Our Meet The Brains feature offers interviews with people who have their own businesses or work in the trade industry. Those that are out there every day making our world a better place with their blue collar brain! Some have left the corporate world – others started right out of high school, but these stories will hopefully inspire you to find a career path in a trade job that you will love.
Meet Danny Zientek
There I was scrolling through LinkedIn when I saw a picture of a guy completely filled with sawdust.
Not a common sight on LinkedIn!
But then I read the story – and it sucked me right in – as well as many others. His story went viral and I am so glad it did because his story is pretty inspiring.
Danny Zientek proudly announced he was leaving corporate America.
Not only that, but he was leaving corporate America to pursue his lifelong passion.
Danny was transitioning his career and starting a business as a woodworker.
I was thrilled that Danny allowed me the opportunity to do a phone interview with him about his decision, goals and what led him on this journey.
A Little About Danny
As a child, Danny spent a lot of time in his grandfathers woodworking shop. His grandfather was actually employed by a company that made clocks – but he also worked as a carpenter as well.
This is where Danny’s love of woodworking started.
As a high school student he was able to spend many hours in woodworking classes honing in on his skills.
His next adventure after high school would be the military, where he spent almost 10 years in the Army as an Infantry Platoon Sergeant.
His military experience included three tours in Iraq and he also spent time in Afghanistan. After leaving the military he held a few jobs with his last position being a sales manager for various corporations.
He also does have a Bachelor’s degree in Business which will come in handy for owning his own business, but is not needed to become a carpenter.
He resides in Wisconsin with his wife and three kids.
Leaving Corporate America
He had a good job doing sales, but he knew something was missing. He had loved the company he was working for when he started his job, it was small and felt like a family.
But, as the company grew – the corporate culture became more prominent than the family feel he liked so much. As with many corporations there was more micro-managing and the employees lost their feeling of empowerment.
This is why so many people leave their jobs.
It was no different for Danny and he knew it was time for a change.
There was also the fact he has 3 young children and really wanted a lifestyle that allowed him to be there for them.
So, he started planning to find a way to turn his skill for woodworking into a real business that could support his family.
Preparing For A Career Change
With a family to support, Danny needed a plan that could support his dream of working in a trade job while still providing for his family.
This dream played out in part from a simple request by his wife.
She was browsing Pinterest one day and saw a wood piece that she loved – so she asked Danny to create it for her. Of course – as a good husband would, he did – and it reignited the passion he had for the craft.
It was that moment that he decided he would make his dream happen.
So he put his plan in action.
For several years Danny would do side jobs that included making custom wood products, remodeling and whatever else he could to help build a network of clients. He worked nights and weekends while still at his corporate job so that he could set himself up for a safe transition to his dream of becoming a woodworker.
He paid for new tools with the work from his side jobs so when he left his sales job he would have everything he needed to be successful.
In July 2021 he decided it was time to make the change.
Woodworking As A Career
In August of 2021, Danny launched Danny Z’s Woodworking!
When I asked him if he was scared his response was “No, because I lined up work before I gave notice at my job”.
This was incredibly smart and allows him to feel comfortable about his decision!
He has some repeat clients, gets some sales from Etsy and after his success on LinkedIn I would imagine a few more leads will be coming his way.
He really wants to focus on custom projects. But just some of his creations to date include:
- Custom wall accents
- Custom bottle openers
In his local area he also offers home renovation assistance like decks, tiles and more.
One of my personal favorites I have seen is this amazing dining room table he crafted.
Below are a few of his other creations he has made for customers to showcase the diversity of what he offers. All images are credit of Danny Zientek.
What Advice Would You Give Your 17 Year Old Self?
I asked Danny what he would give as advice to his 17 year old self – which I hope will hit home with other young adults (or even older adults!).
His answer was “Don’t be afraid or try to fit into societal norms.”
He stressed that it is important to be true to yourself and take a path for the future that makes you happy, no matter what that path may look like.
Where To Find Danny!
He is currently working on his website, so stay tuned for that.
But below are links to other places you can find – and hire – him to do some custom woodworking for you. Not only will you get amazing creations – but you will be supporting a veteran.
The Blue Collar Brain team would like to thank Danny for his time and inspiring story! If you would like to be a part of our Meet The Brain series, please contact us today.