Business Degree or North Bennet Street School

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Forum topic by NewEnglandsWoodWorks posted 05-28-2014 11:54 PM 1798 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 2870 days

05-28-2014 11:54 PM


I’m a 17 year old woodworker from Massachusetts and am stuck in a jam. As the time is coming to plan out my future I need to decide what I’m going to do for college. I have already decided that custom woodworking is the field that I’m interested and hope to run my own business. I am not sure which path would lead me down a better path to success.

Plan 1:

Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. Right now I have the grades and SAT scores to get into BC, but I am leaning away from it. Of course my parents are encouraging me to go down this path as they think it would be much more useful in running a business. I know it would be very useful on the business side of things but am doubting that my woodworking skills will be good enough to succeed in the field.

Plan 2:

North Bennet Street School. It is just about the best woodworking school in the US and I know the knowledge I gain there would be very useful in my career.

Please help me decide which one you think is the better option.

Thank you,

-- Brett

22 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile (online now)


5857 posts in 3081 days

#1 posted 05-28-2014 11:57 PM

The best way to make a small fortune in woodworking is to start with a large fortune.
Sorry, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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117 posts in 2870 days

#2 posted 05-28-2014 11:59 PM

I’m not interested in making millions. Woodworking is what I love and it is the only thing I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.

-- Brett

View JAAune's profile


1864 posts in 2585 days

#3 posted 05-29-2014 12:07 AM

I don’t know you but personally, I find the business side and woodworking side to be pretty easy to learn. It’s just a natural for my own personality. The hardest part is marketing and this seems to be true for most woodworkers. So that gives you a third option to consider. Study marketing geared towards small business and figure out the others via some alternative plan.

If you can sell a product then your chance of pulling off a woodworking career gets a lot easier. Work on your people skills and develop that confident aura that makes people feel easy about trusting you with their money. The only difference between that and being a con artist is that you aren’t conning anyone, you really do have the skills to back it up and the intention to follow through.

A lot depends upon your personality though. If studying all three routes in school isn’t possible then pick the one that’s hardest for you, get that formal education then self-learn the rest. Alternatively, you can try to make contacts with people who will teach you two of the skill sets then use schooling to fill in what remains.

Regardless of the route you take, I highly suggest working for someone else before attempting to go on your own. You’ll want to get real life experience within the industry and gain some contacts.

-- See my work at and

View kdc68's profile


2708 posts in 2545 days

#4 posted 05-29-2014 12:10 AM

How about plan 1 AND plan 2 ?

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3553 days

#5 posted 05-29-2014 12:20 AM


It’s really hard for someone to tell you what’s best for you, but I will share my experiences with you, since I’ve owned and operated my own custom woodworking business for over 28 years.

I have no idea what type woodworking you would like to pursue, but if you would like to look at my web-site, (, to see what I’ve built over the years, it will give you an idea that worked for me (key words; worked for me).

Woodworking has been very good to me over the years, but will also say it’s not an easy business. What I’ve seen over the years is the main reason most woodworkers fail as a business is not their lack of woodworking skills, but lack of business skills.

Woodworking is a life long learning experience and can be learned either thru a good school or being self taught, but even though you may get a lot of good education on woodworking in a short period of time, it will be really hard to leave a woodworking school and immediately build a customer base strictly from you woodworking talents.

I’ve seen way too many talented woodworkers fail as a business! Marketing, sales and understanding business in general will be keys to building a successful woodworking business.

I feel one of the reasons I was able to build a successful business, was my strong background in the other aspects of the woodworking business. I learned how to be a professional salesman, how to market, learning true cost of manufacturing, business overhead, etc. long before I started my own woodworking business.

Let me put it in another way; all my woodworking talents never really benifited me in other businesses, but all the experience I gained in other business helped me when it was time to have my woodworking business.

Which ever course you decide to follow, just make sure you learn the business end of woodworking!

I wish you the best!


-- John @

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3194 posts in 2137 days

#6 posted 05-29-2014 12:24 AM

Darn good post huff.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3229 days

#7 posted 05-29-2014 12:29 AM

A friend’s brother went to college and got a business degree in four years. When he started working, he learned in six months what took four years of college. My take on a business degree? There are tons of BBA degrees out there. It is almost necessary for an MBA to really get somewhere. I’ve been trying to get my son to get one in addition to his M. E. degree. I recall out of the top 100 CEO’s, many years ago in a magazine, only one was an engineer. The rest were accountants and other business type degrees.
The only thing about a degree is a backup plan if the furniture business doesn’t fly. Again, consider the MBA.

View TravisH's profile


647 posts in 2203 days

#8 posted 05-29-2014 12:38 AM

I will have to side with your parents. While money isn’t everything, stability is often very important in life. You are still young but think about potential future decisions down the road. You might be fine being a woodworker scraping to get buy but the stability/benefits not near as likely. How would you feel with say a family depending on you down the road? Get the degree and find time to do the woodworking. Pursue woodworking also but I would put emphasis on the degree.

Be prepared as things seam to always change in school. I wanted to use my aquatic biology degree but then it happened. I meet a girl before getting out of school and just couldn’t bring myself to follow the field based on the earning potential (lack of). I used my chemistry minor and started about 20k more a year starting out.

