Sutherlin teen starts woodworking business in family garage
When Jacob Frenette graduated from Sutherlin High School this year, the 17- year old resisted the urge to take a break.
In fact, he did the opposite. Frenette went right to work — you might say carving out his future.
Inside a workshop near his family’s Sutherlin home, a Desktop ShopBot, a $7,500 CNC digital fabrication tool he bought a month ago, sits on a desk. It’s linked to a dust-covered computer that Frenette fixed up. For four hours a day, everyday, Frenette creates souvenir wooden plaques that he sells online on his website at www.dreamonenation.com.
“I have a couple people who think I’m crazy, that it’s too much work,” Frenette said. His friends would say “Why do you wanna start a business? Why not just go work your job?”
But Frenette said starting a business is his dream. And even though it’s a lot of hard work, his parents aren’t surprised.
“We knew he was gonna do something,” said his father, Eddie Frenette. “I was just surprised it was wood.”
Jacob Frenette’s family moved to Sutherlin from Arizona two years ago. Soon after the move, Jacob’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer. While he’s been in and out of the hospital, Jacob, the oldest of four children, had to help out more with the family.
“As soon as he could start driving, he’s had to take over a bigger role than most kids,” Eddie said.
Soon after starting school Jacob discovered his passion for woodcarving while in a 10th-grade shop class. His first creations were picture frames and jewelry boxes, which he admits weren’t too good.
“The first year I wasn’t too great at making anything, but then I started getting more advanced in my projects,” he said.
He soon moved on to making bigger things, like a wooden guitar with a matching stand. But it was his wooden plaque depicting an American flag design in the shape of the continental United States that got people’s attention. It got such a positive response that Jacob thought it would make for a great first product to start a business around.
The design for the woodworking sculpture, which Jacob has named “One Nation,” is based off of a free to use public domain image modified by Jacob. It takes 30 minutes for the Shopbot to cut out, usually from recycled wood from old bookcases and discarded shelves. It then takes a couple days for him to paint on the designs, apply wood polish and let dry before it’s completed.
Currently, he’s selling to family and friends, but he hopes to expand his business with new products. Jacob’s experimenting with decorative wooden coins and hopes to one day move into making custom furniture.
On top of the business and his full time job, Jacob plans to enroll at Umpqua Community College sometime in the near future.
“He just goes nonstop, and just crashes at night. It’s either all or nothing,” Eddie said about his son.