Passion: Developing and serving people through owning and operating a small business


Josh has had an incredible journey of discovering his passion. His story is a great example that passions aren’t always obvious from Day 1. Sometimes, discovering a passion may require trials, disappointment, and more trials to figure out what you love to do. 

On the surface, most people would look at Josh as a carpenter, and assume that his sole passion is making cabinets. However, for Josh, it’s a little more specific and deeper than just his full-time job. 

After originally thinking that he would work in church ministry his entire life, Josh eventually discovered that he was meant to serve people in a different arena. Josh’s passion revolves around his dedication and ability to lead a business that authentically serves its customers, employees, and families. 

Josh’s vision and inspiration are infectious and genuine. He is hopeful that through his passion, he can change lives and families for the better. Through our conversation, you’ll hear how Josh hopes to be part of a change in how people view the trades. He hopes a shift in this perspective would bring more heart and talent into the field.

Josh’s passion does not begin and end with himself and his own successes, but he is a leader of change and hopes to make this field of work more intentional, more relational, and more homegrown. There is a future in Josh’s eyes where more and more people will look to their friends and family to fulfill roles and careers that have recently been sourced outside of their communities.

We will start our conversation with a background of how Josh became interested in woodworking/renovation, then take a trip down his path of discovering his calling, and we’ll culminate with Josh’s current perspective, hopes, and goals for his future.

“I grew up helping my dad do rough carpentry. I was 9 or 10 years old when I started, maybe even younger. He was into things like barn restoration. We would go into an old barn and put like 30 jacks under it, take out the foundation, and then redo the whole thing. We did barn siding, slate roof repair… we did pretty much everything.”

“There was actually a stretch of time in my life where I didn’t even own a power tool. The last time I had worked with my dad was when I was a senior in highschool. Then, I went to college and graduated with a degree in Bible theology and began to pursue a seminary degree. In the midst of it all, I just couldn’t figure out how I would ever get out from under the college debt and seminary degree costs doing full-time ministry. Also, as I got further into the seminary degree, I realized that it just wasn’t for me or what we wanted as a family. My wife, Emily, is a teacher and she needed to get established in a district. But, my role could have had us moving around frequently. These two futures just didn’t mesh.”

“A year into our marriage, we were living off of college furniture and I didn’t own a power tool. Emily’s parents had given us a gift card for $200. I knew that I needed tools to hang pictures, and do other things around our place. So, I bought a porter-cable combo set. Then, I planned on trying to build us an entertainment stand in celebration of our anniversary. I called my dad and told him what I had hoped to be able to do. He asked what I wanted to use for wood, and I said, ‘Well, we don’t really have any money, but I drive past these pallets all the time in Canton and they are just free for the taking. I’m just gonna get a bunch of them and tear them apart and we are going to build it out of that.’ And that’s how this whole business got started.”

I started back into woodworking, because it was a good way to spend time with my dad. We had lost touch through college and he had some personal struggles, and it was a good way to rekindle a relationship that was no longer there.”

“After we carried the entertainment stand into our condo, I heard a knock on the door. It was one of the neighbors and he said, ‘So I saw you carrying an entertainment center and it looks really cool… Can you build me a coffee table and an end table?’ And I said, ‘Yeah! We can do that!’ He left, and Emily looked at me and said, ‘You have no idea how to do that.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but we figured out how to do this, so I am sure we’ll be fine.’ I called my dad to let him know that now we are going to build an end table and a coffee table!”

“Early in our marriage, I was working three-quarters time at a church, and I started trying to figure out what I really wanted to do career-wise. Never in a million years did I think that I’d be running a business. Emily and I were on vacation and we were walking the beach and she asked, ‘What do you really want to do?’ and I said, ‘I want to take this carpentry thing full time, and I don’t want to just build furniture. I want to build houses, I want to employ people.’”

“I had previously worked with a guy who had grown his small business from bringing in $30k per year to $5 million per year. I had seen that process and the end result of his 10 years of hard work. I looked at that and thought it was so cool. Because of what he did, he could give somebody a job, give a family an income. My vision isn’t just for our family, it is to provide for other people too. In year one, my goal was to replace my church salary, and that turned out to be no problem. And then, the business started growing and growing.”

“Back in high school, I always got good grades, I never struggled academically. So, the idea of a trade school was never presented to me as an option. In those times, trade schools were for kids who didn't really have a future in college. Everybody ‘just knew’ that these kids couldn’t make it, so that’s where they got shoved. 

But, I want people to know that there are some really bright people in the trades. There are some very successful people. You don’t have to be college-educated to have the guts, the savvy, and the willingness to figure things out. I went to college and changed my major six times. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. Ultimately, I want to bring back dignity to the trades. I want to bring a sense of, ‘This is a good way to make a living.’ I don’t want people to always think that because they are hiring a contractor, then it means you are hiring some idiot who doesn’t have his stuff together. So, we put together specific plans and processes for each remodel.” 

At the root of my passion is developing and serving people. I tried it at the church and it just didn’t work for me. I was a square peg in a round hole. 

Then, I tasted the freedom of being self-employed. Knowing that I could create something – not just wood – but a business with solid, healthy leadership. Developing and serving future employees and customers is what kept me coming back. It wasn’t that I just loved running a saw every day. It’s not an ‘I want to be in the shop every day,’ kind of thing. That’s not my passion. It’s that I am building people, employees, and I’m serving customers in a way that people don’t serve them anymore.”

“For us, the end goal is to take care of the customer. If we have to lose a profit here or there, then it happens. The profits aren’t what I’m passionate about. I don’t have to be the top-earner of the company, if I’m making what my family needs. If we have an opportunity to hire someone who is a perfect fit for us, but they require more money, then that’s what we are going to do. At the end of the day, I know that I’m not going anywhere, because I own the company. And we get to control the direction of the company, which is ultimately important to me.” 

“I personally have a sense of peace that I’ve never had before. A sense of peace in what I’m doing. Before, I always felt out of place, I never felt like, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ I had tried to follow my calling, but it never felt right. Now, Emily jokes with me all of the time and says, ‘You are literally living your best life.’ The day-to-day is just as chaotic as anything else, but I go to bed every night, and I’m at peace with what I do. There’s still stress and the late-night worries, but career-wise, this is where I’m meant to be. Serving people, serving customers, serving employees, and developing a business and people.” 

Learn more about Josh on Facebook at Hillside Millworks & Design, on Instagram at @Hillsidemillworksdesign   or online at