March 26, 2020
Q&A Artist Spotlight with Raven Wood
As one of my first connections in Kansas City, Nicci Wyels immediately impressed me with her gorgeous, hand-crafted wood furniture. I knew I had to learn more about her business and vision — today we are sharing her unique perspective towards interior design!
Monica: Being a female artisan in a male-dominated field of woodworking is pretty badass. What inspired you to begin creating with wood?
Nicci: Thank you! I feel really badass when I use power tools. Ha! I have always loved design and I spent many years DIY’ing home decor for myself and friends. Every time I would come across something inspiring that required power tools, I felt stuck. So I just dived in and tried out a simple woodworking project. It scared me to death, but the adrenaline went to my brain and an addiction formed. I’m an outdoorsy girl and touching nature has always been a trill of mine. I didn’t expect to love it so much, but it made sense...The grains, the feeling of cutting the wood, it was so grounding and beautiful.
Monica: How has being a mother shaped your idea of home?
Nicci: It has made me a minimalist! Lol. The high energy of having a family and toys everywhere really strung me out. So keeping my home minimalist has not only kept everyone organized but allows for us to have time to enjoy the things we love, like getting outside.
Monica: What is your creative process & where do you find your inspiration?
Nicci: I am very inspired by nature. The textures are everything to my designs. I keep a notebook of sketches but the furniture pieces I dream up come out of me very organically and sudden. I get obsessed with the idea of it until it’s built and I can see the final product.
Monica: Take us through the process of creating a custom piece for a client?
Nicci: One of my favorite things to do! Because it pushes me out of my own head and into a particular client’s vision. I absolutely love collaborating and inspiring big ideas on their space. From there we bounce ideas back and forth, until one sparks a flame. I like to push boundaries! If someone needs a tv stand, I have a hard time just slapping a wood top on four legs. I want to make art, and more importantly capture the flavor of the client.
Monica: What do you feel is the biggest opportunity in the future of interior design?
Nicci: There is a huge opportunity for retailers and interior designers to provide consumers with real materials and handmade furniture! There are so many incredible makers and woodworkers popping up. Interior design has become like fast fashion. Everything is mass produced, which is making consumers realize that their homes look pretty, but feel kind of cheap. My passion is to inspire people to invest well. Your home is your sanctuary.
Monica: What’s your favorite part about living in Kansas City?
Nicci: Oh, Kansas City! Kansas City is such a magical, creative place. The Midwest stereotype of friendly folks rings true, yet we aren’t stuck in old ways. We are progressive and open minded. But if I had to choose one thing I love most, it would be our booming and tight-knit maker community. We all support and lift each other up and consumers take great pride in shopping local.
Thank you Nicci for the amazing interview. We have a gorgeous coffee table and trays from Nicci in our Leawood store! Her work is beautiful and inspiring. You can find out more about Nicci by following her Instagram!
March 19, 2020
The Kansas City Star
A short bicycle ride from downtown Overland Park, Nicci Wyels cradles a cup of hot coffee in her garage-turned woodshop. The garage door is open. A small electric space heater sparks a pocket of warmth from the late winter chill. Thick air suspends a faint mist of sawdust.
This is home to Raven Wood Designs and creative laboratory for founder Wyels’ imagination.
One leg folded under her torso, the other dangles from a simple bench where she gazes into the infinity beyond an assembly of power table tools. She wistfully recollects her journey to wood working, to furniture designer, to a facilitating force for women entrepreneurs.
A wayward artist as a youth, Wyels’ epiphany came after a return home from a fruitless one-year adventure in Los Angeles. She went to her dad’s shop and learned simple woodworking through trial and error. His one rule -- “keep your fingers intact” -- and her penchant for Pinterest led to her first product, a wood honeycomb wall shelf. “It was invigorating, using the power tools. I posted the shelves on Facebook and it exploded.”
She says sales of the honeycomb designs exceeded 2,000 her first year of production, but the demand took its toll. “I reached a point where I couldn’t make another hexagon,” she says. Next came shelves in the shape of mountain ranges; then a coffee table and dining table and a headboard. “I literally could not keep up with myself.”
