BY DAN TAYLOR, ENERGIZING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITIES PROGRAM COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Eddie Austin is a unique entrepreneur in Lincoln County, with a very unique story, but one that should be an inspiration to all West Virginians.
Eddie’s business is based in one of the communities The Hub is working with as part of the Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities program, and it serves as model for others who are looking to start or grow their local businesses.
A woodworker and craftsman who has been building handmade furniture for over fifteen years, Eddie sells to people across the state, the country and even the world. You might find his high end cabinetry and furniture in Charleston, Philadelphia, Chicago, California, Austria and more places, but the whole time he has been a resident of this beautiful, rural county. His woodshop, located on Route 34 in Lincoln County, near the Putnam border, once belonged to his mentor and father-in-law, Jim Probst.
Eddie’s interest for furniture making was sparked in high school when he began working for the local furniture maker. “The business found me,” he said. During his senior year in High School, after the restaurant he was working for closed down, Probst made him the offer to come to work for him, starting out sweeping the floors.
After training there for some time, Eddie then attended the University of Rio Grande, graduating first in his class with a degree in fine woodworking technology. “I started out making Shaker tables and ended up making 18th century Queen Anne desks and dressing tables,” he recounts, “That is really where the skills all started and knew I could make a career out of this.”
His work is all custom, prototyped pieces, created one at a time for the customer.
As for advice to young entrepreneurs starting out, Eddie wants them to know, “People won’t come to you, you have to go to them. Step outside of your comfort zone and write your own plan yourself. And communicating with your customers is key.”
He has a new venture on the way with a business partner, as well. Collaborating with the Coalfield Development Corporation, with whom he has previously worked with developing their woodworking training program, Eddie will be opening the “Red Light Barber Shop” in downtown Hamlin as part of Coalfield’s redevelopment of the Henson Building on Walnut Street.
Hamlin used to have one red light, removed years ago, and their business goal is to create so much traffic downtown that they have to bring the red light back!
Quality product, not volume of product, is what is important to Eddie. In his woodworking, being the top of line is what he sets out to do. “Set goals, and chase the best in your field,” he says.
But, creating community is important to him as well. “The people are the most important thing in my business. Clients become friends and that is so rewarding. I love getting to know the people who want a piece of my work in their homes or businesses. Anyone that makes something wants their customers to appreciate it as much or more than they do. It’s so rewarding that I get to make pieces for people who truly love what I do,” he shared.
Find out more about Eddie at www.eddieaustinwoodworks.com.