We had the good fortune of connecting with Brad Borkowski and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brad, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I really needed the money! I just moved out to Colorado after graduating with an education degree from University of Northern Iowa. I was in the middle of my second year of teaching at Manitou Springs High School and needed to make more money to support myself and my girlfriend at the time who didn’t have a job. I had just learned about Etsy so I decided to start making stuff at school to sell on there. I built a lot of cutting boards and wine holders at first that wasn’t very successful but then my dad, who also was a wood working teacher, told me I should start building chessboards. I built a few and then I started to get a lot of custom orders that came in. It has been growing steadily since that point.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My philosophy is that if you treat others right, they will do right by you. I’ve always had that mindset while working on my Etsy site. I love working with my customers and I want them to get the exactly what they want without paying outrages prices for it. I’d say that one of my best attributes as a seller is my customer service. A lot of other places where people buy high quality chessboards they can’t take to the actual person who is making it for them. In my shop, I am the only person. I am talking to the customer and I am building the boards. I feel like people really like supporting someone they have had a conservation with and who has made their chessboard from scratch.

After figuring out what I could sell that people were interested in, the hard part for me was to figure out shipping. I didn’t really think this would take off as big as it did so I was really just looking for hobby money when I started so I didn’t have the resources to go by a bunch of custom shipping boxes. I learned the hard way of trail and error of finding what shipping methods worked best. It took me a couple of years but I finally got that dialed in where I have custom boxes and a pretty good shipping method.

I think it good for people to know to dream big and don’t limit yourself. I feel like I did that a lot when I first started off but now I know there is no limitation to what I can do with my brand except the limits I put on myself. I love the idea of sometime doing this full time and really being creative with some of my designs but at the same time I really love being a teacher, working with students, and sharing my successes with them so they can try it achieve their goals. So for now, I plan on being both teacher and a woodworker.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’d try to take them to all the good hiking spots in town that aren’t packed with other tourists. I love hiking up Red Mountain in Manitou Springs and then stopping at Manitou Brewing for a beer. We’d have to go to Super Nova to play some arcade games and drink a PBR. If it’s in the winter, we’d have to go skiing up at Keystone and if it’s summer, I’d take them backpacking near Westcliffe. One of my favorite things to do here in town in the summer is to go to a Switchbacks game and then stop at Red Swing Brewery after the game.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I credit my parents for a lot of my success, both as an educator and as a woodworker. Both of them were former educators themselves and persuaded me to become a teacher. When I got a job offer to teach in Colorado, which is about 10 hours away from where the rest of my family lives, they encouraged me to take it and helped me with the cost of moving out here. My dad gave me the idea to start making chessboards when I was struggling to find my nitch. When I went through a divorce, moved into a new house, and my Etsy sales were up 1000% all at the same time, they came and helped me move into my new place and helped me fulfill orders for over a month. They are always willing to drop whatever they are doing to help me or my siblings out. They are really great parents!

Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ColoradoWoodWorker

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coloradowoodworker

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Coloradowoodworker

Image Credits
Erin Gocinski

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.