Jennifer Gripe – Hobbyist Woodworker

“My best friend even said to me just a couple weeks ago that he never imagined I would be woodworking.  This new-ish hobby has taken over my world and it’s actually quite perfect for me.”

Yet another fantastic lady with a passion to create!

Take a moment to read my interview with Jennifer.

Tamara: Tell me about your business

Jennifer: 7 Mile Designs (7MD) is my part time hobby/business.  The main focus is on woodworking and building furniture and décor for myself and others.  A secondary aspect of it is content creation on social media and my blog.  In addition to building furniture and décor, I also share home improvement and shop projects.

Tamara: What does your business name mean/ represent?

Jennifer: The name of my business is based on a road sign.  Seriously.  It’s one of those that tells you how many miles to a certain town and this one was located 7 miles outside my hometown.  I went to a small school therefore the schools we played in sports and competed against in other activities were often far away.  Many times, I wouldn’t get home until very late or the wee hours of the morning.  When I laid my eyes on this sign, I knew I was almost home.  Is it weird to have a favorite road sign?  Maybe.  But I do and I’ve always carried the feeling this one evokes with me.  A replica of the sign hangs in my shop.  So long story short, the name means “almost home”.

Tamara: What inspired you to start your business?

Jennifer: When I discovered that I loved woodworking, I knew that there were only so many builds I could keep and that wasn’t near enough for my desire to make.  In a huge leap for me (I’m very much an introvert), I put myself out there and offered to build things for others.  I cannot thank my friends and family for their support and willingness to order things from me to further this dream.

Tamara: Tell me a little more about your woodworking journey

Jennifer: I started woodworking in the summer of 2016.  Prior to that, the only time I had ever touched a saw was a few months before when I tiled my kitchen backsplash.  By the way, I had never tiled anything before.  I don’t ease into anything around here, it seems.  

Anyway, growing up, my dad seemed capable of making and building anything.  I look back now at some of the things I asked of him and can’t understand how he pulled it off.  As I got older with a home of my own, I had some projects that I wanted done to fix up the place and always turned to my dad to do it.  One thing about my dad, he doesn’t always work on everyone else’s timetable.  My project list was ever growing, as was my impatience, so I had a desire to learn how to do the projects myself.  Hence, the tiling of the backsplash.  Everything really came together when I found some building plans online and borrowed some tools to make myself a dining table.  I fell in love with the process and wanted to do it more.  Shortly after, I formed the business.

Tamara: Are you formally trained?

Jennifer: Oh heck, no!  Like I mentioned before, I have my dad to ask questions of and get guidance from.  I’m also fortunate to have a boyfriend with a wealth of knowledge in this area with a willingness to help me when I need it and the patience to let me figure it out on my own.  And to listen to my complaining. Ha!  YouTube and the woodworking community on Instagram has been a huge help, as well.  I’ve learned so many tricks and techniques in the short time I’ve been doing this that would have taken me years to figure out. 

Tamara: What were your greatest challenges getting to where you are now?

Jennifer: My greatest challenge, and it will probably always be a challenge for the foreseeable future, is finding a balance between working my job job, my personal life, and growing 7MD.  I work an unconventional schedule at work which probably helps but there are still fewer hours in the day than I have tasks on my to do list.  Building takes enough time on its own but when you add in the social media and blogging aspects, oofta.  What’s sleep?

Tamara: What characteristics/ skills/ attitude do you think you need to be a successful woodworker, business owner, carpenter etc. ?

Jennifer: Patience and humility are probably the top characteristics on my list.  No one is going to be perfect out of the gate.  You need the patience to push through the hard times and the humility to acknowledge you aren’t perfect.  You also need to be self-motivated, have a good work ethic, and perseverance.  I’m sure if I sat here long enough, I could come up with many more characteristics but this is definitely a good start.

Tamara: Describe your work style in 3 words

Jennifer: Does “never ending mess” count?  I’m going to go with “all the time”.  I feel like I am constantly working either at the job job or 7MD.  If I’m not physically building for 7MD, I am either at the computer writing or designing or I am thinking about what’s next.  And this is a perfect example of why finding proper work/life balance is such a struggle.

Tamara: What do you like most about woodworking?

Jennifer: It’s a tie between being able to exercise my creative side and have an outlet for stress relief.

Tamara: What has been your most rewarding experience as a business owner so far?

Jennifer: The most rewarding experiences are when I complete a build for someone else and they love it.  It’s validation for all the time I spent designing and building something.  We’re always our own harshest critics so hearing from someone else that your work is good is oh so nice. 

Tamara: What causes you stress on the job? How do you handle it?

Jennifer: Deadlines and mistakes are what cause the most stress.  Especially when they are combined.  About the only thing that relieves deadline stress is actually getting your build done on time.  As for the mistakes that are made during the course of a build, sometimes you just have to step away for an hour or even a day and come back with cooler, fresh eyes.  And if none of that works, let everything lie and go get a burger.

Tamara: If there were one thing you wish you knew when you first started your business, what would that be?

Jennifer: How to say no.  When a business is new, I think a lot of people fall into a trap of feeling like they have to take every “opportunity” that comes their way or they might be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings by declining.  If you can’t say no, you’ll quickly overload yourself, both your abilities and your time, and the other aspects of your life will greatly suffer.  There have been many times I wish I would have said no for whatever reason which led to me hating the build and not enjoying the process.  Saying no is a good thing.  And when you make friends with other makers, you can turn those no’s into referrals and business for someone else.  It’s a win all around.

Tamara: What advice can you offer other ladies interested in woodworking?

Jennifer: Just get out and do it.  Not once did being a woman ever factor into my decision to get into woodworking.  Gender shouldn’t factor into anyone’s decision as it has no bearing on the trade.  Sure, there will be comments thrown your way here and there but my advice is to grow some thick skin and put the commenters in their place.  Whatever problem they have is their problem and not yours.  Another huge piece of advice, for any woodworker really, is to get on Instagram and get involved in the woodworking community.  There are literally thousands of people to support you and cheer you on.  Sometimes that’s just the boost you need to keep going.

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Previous fierce female:LAURA MAYS – PROFESSOR, ARCHITECT AND FINE WOODWORKER

If you’re feeling generous and want to thank me BUY ME A COFFEE. 

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