By Ben Wiese | Jul 11, 2022
Wright's live edge custom woodworking business is the outlier of outliers. Precariously straddling the line between fate and luck, Wright hopped from a dead-end gig in the oil and energy industry into an entrepreneurial endeavor borne out of good fortune, ingenuity, and a neighborly favor.
The self-proclaimed son of a redneck grew up handy in all areas of manual labor.
"When I was in high school, my dad told me, 'You're not working at H-E-B. You're doing manual labor,'" says Wright. "So, I did things like construction, concrete, and framing. I never did a day of woodworking in my life, but I got good at figuring things out."
However, by 2017, Wright's career trajectory had flatlined. He was destined for a pivot but lacked the vision for what said pivot might entail.
"I was miserable at my job," he says. "I had recently been told that I had done all that I could at that company, and that my career really wasn't going anywhere anymore."
With some big decisions to make and some time off, Wright took on the task of rebuilding a dilapidated front patio for his elderly neighbor. Upon completing the project, Wright's friend asked if he could pull off another project: a live edge bench.
Confidently, and without experience, he said yes. "I told my buddy I was pretty sure I can make anything," Wright continues.
The live edge bench project in January of 2017 led to being commissioned to make a coffee table, then a handful of smaller furniture pieces, and finally, a dining room table.
Though satisfied with his work, Wright still had no plans to pursue a woodworking career. But plans change.
"At the beginning of February, an interior designer for a custom home builder hit me up and asked if I could do a conference room table," says Wright.
He was shocked. He even voiced to the interior designer that he wasn't an official business -- but she was sold on his work. All he had to do was submit a bid.
Wright had no idea how to write a bid proposal, so he asked a friend to draft one up on Microsoft Office. In an advantageous stroke of fortune, Wright was told the numbers of competing bids. Naturally, he submitted one for 15 percent less and got the gig.
Even without a plan in place for what to do, Wright felt compelled to see where the opportunity could take him. "I decided I needed to take this chance," he explains. "I don't have a wife and kids. I don't need to take out a bank loan. I don't have to raise money to start this. Let's see what happens."
Within three months, Wright had thousands of dollars' worth of work lined up --$134,000 to be precise. In the blink of an eye, he had his career pivot.
Five years later, The Wright Edge's custom woodworking is showcased all over the world -- including in the homes, offices, restaurants, and even airstreams of clients ranging from A-list musicians to professional athletes to booming corporations.
Wright's manufacturing process is thorough but simple. He uses a broker to bring in salvaged wood -- primarily from Costa Rica -- and stores it in his 5,000-square-foot warehouse facility in the Design District of Dallas. He has a contract welder and the rest of the manufacturing -- sanding, leveling, drying, layering, and epoxying -- he does himself. When a piece is completed and ready, a white-glove moving company retrieves, transports, and installs it in its proper location.
Wright's setup includes a forklift, a large surfacing machine from Australia called a Wood Wiz -- used for flattening and resurfacing slabs -- along with hand tools such as chainsaws, routers, and sanders. But the majority of the warehouse space is dedicated to carefully housing a wondrous inventory just waiting to be transformed into the next work of art.
The space, which he moved into in July 2021, enables Wright to proactively procure the woods he would like to work with -- and by extension, to show potential clients an impressive inventory to choose from when dreaming up their custom pieces. Additionally, the space includes offices and showrooms.
Challenges: Despite an unfathomable start to his business, Wright finds himself in the unique position of being too expensive for many but known to too few. It is a challenge getting in front of the proper audience.
"With my minimum starting price point, I'm not really priced for the majority of the public," he says. "Regular digital marketing and salespeople don't totally apply for my business. I've figured out it comes down to exposure. I've discovered that I really need a good PR company. Right now, we're operating at about 60 percent capacity for what we can do in a year that we're fully booked out. Until we get to that 75 to 80 percent optimization point, I really can't afford to fully figure out what the next step is for scalability."
Opportunities: The good news for Wright is that his projects are indeed getting in front of the right audiences. Recently, he wrapped a dazzling opportunity that has the potential to propel him to new national recognition.
"We just finished up a project with Toyota and JBL Audio," he explains. "They took an Airstream trailer and turned it into a mobile recording studio for Taylor Swift and Chris Stapleton, and we have seven pieces in the studio. The plan is for the Airstream to be taken to NASCAR events."
Needs: Prior to the pandemic, Wright's commissions came from three sectors: corporate, residential, and hospitality -- the last one being the largest source. But since the pandemic, Wright's commissions have almost exclusively come from the residential sector.
Despite the commercial and hospitality worlds making a bit of a comeback more than two years later, Wright is likely to only take on a handful of commercial projects in the future as a result of his strong preference for residential clients. Due to his distaste for his previous experience, he is unlikely to return to hospitality at all. If he can swing it, he would like to continue his growth while maintaining the ability to say 'No' to the projects he is resistant to taking on.