spend time with their family and continue living a quiet and content life.
In his area, all of the people in the sawmill industry meet after work for beers and to hang out together. His relationship with his other competitors is more of a brotherhood and he loves it. It’s a tight-knit community and he’s humbled to be a part of it.
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