Wyels had evolved into the ranks of nearly 290,000 professional woodworkers in the U.S., and an even thinner array of furniture finishers -- 17,250 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From her custom one-offs, her vision expanded. She was moved to create a nine-piece line of wood furniture. Inspired by nature she was clear on this new direction. Or so she thought. “It was my time,” she says. “I started in the heart of the winter; I invested every penny of my money on a living breathing project that took three months.”
The dream became a nightmare. “I went through the hardest emotional time of my life. The temperature of the shop made my wood piece shift and break. I was doing the design and production alone. I literally smashed one of my pieces. I captured the physical smashing of it on video; I pasted it on a Facebook story and it was amazingly liberating.”
The catharsis took a few days. A few days to admit to herself that she had no more money to fund further projects. Her time as a woodworker was over. “I had to refocus what I wanted to do. I realized that I wasn’t just a woodworker. I was a designer.” Designing and drawing furniture pieces was the stage of the creative process she enjoyed most.
Her new hat didn’t change the media, just the messenger. She turned to the Woodworkers’ Guild of KC for help. That turned up nearly 40 interested parties. “I was a bit apprehensive at first, worried that I might not find someone who understood my vision. I wanted someone who was more contemporary. A new age woodworker.”
Kyle Aaron showed up on her driveway and while only three weeks in the offing, she is delighted with their early progress. “It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off.” Aaron isn’t the only person with whom she shares ideas. During the early days of her business she attended a trade show. “It was a complete bust. I spent the day chit-chatting with a lady in the booth across from me. We basically shared the joys and frustrations of being a small business owner for the entire day.”
That night she was inspired to launch the Badass Women Entrepreneurs of KC, an organization of female business owners who socialize and support the efforts of their business sisters. She invited like-minded, accomplished women business owners to her house. The first meeting welcomed seven guests. That was November 2018. The group now numbers more than 1,000 members.
“Often, as a woman business owner, your family looks at your business as your hobby, or not a viable form of income and you start having self-worth questions,” she concedes. “Having a business is a lot like being a parent. It’s your child.”
A mother of one daughter herself, Wyels has watched the group grow, not only in numbers but in effectiveness. “We have one meeting a month and relationships are being made, collaboration is being built and business exchanged.”
Shawna Patton, who owns a dozen of Raven Wood’s creations, is also founder of Mama Bear Massage. She was one of the group’s early members and credits Wyels’ ability to connect as the key to the group’s growth. “She’s brought together all local women who are experiencing the same things in their businesses. And she’s created an intimate environment where women are sharing more than they might in other settings.”
Wyels believes the group is exposing the tip of a local iceberg. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) reports there are more than 11.6 million firms owned by women nationally, employing nearly nine million people, and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017.
The Badass Women have a simple motto: “I cannot fail because she won’t let me.”
Wyels’ vision for the future, now unclouded by her business trajectory, includes the development of Raven Wood as a leading brand in designer, wood furniture. She has eyes on opening a store in downtown Overland Park that curates retail items merchandised like a household setting. And a book. Both will feature the members -- present and future -- of the Badass Women Entrepreneurs of KC.
“Opening a brick and mortar scares the absolute shit out of me, which means I must do it.”
March 15, 2020
Crossing Broadway Podcast
Every single episode we do I want to start out the description with, "This one is my favorite." And it's true every single time. This one is no exception!
Nicci Wyels is a woodworker, designer, mom, network leader and above all: a badass!
Nicci has always been a DIYer but one day she took it to the next level and dived into woodworking. She got her start with honeycomb shelves (selling over 4000 her first year!) While that in and of itself is impressive, a coffee table truly changed the game. That's when she discovered that she could do anything- and she has!
Today, Nicci is a mom who is teaching her daughter what it looks like to follow your dream, leading a networking group that's helping other women do the same and on top of all of it: getting ready to launch her first wholesale furniture line.
We promise, in this episode we talk about all of it and so much more. Make sure you follow Nicci on everything social and do some shopping on her site. Trust us, you're going to want all the things!