If you get a degree or multiple degrees in “solid” fields they will span many disciplines and you will be able to find jobs in poor markets and all across the country because options are much greater. Knothead is right advanced degree is almost needed in some fields. While woodworking a good skill to have it puts you in a lot less stable predicament. If you are very good great but when your skill set depends on individuals spending money on perhaps non essential items it can get dicey. You fall more into an artistic category and the starving artist phrase isn’t exactly where I would want to be. It is scary at times what things can cost.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3916 days

#9 posted 05-29-2014 01:04 AM

Get a welding certification. You can learn how to weld professionally
a lot quicker than learning to be a pro furniture maker and there
are plenty of jobs. This will give you flexibility to work with your
hands and make ok money at it while ramping up as a woodworker.

View HowardInToronto's profile


77 posts in 1970 days

#10 posted 05-29-2014 01:05 AM

I’ve got two answers for you.

If, at the age of 17 you think you will always want to be in some facet of woodworking, then go to North Bennett. Learn the technical skills. Be in the environment. Meet other people similar to you. Make contacts.

Why do I stress the technical skills at that school? One of my case studies mentions the business skills taught there are very worthwhile.

So, why such a roundabout way of saying study the “heavy lifting” of woodworking as a business – sales, marketing, admin?

Because superior technical skills alone do not a business make. You need the total profile. And I seem to recall they do so.


If there’s the remotest whiff of a smidge of doubt that you might want to find your way to something else later in life, the straight ahead business degree won’t hurt. It might help.

But if you can look so deeply inside yourself at the age of 17 that woodworking is where you need to be, then learn (all) the skills (business included) in an environment whose peers and mentors inspires you.

Oh, and yes – read Huff’s post again – sharp and practical advice indeed.


View firefighterontheside's profile


19808 posts in 2125 days

#11 posted 05-29-2014 01:23 AM

I have a bachelors degree in business from St. Louis university. I’ve been working as a firefighter for 18 years. I am a battalion chief and do need business skills. I would sure like to do woodworking as a career, be my own boss, etc. but I need to have this job to be stable for my wife and kids. There is so much that you learn not only in college, but also just during that time that I believe it is invaluable. You will have lots of free time to pursue woodworking and are only 17, presumably you don’t have a need to be completely independent yet. Spend this time getting a business degree, doing woodworking in free time and possibly as a side job. That’s just my opinion based on my experiences.
I’m sure either way will treat you well and it sounds like you’ve got a head on your shoulders.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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262 posts in 1863 days

#12 posted 05-29-2014 02:12 AM

I’m self taught in both business and woodworking… Looking back I wish I would of gone to school to learn business. It’s never once crossed my mind that I should have gone to a school for woodworking.

If I were you, knowing what I know now, I would pursue Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

That said you have to decide which path you need/want to walk down. One path is going to be rocky yet flat, the other smooth yet hilly. It looks like you know where you’d like to end up, which is a good thing, you just have to find which way works for you.

Just know which ever path you decide to take will not determine that you’ll end up where you want to be… It will certainly help you but that secret sauce is found elsewhere.

View iminmyshop's profile


290 posts in 2262 days

#13 posted 05-29-2014 03:20 AM

When my grandmother was 88 she grabbed me by the hand and said ” Don’t do what I did!!!” I couldn’t imagine what awful thing this sweet lady might have done.
“Don’t get to be my age and wish you’d done it all differently” she said. Then she told me all the things she wish she had done with her life but was talked out of by her parents.


View rrww's profile


263 posts in 2381 days

#14 posted 05-29-2014 11:08 AM

A degree in business can be applied in many different areas – as a backup plan to woodworking.

Go to woodweb and read the business section – this site is for pros only – you can see a bunch of guys wish they did business classes, and some of them end up going to night classes on it. Including the guy writing this :) You don’t need a bunch of fancy degrees from someplace that matters, ($$), just a very decent understanding of how the business world works.

Then go get paid to make sawdust!

View hotbyte's profile


993 posts in 3244 days

#15 posted 05-29-2014 11:44 AM

I am just a hobbyist woodworker with no formal background in business but have worked with many youth through scouts and have one child just out of college and another that just finished his 3rd year. I have watched them and their friends go through these years. I will say very few of the previous scouts, my kids or their friends are pursuing careers in what they thought they would as 16 to 18 year olds.

So, unless you are 110% positive that a career as a custom woodworker is your future, the business degree will allow more flexibility. I assume the college also has other degrees/paths you could pursue if your thoughts in the future changed.

However, if, if, if and if you are 110% positive that woodworking is your future, the North Bennett Street School followed by a short stint working for another custom woodworking company while you pursue a business degree part-time, at night would be a good path. There are many business programs available for non-traditional, working adults you that would allow you earn a business degree while building real world experience. I doubt there are many woodworking schools that would offer such flexibility.

The reply that mentioned picking up some welding/metal working training is also a good idea. Not only would it give you an additional means of income but being able to craft the two trades into your future work would be a bonus.

Best of luck in your decision and pursuits!!!

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