Carving Out a New Career
Venture Center helps Steven Kettenhoven elevate his woodworking business
Steve Kettenhoven’s passion for woodworking began 30-plus years ago when he created wooden muskie fishing lures. He had buyers, but the seasonal business wasn’t a steady source of income so he stopped.
Fast forward through three decades and a few career changes, Steve is back where he started: making a living off of woodworking.
“There’s so much you can do with wood,” explains Steve, owner of Against the Grain Woodcraft, LLC in Clintonville. “It has its own beauty; even when you try to add beauty, it’s actually the wood adding the beauty, not you.”
With a few pieces of woodworking equipment, Steve began making puzzles and cribbage boards. When a sizable order for custom-made cutting boards came in, Steve knew he had to elevate his business. Because Steve has a disability, he turned to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) for help.
DVR connected Steve with Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center where he worked with Amy Pietsch, the center’s director, to create a pre-feasibility report, a feasibility analysis and a business plan to present to DVR.
“I was never a big homework person, but Amy gave me homework,” Steve says as he laughs at the thought. “I had to figure out how many pieces I’d have to sell in a day, week or month to be sustainable and qualify for a DVR grant.”
Steve says help from the Venture Center was invaluable. It taught him far more than how to successfully secure funding for equipment.
“Marketing, the cost of materials versus the price of the product, and overhead costs like heating my shop,” Steve explains. “You have to understand these things before you just start making things.”
"The Venture Center helped me understand how much work it took to run a business, but also showed me that I could do it."