Captains of Industry: Spencer and Ben Young of Sturdy Brothers
When I began writing the Captains of Industry article series, my hope was to find men who struck out on their own, took the road less traveled, and used their talents, passions, and manly perspiration and persistence to create a life for themselves and great products and services for others. The goal being to bring some insight to our lives from theirs and perhaps to inspire other men to shake off any reluctance they may have and pursue their passions with a boldness. Thus far I haven’t found a better all around example of this than Spencer and Ben Young of Sturdy Brothers.
I came across Sturdy Brothers whilst looking for an an apron to wear in my shop (garage). After spying their awesome waxed canvas apron I immediately knew they had a quality product, and a few clicks later found out they were two all-American brothers who recently went into business together after a successful Kickstarter campaign. I am excited to share some of their story here!
Bonus: At the end of the article is a discount code for 10% off their products, good for a limited time only!
- Captains of Industry articles focus on men with manly and interesting trades. They may or may not be wealthy, but they have had success, often going against the grain and choosing a unique path in life, and offer much to be learned. Read more here. -
Check out their Kickstarter campaign video below:
Give us an introduction of yourselves and Sturdy Brothers.
Spencer and I (Ben) have both been working in the coffee industry for a good long while. Spencer is an owner at Grassroots Coffee Company, while I worked in Raleigh at a Counter Culture Coffee shop and Jubala Coffee Company. Spencer has an awesome wife Megan, who has always been supportive with our creative ramblings at Sturdy Brothers. Also Spencer has a son, I have a nephew. His name is Ford. He is two. He likes trucks, dipping sauces, and escaping from preschool with his friends.
About Sturdy Brothers: Our company’s goal is to rekindle a spirit of American craftsmanship in the South. We are working to provide quality goods for the hardworking people who make America great (those who still get their hands dirty). We believe we are called to lead a quiet life and work hard with our hands. Sturdy Brothers is our humble acting on this calling.
What made you decide to start hand-crafting your own goods?
My brother and I (Ben) have always wanted to do a business venture together. I have always been a shop rat (piddling with anything mechanical, or project oriented). When Spencer wanted to purchase a waxed canvas apron to wear at Grassroots and saw how much they cost, he decided to make one instead. Thus, the beginnings of Sturdy Brothers.
How did you learn the skills to work with raw materials, using older techniques, and turn it into something rustic and awesome?
We didn’t grow up sewing. I actually started sewing in January. There is a learning curve, but making is something that is in men. DNA deep. We were intended to work with our hands. Both of us have fallen in love with the durability that waxed canvas offers. It is simply the most rugged material. It will last forever. We decided to work with it, designed around our style choices, implemented with timeless hardware, to create products we are truly proud of.
Your Kickstarter campaign was funded over 400% past your goal! What was it like to put together the campaign and see it be so successful?
We were truly blessed to receive the funding and support from friends and family. The interesting part was working it all out. It’s a challenge to realize that you have the money for your dream, but now you actually need to make one hundred and sixty items. It was a much larger project than we anticipated. I was working on making aprons in Raleigh in-between work, school, and life and then shipping them to Georgia for wax and hardware. It was a hustle. I decided to move down and run the business at the end of the summer.
I would imagine there is a good bit of history, being that you guys are brothers. What is it like to work together?
Working with my brother (Spencer) is awesome. I think this is the most time we have spent together in 10 years or so (Spencer is 5 years older). He is the creative genius, and I’m more the hands on guy. It works well. He designs things, and I make it happen. I know most people say not to work with family, but really and truly I can see nothing more honorable than building a future as a family, a legacy that can be passed down to the next generation.
Did you guys create and work together when growing up or is this something new?
Spencer has always been more artistic, while I (Ben) have been more mechanical. We haven’t done many projects together in the past, but this has been a great way to mesh abilities.
What does a typical day look like for Sturdy Brothers?
It varies. Some days are for social media, website updates, and finances, but some days I spend nine or ten hours straight hand-hammering rivets.
Everyone has their vices and they can become more apparent when owning a business. What vices are you beginning to notice and are having to work through?
We have always wanted to be 100 percent hands on with our products, but as we are growing larger we have had to trust in the help of others. Hiring employees has been our first step in extending this trust. Also, looking to the advice of friends and businessmen in our community has been key.
What does being a part of Sturdy Brothers, owning your own business, and crafting these wares mean to you as a man?
Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” People live their lives in pursuit of jobs, degrees, that will ultimately give them money. They will buy nice things with the money. But at their desks, behind computers, their souls will wither. Working with our hands, at a trade, to produce something of value is our stab at fighting the “quiet desperation.” We believe we were charged in 1 Thessalonians 4 to lead a quiet life, and work hard with our hands. As a man, it is a return to our design as men. We are working so that the Designer might be glorified.
Is there any bit of wisdom or experience you can share with us that you have found helpful?
Having the right tools is everything.
What does the future look like for Sturdy Brothers?
The future of SB is looking bright. We are exploring new product design options, wholesale pricing, and partnerships. But, as we grow, we promise not to lose sight of our original intent, to make products that last for the hardworking people.
One last question. What’s the story behind that sweet Ford truck in the picture?
The truck is Spencer’s. It’s a 76′ F-250 Camper Special. It’s got a 440 in it. That’s his daily driver. It smokes a bit and gets 7 miles to the gallon but is an awesome ride!
Check out Sturdy Brothers’ manly lineup of duffel bags, tote bags, aprons, tool rolls and other fine wares at http://www.sturdybrothers.com. For a limited time use the promo code WLFNIRN and get 10% off your purchase!
Give these guys a follow:
Pop-up Store: 218A W. Jackson Street, Thomasville, GA 31792 (Wed-Sat 10am-5pm)