Putting in the (Wood)Work
Long time Rev member Kingsley Quality Woodworking, a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certified and family-operated small business, has been making a name for itself in the Southern Tier for its quality lumber, precision manufacturing, and woodworking expertise since 2015.
The founding couple, Chelsey and John Kingsley, have both been woodworking since adolescence. Chelsey, president of the architectural woodworking firm, got her start in the industry through a summer apprenticeship in high school. She was introduced by a neighbor at her family’s lake house to a nearby woodworker, and the rest is history.
“I spent the summer stair building – learning woodturning and doing electrical work in a log house built with virgin timber in northern Saskatchewan. The impact of the experience was ‘Wow – I can make whatever I need in life. I can grow my own food; I can build my own house.’ Who doesn’t want to be that capable and self-sufficient, and to be that close to what it is to be alive every day?” she said.
Kingsley Quality Woodworking operates out of locations in Berkshire and Ithaca, New York, where it offers customers custom molding, millwork, and lumber. The company also specializes in historic restoration woodworking, and won the Preservation League of NYS Award of Excellence in 2017 for their work on Ithaca’s Argos Inn.
Owning a business in a historically and still predominantly male space, Kingsley has found opportunities to connect and collaborate with other female woodworkers in the Ithaca area.
“There is a good group of very cool women doing woodworking here,” said Kingsley. “In the woodworking space, it’s still mostly men, so it’s really great when we get to work with other female woodworkers – it doesn’t happen as often as I would like for sure.”
Additionally, the couple’s 17-, 20-, and 22-year-old children have grown up alongside the company and work for their parents part-time. Chelsey says that having her children on the Kingsley Quality Woodworking team not only allows for a deeper level of respect within their family, but also creates advantages for the business.
“This past summer was the fulfillment of my vision of what could be possible as a family business; we completed a gorgeous historic restoration at the Sigma Phi fraternity on the Cornell campus. It took the unique skills of each member of the team to complete the largest job we’ve ever taken on and it was a testament to the strength and maturity of the matrix of family relationships.”
“The benefit is the integration,” said Kingsley. “We can have holistic conversations with the people we work with about what it is that we do. Our children are conscientious about the whole process, it’s not just coming, working, getting their paycheck, and going home. They understand that we’re always thinking about how we’re taking care of our customers and the quality of product we’re putting out the door.”
Despite a global pandemic, Kingsley Quality Woodworking’s success continued to grow. After breaking their first quarter sales record in the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 caused challenges, particularly in terms of lumber availability and pricing due to supply chain issues.
However, they took the initial business lull in stride and used the time as an opportunity to re-evaluate their focus. They shifted their business model from submitting bids for contract work to exclusively taking orders. This increased efficiency by eliminating the money spent on writing proposals and has allowed them to spend more time on the work they love most.
Chelsey attributes much of Kingsley Quality Woodworking’s success in 2020 to lessons learned as a Rev member, like ensuring the business has sufficient funding and more importantly, fostering relationships in the community. During the pandemic, the woodworking business doubled down on nurturing relationships with other local businesses – especially local builders and contractors in need of lumber and millwork during the shortage – and their banker, who Kingsley believed simplified access and information to gain access to PPP and EIDL funds.
“2020 was just another massive test in our capacity to survive,” said Kingsley. “I could never have designed a tougher stress test for the business, but we passed it with flying colors. It turns out we have the infrastructure, the community, the experience and the forward-thinking skills to be able to survive something so unpredictable and unimaginable. On the other side we get to celebrate that and enjoy peace of mind that comes with trust in ourselves as a team!”