BYU alum turns woodworking project into career

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Spencer Hughes’ perennial item on his Christmas list growing up was his wood lathe, a machine for shaping and carving wood. After receiving his dream gift, Hughes taught himself to create wooden pens and continued to grow a passion for shaping and carving wood that fed his need to create.

Hughes later found that as he carved his designs, he began shaping the path for his future business, WoodLeon — a handmade, wood crafted tie business that would take off in 2017.

Hughes’ career choice was no surprise to his older brother, Jordan Hughes, who mentions Spencer’s “eye for collectibles” and interest in woodwork and design growing up. Jordan said he admires his younger brother’s ability to use his talents.

“After he began lathing, he soon became an expert woodworker, bringing exquisite yet simple style into the industry. Combining it with fashion, he is a pioneer in the field,” Jordan said.

Spencer Hughes stands by a display of his one-of-a-kind handcrafted wooden ties. His passion project turned business, truly makes him the “wood whisperer.” (Spencer Hughes)

Spencer creates ties for a demographic who are “respectfully rebellious.” After graduating from BYU’s advertising program in August 2017, Spencer turned down full-time job offers from advertising agencies to “enter into the chaos of the unknown,” and follow his passion in woodwork.

While in school, Spencer began dreaming of WoodLeon. Advertising professor Pat Doyle challenged his students to start a passion project that would require them to advertise something outside of school they sincerely enjoyed.

“I always liked doing woodwork. I had made thousands of pens on a wood lathe to help pay for my mission. I remembered back in seventh grade that my grandpa made a wooden tie that was thick, heavy and not very flexible. I thought it would be cool to make a lightweight, flexible wooden tie that people could actually start wearing,” Spencer said.

Once Spencer made his first few ties he began wearing them to church and to a few of his interviews. “People started loving them. During my last semester of school, I used Illustrator to start creating my own logo,” he said.

The logo, which showcases a wooden lion wearing a wooden tie ended up being the inspiration behind the brand name, “WoodLeon,” according to Spencer.

Hughes began creating the WoodLeon logo while still in school. He used design skills he had learned in the advertising program to kickstart his career. (Spencer Hughes)

Once the logo was created and the vision of WoodLeon was created, Spencer ran with it.

“I put all of my time and energy into it. I had so much fun with it that I decided toward the end of the school year to invest in a laser engraver and pursue what I was passionate about,” he said.

Spencer’s long-time roommate Trent Anderson watched Spencer build his business from the ground up.

“It has been an honor to see how he and the business have progressed from its humble beginning last year. Spencer is probably one of the most creative people I know, and I think that is very evident in the products coming for WoodLeon,” Anderson said.

Spencer strongly encourages students who are graduating without a sure direction in what they want to do or pursue to ask their parents what they were interested in as children.

“For those in a similar situation as me entering the unknown after graduating from college, ask your mom what you were like as a child. Everything I’m doing now that I love, I actually was doing naturally as a kid,” he said. “From making videos to practicing signature, to building things with wood. Embrace what you enjoy and find a field or create a business that correlates.”

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