Return to his roots
St. Edmond grad starts own business for custom wood projects
LOS ANGELES — Growing up the son of a hands-on father, Jake Sells watched as projects were completed from the ground up.
So after spending several years away from that way of living, Sells was driven to return to his roots while also finding his true passion.
That’s why Sells, a Fort Dodge native and graduate of St. Edmond High School, started Jake Sells Wood out of his home in 2017.
“I must give all credit here to my dad, Pat,” Sells said. “My earliest memories of wanting to build came from watching the old man’s projects in the backyard of our old house. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I’ll never forget when he built my siblings and I a custom jungle gym.
“After we grew out of the jungle gym phase, he tore that down and had a full-size basketball court put in. Later, he went on to build our huge deck with the help of some of his handier friends.
“I remember being fascinated with the tools, following him on the trips to Menards to gather supplies and enjoying the build process in general. Watching that all come together definitely had a lasting impact on me in wanting to build my own projects one day — sorry, dad, that the basketball court investment never paid off with any of us kids going pro.”
The decision to venture into the unknown for Sells started after he was laid off from what he described as a “comfortable corporate job.”
“This was scary at first, but I then saw it as an opportunity,” he said. “That moment lit a fire under me, and I decided to take the hobby and turn it into a business. I hit the ground running growing my network, putting together a marketing plan, setting up meetings and working my tail off in the wood shop every day.”
He also had a chance encounter with another fellow Iowan while in California that led him to make a perfect connection.
“About two weeks after I was laid off, I was watching the Pinstripe Bowl featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes at a restaurant on the Redondo Beach Pier,” Sells said. “We got to talking as Iowans in California will do, and I found out he had a farm in southern Iowa with a bunch of milled up white oak slabs.
“Long story short, he is now my main supplier of white oak slabs from his family farm in Bloomfield, Iowa (Bohi Ranch). This connection led to my first big job of building/installing a huge live edge kitchen peninsula, custom shelving and vanity tops for a home flipper in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.”
That project led to exposure for future business growth, which included a design for Active Health Chiropractic in Fort Dodge, as Sells designed the custom entry sign and calls it “one of my favorite projects to date.”
“I take a lot of enjoyment knowing my work can be seen back home and all over the country,” he added.
For now, Sells has plenty of short-term goals to expand his business, but he is also looking toward the extended future at the same time. That includes attending trade shows, networking events, pop-up markets and a trip to Costa Rica.
“I really want to get into Japanese joinery this year and increase my knowledge in that area,” he said. “Also, I’ve been trying to find an old-beater truck to display the JSW logo on while hauling lumber through the streets of L.A.
“I do a lot of work with ‘live edge’ slabs that are imported from the jungles of Costa Rica. I plan to join a business associate of mine, Mike Gerakios of American Wood Importers, to see the operation first-hand.
“But the biggest goal is to one day have a brick-and-mortar showroom/woodshop where I can display and sell my pieces.”
More information and samples of the work done by Sells can be found at jakesellswood.com