Crafting a career: Lawrence resident creates bustling woodworking business

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Michael Gant stands in his workshop area at the Maker Playground at Hub & Spoke in Fishers. (Photo by Rebecca Fending)

What began as a need to build a fence in his yard turned into a successful woodworking business. With borrowed and repurposed pieces of wood, a longtime Lawrence resident is now a full-time as a craftsman.

Michael Gant created his woodworking business, The Gant Collective, from the ground up over the last eight years. The business has enjoyed organic growth thanks to referrals from family and friends. From smooth-finished bowls to cigar ashtrays that gave him a name, Gant oversees his dream business of crafting custom-made wood products.

When The Gant Collective was first established, Gant decided to try his hand at building a pallet fence. Six years later, the COVID-19 pandemic created the opportunity for Gant and his wife, Shannon, to focus on their own business.

“It kind of actually started when we moved into our house. We had a husky (pet dog),” Shannon said. “We didn’t want her to have to be on a chain (in the backyard). So, we built a pallet fence. Then, it turned into (Michael) saying, ‘Well, I can make this, and that.’

“He even made the dog’s food and water bowls, and then it took off from there.”

Shannon plays an integral role in the business. She ships, sells and helps market the business and accompanies Michael to the Binford Farmers Market to sell the products.

“The last two summers, we’ve worked at the Binford Farmers Market,” Shannon said. “I also help ship products across the country, but Michael is the creative brains behind this process.”

When the pandemic began, Michael was laid off from his previous full-time job with Wenger Corp. as an athletic sales representative. The layoff, he said, was the catalyst that made it possible for him to focus on building The Gant Collective.

“When the layoff came, my wife and I had said that it sped up our calendar,” Michael said. “At the beginning of 2020, we had decided that it would be two more years of working for someone else, and then we would focus on the woodworking business. So, really, (the pandemic) was the impetus.”

With the opportunity to jump into his business wholeheartedly, Michael began creating works from spare wood and even donated pieces from friends and family. He started making tables for the couple’s home, and when friends and family saw what he created, they requested pieces for their homes and offices.

“People would see tables in our home and say, ‘I love that table, can you make me one?’ And it’s hard to say no,” Michael said. “The more people that I gave my work to, the more creative clients became with their asks.

“Now, I’m pretty comfortable following any custom request someone may throw at me.”

Michael and Shannon enjoy cigars. Michael made an ashtray specifically for the couple that later earned him the moniker, “The Cigar Ashtray Guy,” according to Shannon.

“I posted the ashtray on Facebook, and the next thing you know, I got friends who requested custom trays for themselves,” Michael said. “The more they shared their trays on social media, the more requests I got. The ashtrays are kind of my specialty now, given that we’ve shipped them out to 26 states in the last two years.”

The success of The Gant Collective is completely organic, according to the Gants. Each order Michael has completed has been requested through family, friends and referrals, with no additional marketing assistance. Products are only sold through the business’ private Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Michael creates his client’s custom orders at the Maker Playground at Hub & Spoke at 8100 E. 106th St., Suite 260, in Fishers. He has been a member of the makerspace for a little more than a year and said the space has the tools and resources needed to make “great products” for his clients.

“(Maker Playground) enables me to not have to worry about heating and cooling a 16-foot-high ceiling in our two-car garage,” Michael said. “I get to utilize a number of pieces of their equipment and also bring my own to create my pieces.”

Although Michael loves what he does, he said clients’ reactions to his work are what “makes it worth it.”

“I know I’m on the right track because I see how people appreciate my work,” Michael said. “I just do what I like to do and, fortunately, people like it.”

To see more of The Gant Collective, visit instagram.com/thegantcollective.

More of The Gant Collective offerings

Although Michael Gant has made a name for his business by specializing in ashtrays and tables, his custom creations expand into the following areas:

  • Cutting boards
  • Charcuterie boards
  • Centerpieces
  • Coasters
  • Candleholders
  • Bowls
  • Shelves
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