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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Craig Welborn and Brian Welborn, Welborn Woodworks LLC

Spotlight - Craig Welborn and Brian Welborn, Welborn Woodworks LLC

image Craig Welborn and Brian Welborn, Co-founders, Welborn Woodworks LLC, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - How were you both introduced to the construction industry? Craig: We actually started working for John King Construction in Austin when we were 16. We started on the bottom rung, carrying equipment and materials from one part of the job site to the other. Then we just stuck with it over summers and we both did a little remodeling in college.




What happened after college?
Craig: When we graduated from Texas State and came back to Austin in 2008, I actually became a teacher, but just being inside all day didn’t fit with my personality. The recession in 2008 was pretty bad so there weren’t many people hiring, but I was able to finally get on with a couple of remodeling outfits and ultimately with a custom home builder in Austin, Dwight Dowd of Dowd Construction. He hired me on as a finish and trim carpenter.
Brian: I worked in Phoenix, AZ right out of college for Pamé Construction until the market fell out in 2008. The construction market was still thriving in Austin so it wasn’t a tough decision to move back.
Craig: I got Brian on with us for about a year and a half and that’s where we really developed our skills in advanced carpentry and joinery. In 2010, we decided we were going to start an energy-auditing firm; we thought it would be a nice industry to get into, but decided that wasn’t for us, either. We wound up back in the woodshop and started Welborn Woodworks in 2010.

What were your feelings about owning a business?
Craig: It felt necessary more than anything. We were getting too used to the “gig” lifestyle; they would let us know Friday if they were giving us our last check or if there would be any work Monday. We got fed up with the uncertainty and dependency on other people to tell us whether we were going to work or not. We also started realizing how much we were being paid and how much these jobs were being built for, even though we were the ones doing all of the work and had the skill. We were on the wrong side of the equation.
    It felt natural, but Brian and I have always been strong, independent people. Maybe that comes from being twins and fighting for your own identity your whole life, but we both had that urge to be on our own and be responsible. If we were going to be out of work, it was going to be our fault and not us waiting on somebody to bring us work or tell us that we were going to have a job.
Brian: I always knew I wanted to work for myself; carpentry and construction seemed the most efficient route.
Craig: We started with small remodel jobs. The mom of a good friend of ours is a well-known interior designer in Austin, and she started bringing us clients for little things; we just grew from there by word of mouth. It’s definitely been the most challenging, humbling and – for brief moments – most rewarding chal-lenge I’ve ever taken on. Starting your own company is easy; it’s less than a couple of hours of paperwork. Running and creating a profitable company is extremely difficult.

How has your business evolved?
Craig: Our jobs have gotten bigger. As our skill set and resume have grown and improved over the years, we’ve put ourselves in a position to bid on, win and complete bigger projects, so our goals get bigger. As far as being the two owners and the growth of the business, Brian and I are a constant evolution. Everything changes so quickly and that’s kind of the addictive part of it too. If anything has changed, it’s been more opportunities and bigger opportunities.
Brian: We’ve become much better at building, designing, and planning as we continue to take on bigger projects.

Did your relationship change?
Craig: In the beginning, it was very stressful. There was a lot of growing up to do because Brian and I had only known each other as twins. Now we know each other as business owners and partners, and the hardest lesson we learned was how to view our situations objectively as opposed to emotionally.
    Since the company has matured and we’ve matured, our professional and personal relationship has grown and improved a lot simply because of that newfound respect. Among siblings, it’s so easy to go the path of least resistance and blame and scream at each other! It takes a lot between family to put emotions aside and view it objectively and figure out the best course of action as professionals.
    I also think there was a learning curve outside of business management, which we had no experience in. We’re great carpenters, but learning how to run and grow a business has been much more challenging than any carpentry we had to do. It’s been really rewarding for Brian and I in the long run, though it was hard in the beginning.
Brian: We were forced to learn how to work together instead of around each other.

You also both had a second job as HGTV stars. How did that happen?

Craig: My wife Heather, who was my girlfriend at the time, got a call from a friend of hers who was involved in the film and entertainment industry around Austin. She told Heather about an open casting call for teams/couples for an HGTV design show. Heather’s friend said that Heather and I should do the show since we’re both creative, but Heather said that Brian and I should do it.
    I drove Brian down to an open casting call at an Austin hotel. After sitting there for four hours, Brian was ready to leave! He wasn’t interested and didn’t understand what we were doing there. We actually made the finals for two different shows. One was “Brother vs. Brother,” but the show we did was called “Flipping the Block,” and it was eight episodes. Essentially, it involved four teams of two and four similar properties, all with the same budget and same rules. We lived in one of the houses and remodeled every room; every room was an episode and that came down to a competition. There were six competitions leading into a final auction. Whoever auctioned their house off for the most – minus what they spent on their renovations – won the contest. We did not win.
Brian: I’m still not sure why we were picked for that show …
Craig: It ended up being 75 insane days. We were sequestered the whole time. We didn’t leave the property. We had to shut down the business for two months. We couldn’t tell anyone where we were going or what we were doing. My wife replied to our emails to let everyone know we were doing something special and that we were out of town for a couple of months.

Did you enjoy the experience?
Brian: I enjoyed the overall experience. It was much more difficult and intense than I ever could have imagined.
Craig: It was a good personal experience, and we had another good mark on our resume, so it wasn’t all bad. In the long run, it wasn’t good for the business. Shutting down the phone lines for too long doesn’t help any business. You lose a lot in that time, but we got back on our feet when we came back to Austin.

Are you recognized from the show?
Craig: For a while we were. Two older sisters from the show were from New Orleans and we went there a few times. We got recognized more in New Orleans than anywhere. One time we were at a bachelor party, and we kept telling people, “No! No! Cameras down! Cameras down!”

What do you enjoy when you aren’t working with wood?
Brian: When I’m not in the shop, I like to play rugby with my club, the Austin Huns, get loose with my friends and family, and get outdoors when we can.

What strength does your brother bring to the business?

Brian: My brother brings a lot to the table. Most importantly, he does a lot of our graphics and design work.
Craig: Brian is kind of the muscle of the operation. He’s the guy that is really quick to the job site and the workhorse of it all. It’s not that we don’t push the tools equally, but Brian is definitely kind of running the labor side; if there are questions or things to be figured out or asked, we usually default to him.

What are your professional goals?

Craig: For us right now, we’re looking forward to growth. When we started, we didn’t start with a business loan or anything; we started with what we had in our pockets. It’s been eight years of word-of-mouth advertising. Now, we’re right on that edge of hitting the next level between our commercial growth and our residential growth. It’s a really fun time; we’re in unchartered territory. We’re small fish in a big pond right now in Austin, and we’re trying to find our way up that ladder.
    Austin subcontractor Welborn Woodworks offers cabinetry and design. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net