How the pandemic pushed me from tech exec to reimagineer
I’ve had a long career in tech and have had the pleasure of leading and consulting some of the most talented start-up teams. Like so many others, COVID-19 forced me to pivot. Upcycling musical instruments started as a hobby but has now become so much more.
Growing up in my family’s TV station and newspaper businesses, I was always fascinated with everything that went on behind-the-scenes. I loved laying out newspapers, printing magazines, editing video and operating the cameras.
The Tech Years Defined Me
Fast-forward: At 21, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy) as an electronic warfare tech and learned about computers and a platform called the ARPAnet, which went on to become the internet we know today. After my discharge, I ran a successful multimedia business, co-founded a modelling agency in Nova Scotia and eventually served as the North American CEO for a Swedish-based Web 3D tech and visual effects software company. I've been an underwater cameraman and a high angle rescue trainer.
I've consulted with start-ups and agencies in civil engineering, mobile tech, head impact wearables and RFID. I’ve worked with the coolest clients like Disney, CNN, Sprint and NASA, to name but a few. And I had the honour of launching Canada’s first artificial reality lab, which was officially opened by Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. There we built a virtual reality guitar simulator for the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville, and the first ever haptic feedback VR simulator for Dalhousie Medical School. Add to all that, my family and I have had the unforgettable experience of living and working in Nova Scotia, Montenegro and Sweden.
It’s been a wild ride and I’m grateful to those who have placed their trust in me over the years. Through it all, I’ve always brought vision and creative problem solving to the table. It’s that ability to look at things from a different perspective that fuelled a lifelong passion for decorating, photography and graphic design.
From Ice Rinks to Upcycling
I’ve always loved building and creating, from sandcastles and ice rinks to pumpkin carving and refinishing old furniture. I started reimagining musical instruments about a year ago. It all began with turning my wife’s junior high school clarinet into a lamp and then, reinventing an old trumpet. I had a few acoustic guitars kicking around that I transformed into wall lights.
I threw a few of my upcycled creations up onto Facebook and the response was overwhelming. My very first sale was a cymbal clock. It was given as a gift for a special birthday and the pic I received of the unboxing was the motivation I needed to keep going.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was working on my first upcycled piano side table. Pretty soon, the consulting work started drying up and well, I certainly wasn’t the only one whose bottom line has been affected.
The well had run dry.
Support for Small Business in a Pandemic
It was time to make a decision. Though my wife insists I’m still dashingly handsome ;-), I’m not getting any younger. With her support and a whole lot of sacrifice, I threw myself into turning this passion project of mine into a viable business. I hope someday to employ retired carpenters and students looking to start a career in the trades and be able to donate a percentage of my profits to helping less fortunate students purchase instruments to pursue a future in music.
I have a long way to go, but this Christmas season, when our community is rallying around small business more than ever, my makeshift workshop (and heart) have been filling up with orders. In addition to building a following on both Instagram and Facebook, I’ve been able to launch a new website thanks to the Digital Main Street government initiative.
I can’t tell you how happy it’s made me to put something out there that’s not only building a legacy for my sons but that breathes old life into cherished musical instruments. This year, I hope to grow out of our cold garage and into a small but cozy workshop space.
I’d like to thank my family, friends and customers for all of their support during this crazy year.
Stay safe, keep positive and find the silver lining in these grey times.
All the best,
Ps. If you have a treasured family instrument collecting dust, I’d be thrilled to turn it into something new and lasting.