Hobbies can make profitable businesses, blacksmith says

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Alex Ruiz, Wesley Foundation program coordinator, talks about knife-making and other craft businesses at “Hot Potato” Oct. 16 at the Methodist Student Center. Ruiz is holding a Cherokee knife, which a friend of his made from materials that were found on the Trail of Tears. Austin P. Taylor

Millennials are leading the trend on traditional workmanship with products made by hand, the program coordination of the Wesley Foundation said.

By Janie Medelez


Modern American craftsmen and women and their handcraft-based businesses are a $43.9 billion industry, said J. Alex Ruiz, program coordinator at the Wesley Foundation, Oct. 16 to about 15 students.

His work was published in Blade magazine in 2017.

Ruiz, a blacksmith and bladesmith, has competed on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire Champion” Season 5 episode “The Horesman’s Axe.” He came in first place.

He explained at the weekly Hot Potato luncheon that there are 92 million millennials who represent the population willing to spend more for quality and the uniqueness of handmade items in the United States.

“Global Web Index for consumer-profiling marketing surveyed 350,000 people; 68 percent were millennials and 44 percent of those consumers’ behaviors turned to platforms such as Pinterest to make informed decisions,” he said.

Pinterest can be used as a marketing tool or in essence a window-shopping site. People can use it to pin pictures of things of interest or that they wish to buy such as furniture, clothes and recipes.

Businesses can use it to increase visibility and brand awareness.

“People are finding something that they’re passionate about and not only passionate about, but finding a way to make it profitable,” Ruiz said.

“There is a huge trend in the handmade industry,” he said. A lot of people are doing this as a hobby, then taking that hobby and turning it into a business.

He started his business, Volundr Forge, in 2015, forging custom knives and swords. He sells tthem hrough Facebook, and Instagram, and knife and craft shows.

One of Ruiz’s sword pieces sold for $600 to a repeat customer.

Ruiz said in an Oct. 13 phone interview that his favorite quote is from the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “My teacher told me I was unique, just like everybody else.”

He referred to handmade products being unique.

“People feel good about working with their hands knowing that they themselves made a product that is one-of-a-kind, has value and is sentimental,” he said.


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