Jack Fouracre is the Son of a Woodcutter and in 2012, he launched the brand that would soon become notorious for hand-crafted, timeless, sustainable pieces of furniture made in Toronto.
Jack grew up in a small village near Rugby, England – a place he describes as beautiful, surrounded by farms and wildlife. Growing up in the English countryside, one of Jack’s earliest memories is playing in the farmyard on his grandparents’ property. At an early age, Jack developed an appreciation for natural materials, tradition and craftsmanship.
Before stopping down in Canada’s largest city, Jack travelled the world and cites Nepal and Mongolia among his two favourite places. Right now, Jack is living with a friend in Toronto – the two met while travelling in Nepal.
We connected with Jack to learn about the Son of a Woodcutter story and his unique path to becoming an entrepreneur.
- Who were the creators in your family? What did they do for a living and how do you think this impacted you?
My father mostly. He is still a woodworker now and he taught me how to handle tools safely and how to use them effectively. I usually go home for Christmas and manage to get a few hours of knowledge sharing in.
- What was your first job? How do you think it helped you to be an entrepreneur and creator, today?
I always helped my father when I was a child and learnt so many things along the way that I hadn’t begun to value until now. From things like time management to dealing with customers and from operating machinery safely to managing staff. I have been employed in many different environments, from a mechanic to landscaping and from wealth management to customer relations training. I think learning from all different types of leaders has had the most amount of influence on me. Some good leaders and some bad, all have pointed me to a leadership style that I think is well suited to this business. My entrepreneurial skills have developed because I have always had to work for or go get what I wanted or needed. The creative side comes with this too, I reckon.
- When did you move to Toronto? What were your first impressions of that city?
I have been here for almost seven years now! First impressions were a little daunting but I fell in love with the place after about six months, once I had learnt my way around it. I love the diversity, I love the people, I love the food and drink. Saying that, nothing excites me more than escaping to a cottage!
- What’s it like owning and operating a business in Toronto’s east-end?
I think I love the east-end for the same reasons I love Toronto, the food and the people. All of our new clients have been fantastic since we moved here, they love to see something handcrafted and well-made. I also love how the neighbourhoods vary so much.
- How was Son of a Woodcutter born?
I needed a coffee table, then some of my friends did, then 200 people on Etsy did, haha. It was born out of a need and then I realized how much I love woodwork.
- Did you always want to start your own business?
This is my second business actually. I had a car service garage in the UK when I was 24-years-old. I think once you have worked for yourself, it’s very hard to go back.
- Why is sustainability so important to you?
We have been slowly moving away from ‘reclaimed’ materials, so now it is ensuring that our materials are sustainably harvested. We have some great suppliers and contacts outside of the city [many near London, Ont.] that really care for their surroundings. We also help save trees that come down through urban development. It’s important that we all do our bit to help save the environment and prevent waste.
- Describe some of the challenges you face trying to get sustainable material in a world where it’s so much easier to get cheaper products…
This continues to be a battle. It is more so convincing shoppers the value in purchasing something that is locally sourced and handmade. For too many people, it comes down to cost. Acquiring the quantities of sustainable materials can be tricky at times, as the items we build get bigger or more intricate.
- What has been one of the toughest challenges you’ve had to face since Son of a Woodcutter launched?
Long days and starting the business with no venture capital or funding. Growth has been steady but slow, this kept the risk at a minimum but a hard grind at times. I take quality and deadlines very seriously, so this adds a lot of pressure to each job we take on. Before hiring the fantastic team that I have now, it felt like I had the whole world on my shoulders at times and that was tough. Finding a mentor would have really helped!
The team I have here at Son of a Woodcutter, we consult each and every day and collaborate. It’s the business skills that are challenging. It’s hard to become CFO without business school.
- In addition to your online shop, you also make custom pieces. What’s one of the coolest custom pieces you’ve created so far?
I think our first Live Edge piece was the most satisfying. It was in collaboration with an interior designer and it just had to be perfect. At the time, we were moving shops and we had just done this first job on our own and it was so exciting. This first Live Edge piece was the start of what we have right now. Today, we have developed a process for the material resulting in a all natural, really high-end feel and an impenetrable finish. I knew we could do it.
- You also have an Etsy shop – how has Etsy helped you connect with buyers in Toronto and around the world?
We have moved away from Etsy a little bit, but only because the size of the items that we now produce; they are difficult to ship. But, I would have really, really struggled to get going without Etsy. Most of my sales were generated through Etsy for the first few years and I shipped all across Canada and the US. I have generated many clients through the platform that keep coming back and continue to tell their friends. This makes me feel that we have done a good job somewhere along the way!
12.Throughout this journey as an entrepreneur, who has been your biggest support?
Mostly my friends – they have offered advice, helped around the shop, travelled with me across Ontario to buy equipment and materials and helped with deliveries at unsavoury hours.
- Who makes up your team?
We consist of myself and two other woodworkers, then we have one person part-time to help with the welding and metal work.
- What do you find is the most successful method of gaining and retaining customers?
Most definitely word-of-mouth, I can’t express that enough. I’ve lost sleep over things to make sure that whatever leaves the shop is done properly and will last. I may not get to my emails and admin as quickly as I would like, but the client gets an item of furniture that they are really happy with. A large majority of the workload at any one time is returning customers or their friends and acquaintances.
- What does the future of Son of a Woodcutter look like?
We love experimenting with new materials and wood species. I think you may start to see more intricate wood joinery in things like tables legs and bases. This really excites us! More solid, hardwood furniture with a mid-century vibe, maybe.
- It can be so hard to find inspiration to create when life gets busy – where do you go or what do you do to keep motivated and get new ideas?
I love reading old woodworking and design books, these continue to inspire us. Not necessarily just for design but methods of joining materials together and solving problems. I also just love browsing Instagram, absorbing inspiring visual images of other people’s work.
- What advice do you have for other young professionals looking to entrepreneurship?
I’m not sure if I have the perfect advice. There is no right or wrong answer. For me, higher education was the wrong answer. If I had to go back, I don’t think I would pursue higher education, either. If I had, I would have gone into something my teachers recommended, like history or English literature and never have used it. I was more into the fun, practical skills.
After high school, I enrolled in an automotive engineering program, which had me working four days as an apprentice at an auto maintenance centre. Right after I graduated, I started my first business.
Some of Jack’s favourite pieces are the dining tables he and the team at Son of A Woodcutter create. There are numerous hardwood dining tables available from a variety of wood species. To contact Jack directly about a dining table or another item, send preferred dimensions to email@example.com.
Jack and the team at Son of A Wood Cutter carry with them such a passion for the brand and business they have built. With firm belief in getting more in return when shopping local, Jack is committed to sustainability, customer satisfaction and creativity.
Thanks for sharing your story, Jack. Follow Son of a Woodcutter on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Feature photo by Alternate Photography.