Woodworking Wonder: Brainerd Teen Turns Hobby Into Business – Brainerd Dispatch
BRAINERD – There are barely enough hours in the day and weekdays for Brandon Eberts to keep up with all of his responsibilities and activities.
A sophomore at Brainerd High School, Brandon works at Great River Door Co. after school on non-boating days and spends his weekends at Lakeland Woodsmith. The unique part of the latest venture is that Brandon can call it his own. Last summer, aged just 14, the teenager started his own carpentry business.
“It gets a little overwhelming at times,” Brandon said in a Sept. 30 interview. “But I can handle it usually.”
Now, after turning 16 last week, Brandon is busier than ever, creating custom cutting boards, signs, cribbage boards and other items for his customers.
As he acquires more tools to add to his store of saws, laser engravers, lathes, joiners, planers and sanding equipment, he hopes to increase his product offering.
“I would love to do bigger custom orders, like tables – coffee tables, dining tables, side tables – all that kind of basic furniture, but then add a touch to it and make it unique “, did he declare.
After winning money in a recent statewide business contest, Brandon is well on his way to achieving it.
The MN Cup, hosted by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, is a community-led public-private partnership that supports entrepreneurs. An annual competition connects those who start their own businesses with educational opportunities, mentors and support to launch and further grow their businesses.
Brandon entered the youth division of the MN Cup last summer and found himself presenting business plans and pitch decks, creating videos and building awareness for his brand. After months of work and pitches, the teenager came in second, winning $5,000 to invest in Lakeland Woodsmith.
“It’s really going to allow me to grow from this,” Brandon said, as his busy schedule with school, work and extracurricular activities makes it difficult to invest as much time and money in his business as he does. he would like it.
But his work at Great River Door in Brainerd, along with other community connections, is also part of what makes Lakeland Woodsmith possible.
Advice on things like pricing and marketing came from Brent Manley, owner of Great River Door, while Chris Smith of Minnesota Makerspace at Brainerd was a source of knowledge in areas like laser engraving. Companies are also giving him more space to work in and equipment to use when he needs it.
“He just has this interest and this desire to create things,” Manley said. “He is always on the lookout for new ideas.
But Brandon’s first mentor was someone much closer to home.
“I started with my grandfather,” he says. “He bought me a set of tools and we started building things together – deer stands, signs, little shelves, basic stuff.”
Then in college, he discovered STEM courses and developed an aptitude for the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A specific lesson really piqued his interest when he learned how to use a laser engraver and a CNC machine while working with wood.
“After that, I realized it might pay off because we did a sign — a Minnesota sign — and some people offered me a few hundred dollars for it,” Brandon said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, I could start doing this to make some money. “”
It was a decision that made his parents a little hesitant at first, but now Matt and Deb Eberts couldn’t be more proud of their son.
“Once he’s decided on something, he’s off to the races,” Matt said. “And I was really lucky that he chose to focus on positive things.”
Her son has always been a child of big ideas, unable to think small. So once the teenager had his business idea, it was up to him to do all the work.
“I said, ‘Look, if you want to pursue this, that’s great. You know, we’re going to offer all the support we can, but it’s you. It’s your thing, and you’re going to have to study it. You’re going to have to do some research. You’re going to have to do the work if you’re ever going to sell stuff,” Matt said.
And Brandon did just that.
Reaching out to local business owners, drawing inspiration from former teachers, drawing on his grandfather’s wealth of knowledge and the support of his parents, Brandon grew his own business.
“People have been so incredibly generous in acknowledging his enthusiasm and sowing it in healthy ways,” Matt said.
Brandon is also grateful for the support, knowing his success wouldn’t be possible without it, and encourages other kids with big ideas to follow the same path.
“You need to find someone who knows what they’re doing — a mentor or a business owner, a family member — someone who has experience in this area and just talk to them,” said Brandon.
Brandon’s Lakeland Woodsmith website exemplifies this kind of mentorship, with photos of his completed and personalized cutting boards, serving boards, charcuterie boards, signs and luggage tags, all made with the care and precision that customers can expect from a professional.
And if a product doesn’t come out exactly as Brandon envisioned, chances are it will end up in his parents’ or grandparents’ house, a shining reminder of what hard work, a determined spirit and a little encouragement can accomplish.
THERESA BOURKE can be reached at
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