Building and creating with one’s own hands is an experience unlike any other, said Deborah Giudicessi.
“There’s that sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with building something,” said Giudicessi, founder of The DIY Woodshop in Olathe. “And learning how to create, it triggers this thought process that teaches you how to analyze and how to problem solve.”
As a way to share her passion for woodworking with people of all skill levels and ages, Giudicessi opened The DIY Woodshop — a place where professionals can access various machines and equipment; where youth can learn how to build for the first time; and where anyone can come to find a supportive community, she shared.
“We had a gentleman come in to build a wedding cabinet. He had never built anything in his entire life,” Giudicessi recalled. “I look over and one of my pros is helping him saying, ‘Hey, you can do this.’ There ended up being six different people who helped this one member on his very first project. To see that sense of community, it’s so awesome.”
Click here to check out The DIY Woodshop’s website.
Along with the tight-knit community, a major draw to The DIY Woodshop is its impressive equipment line up. The 10,000-square-foot shop contains a $60,000 wide belt sander and a $70,000 CNC router — giving woodworkers access to advanced technology.
This communal access to tools and equipment proved to be a need for other small businesses too — numerous entrepreneurs have partnered with The DIY Workshop since it first opened in August 2019, Giudicessi shared.
“If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I’d have a dozen small businesses working here, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Giudicessi said, noting that both the business and community growth have been phenomenal.
A mother’s guidance
The idea for The DIY Woodshop sparked several years ago from a special request.
“I was a single mother and my daughter wanted a desk under a loft bed,” Giudicessi said, noting that any good quality furniture set was extremely expensive. With four years of woodshop experience under her belt, Giudicessi realized she could build the set herself, she said.
Next came a multitude of phone calls — talking with friends who had one tool but not the other.
“I would have had to go to literally six different places and haul it all around,” Giudicessi explained. “I remember thinking, ‘Why isn’t there a place where I can just go and use their tools?’ I can’t spend $5,000 on machines just to build one thing. Plus, I have nowhere in my apartment to put it all.”
Years went by and Giudicessi kept asking herself the same question, she shared, with the idea for The DIY Woodshop in mind. Giudicessi’s mother ultimately pushed her to take the leap of faith.
“A few Christmases back, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and a gentleman who’s like a stepdad to me,” Giudicessi said, explaining that the two encouraged her to pursue her dream, with Giudicessi’s mother offering to manage the books.
“We lost her days later on Dec. 29,” Giudicessi continued. “I was broken. She was going to be my right hand with this business.”
Her mother’s boyfriend, who also had experience in the woodworking industry, came to Giudicessi with an offer to invest in The DIY Workshop.
“He took his own retirement money and invested in me,” Giudicessi said. “He said, ‘Your mom would want you to do this.’ So, I quit my job and took a risk.”
Surviving the pandemic
The DIY Woodshop had been gaining momentum month after month until COVID-19 restrictions caused all businesses deemed non-essential by the government to shut down, Giudicessi said.
Although The DIY Woodshop was closed and not generating profit for a couple months, Giudicessi said she had no intentions of leaving anyone behind.
“I’m not going to lie.  was a tough year, but I’ve got the most amazing team,” Giudicessi stated as to why she refused to lay off any of her staff. “There’s no way I would have found the same team.”
With a thorough background in business, Giudicessi said she understood The DIY Woodshop needed to pivot if she wanted to keep her shop and her staff.
The solution: Increase the manufacturing side of business.
“We paid for insurance to be able to do cabinets and offsite installs,” Giudicessi explained. “We build for about a dozen other businesses … The cabinet building and custom furniture help pay the bills — so that I can do what’s in my heart.”
At the heart of it
Giudicessi found numerous reasons to open The DIY Woodshop — from helping other single moms who want to make their own furniture to filling an industring need, she said.
But above everything, Giudicessi loves hosting workshop classes where children and adults can come to learn, she said.
“The priority is always teaching the community,” Giudicessi said. “I want to see kids get off their phones, and mom and dad get off their computer [and] come here together.”
The DIY Woodshop hosted several classes (some completely free of charge) for local schools and Scout troops before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are working to once again host classes in a socially-distanced manner.
“The big problem is that when the teacher is teaching people how to use a table saw, you need to be somewhat close to see,” Giudicessi noted. “But we may just have to do smaller classes, and for now, we can still do the one-on-one classes.”
Click here to find membership and class rates.
Giudicessi has some big visions for the future of The DIY Woodshop, such as hosting unique courses and turning the upstairs area into a showroom for local makers.
“I’m a smart businesswoman,” Giudicessi said. “But business is pointless unless you’re giving to the community; it’s pointless unless you’re helping others.
“That’s what this,” she said, pointing to her shop and members, “is all about.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.