Dan Gilmore – Part Two

During the start of the pandemic in March of 2020 the DOD really didn’t know what to do. They told people that if they weren’t essential not to come into work, so Dan was able to stay home fully paid for 93 days. He played all of his video games, and once he got bored (you could say he got “boards”) he cleaned out their two car garage and started making cutting boards. He always had a hobby of woodworking, and he’d put pictures of those cutting boards on Facebook, and people really encouraged him to start selling them. He kinda shrugged it off until one day someone said “Dude I’ll give you $100 for that,” and that kinda changed his perspective. By that point he’d been using WordPress for 10 years, so he decided to spin up a WooCommerce site for Dancy Wood. Dan lives about 20 minutes from a hardwood lumber yard, so he started making cutting boards, and from September to December he sold over $5,000 worth of cutting boards. Woodworking was just a side hustle at the time, but then Dan started learning how to do other types of woodworking.

Fast forward to 2021 Dan was kicked off his contract at work, which meant he was still employed by the company, but it was such a big part of the NSA that he was actually black listed. His resume was sent to multiple different companies to try and get him another contract, but they’d reject him just by his name. At the time he was making 183k per year, and they told him he might need to go to a help desk, which really sent him into a spiral of anger and depression. At first his reaction was, well no, I’m not going from the top to the bottom, but then he realized he needed to make money, so he decided he’d suck it up and do whatever he needed to. Then his wife said, “Why don’t you just do woodworking full time?” Dan acknowledges that he was extremely lucky to be where he was. His wife is a lawyer for the IRS, so she made plenty of money to support both of them, and he’s incredibly grateful. It did mean they had to adjust their budget, and change their lifestyle.

Once Dan had a direction and a plan to make it work, his next step was to make his site look better. He knew WordPress, so he could spin up a functioning site in seconds, but he said he knew nothing about CSS, or colors, or how to make anything look pretty. One day while Dan and his wife were in Tampa, Florida, Joy and Chris Weigman drove over from Sarasota to have dinner with them, and they got talking about some ways to improve the Dancy Wood site. They referred him over to James Tryon, and that was his first time working with an actual WordPress agency on a project. Since Dan already had a functioning site up they struck a deal to get him a lower rate. Basically they used Dan’s site as a training exercise, and made it look pretty in the process. They told Dan it wouldn’t be done quickly, but at the time he didn’t have any inventory for his store, and was really thankful to get a lower rate, so it worked out. They’d chat every Friday to throw ideas back and forth, and they weren’t all great ideas, but it was something. And Dan was really enjoying working with someone else who understood WordPress.

So, let’s back it up a minute. It was around June that Dan was let go from his contract, his company was sending his resume around trying to get him a job (it wasn’t his company that backed out on him, it was the government). They kept trying to get Dan to learn multiple different coding languages to make him more appealing, but that took time, and Dan needed a job asap. That meant that he kept going to interviews, and would get turned down because he just didn’t have the skill set that they needed, and he started to get really discouraged.

A lot of the WordPress stuff his company created had gone into Amazon Web Services, and he loved doing that, so Dan decided to go and get AWS certified. The day of his first certification he got a call from his brother-in-law that his sister was in the hospital, and long-story-short she passed away that Saturday. She was 49 years old, and just had a random brain hemorrhage. The point of that is, it made Dan completely rethink everything. He was unhappy with his job and, even though it was fulfilling at first, once it tanked in 2015 it just wasn’t the same. The fulfillment he got from making a cutting board and getting $150 for $15 worth of wood and three hours of time was a lot better, and his mental health was a lot better.

Dan’s not a businessman and not a marketer, and it was terrifying to take the leap to starting his own business, but after his sister died he didn’t want to wait any longer to be happy. Dan worked at a really small company, so he was kind of panicking when it came time to quit, but when he called in his boss was really understanding. He really encouraged Dan to do what made him happy, and was so excited for him. At the end of the call his boss said he’d see Dan at next week’s happy hour (this company was so small that they’d do quarterly happy hours), and Dan was really confused. He just quit. But his boss was adamant that he still showed up and spent happy hour with them, and that was really reassuring for him. The next week he went to the company happy hour, and it was a little awkward at first, because all his old coworkers were there. There was a lot of awkward (and/or fake) small talk, but once they got a few drinks everyone was really proud of Dan for being able to make the leap, and excited for what he was making for himself.

Dan had a real advantage in the woodworking community because he had this knowledge of WordPress. A lot of people would sell their products on Instagram, or Facebook marketplace, but Dan knew how to do one of the hardest and most expensive parts of owning a business, which was having and maintaining a website.

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