Our True Beauty Series highlights women of impeccable taste, fascinating livelihoods, and epic ambitions. It features the women we look at and say, “I wanna be like her when I grow up.” Today’s interview is with Jenni Urbanczyk of Urban Tree Company, who you may recognize as the company who is making our headboard! That project is very nearly ready for install, and I can’t wait to show you all the big reveal soon! Until then, I thought it would be insightful for you, dear readers, to learn about the woman behind this incredible brand. Enjoy!
Haute in Texas: Hi Jenni! Alright, let’s start off with the big one. How did you get into woodworking?
Jenni Urbanczyk: Well I was an Art major in college, so I have always been creative in some way. I was actually working as a wilderness therapy field instructor and we all had to carve our own utensils from branches as a rite of passage. I had never really worked with wood artistically before but I really loved how easy it was to sculpt and form, and then I started making more things and then I made it a career.
HIT: Is it unique to be a woman in woodworking, or do you find there is a large community of boss babes such as yourself?
JU: I think there are more and more women getting into woodworking and arboriculture, there are just sooo many ways to “be ” a woodworker. From the sawmill, to sculpting, lathe work and hand crafted furniture design… there are so many avenues to wood working. But, just like most of the trades, I feel it is a male dominated industry. But anybody can be a woodworker. There are so many super talented women out. there with heir own shops, hand carving their own original artworks, making some really incredible work. When I sell things at the markets people often want to talk to The Man about their tree or their project, I think thats just an old stereotype that has to be shattered.
HIT: How do you juggle motherhood and a burgeoning business?
JU: Juggling is right. I try to practice open communication with my husband about needs, we have schedules, we talk about what is important in our lives such as gym time, Yoga or learning and make those personal extracurriculars a priority. It’s really hard to give everything 110% so I have been trying really hard to be realistic with expectations of myself, the shop and my family. And through it all I try to stay grateful for these crazy kids, the opportunities and freedom I get at work and the support I get from my family.
HIT: What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in woodworking?
JU: Go to school! There are plenty of places to learn furniture building and construction. Wood working is the type of education that never ends, there’s always something new to learn or master. Find a mentor who will share what they know with you. Woodworking is one of those dying crafts that fewer and fewer people are looking to learn. If you are good at what you do, I think people will seek that out and your skill will be evident in your work.
HIT: What’s been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you overcome it?
JU: Starting. The first step is always the hardest. We set some goals, made a few cutting boards for clients, got a few tools, hired a few people… And when those milestones were met we set new goals. We make budgets to account for employees, tools and materials and if there’s profit, we grow. We look at the markets and sell where and when it makes sense. We plan.
HIT: What is it like working with your husband, and do you have any tips for communicating with a spouse who you live and work with so closely?
JU: It’s great to have a partner who is so into the same things I am. We brainstorm & dream together which is nice, and complement each other when we’re not butting heads :). We also have some separation of power at work, I focus more on product creation, marketing and design. Scott has the tree service to focus on, sawmill and chainsaw work to deal with. We also try to leave work at work, which can be hard because sometimes we’re really stoked about projects that we’re working on.
HIT: How do you define true beauty?
JU: Nature. The natural world is so perfect and awesome it’s hard to beat it. That’s why I don’t try to change the wood we work with. It’s pretty beautiful just the way it is. It’s my job to help show that perfection in the objects we make.
HIT: Lastly, an Haute in Texas tradition: pancakes or waffles?
JU: Pancakes for quickness and ease. Waffles for their butter and syrup holding capacity. We do Silly Pancakes on occasion which is Whoop Cream, Maple Syrup, Sprinkles and chocolate chips, on occasion 🙂
Thanks Jenni for taking the time to talk with me, you are truly an inspiration!