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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Two Cowboys: Life's a Lot Like Bull Riding at Wicked Willow Log Works in Carstairs, Alberta

Bull Riding and Small Business

You never know where you're going to land. One day you're on the back of a bucking bull and the next you are starting a small business in Alberta. These endeavours have more in common than you may think. It happened to Rodeo Star Beau Brooks in 2014. In his words, "You have to stay on top to get paid."


In bull riding, you need to have the guts to climb on the back of a monster beast. Then you hold on for your life and to earn your pay. When you fall, you can only hope to land on your feet to avoid humiliation and injury. Finally, if you have what it takes to succeed, you do it again. Getting back up separates the champions from the "never to be heard from again". Every ride is a learning experience. You learn about your limitations, and you gain respect for the beast. Even if you finish the ride with success, the whole endeavour is set to claim a toll on your body. It will leave you with scars and life stories of a hell of an adventure.

Entrepreneurs don't often see or get to know the small business beast they are climbing. If they did, many wouldn't dare to even try. For the enterprising few that do get on, it is a daily struggle to persevere and maintain focus. Many cards are stacked against their success. As they hold on for life, they become familiar with the all-consuming monster of hard work, at all hours of the day and night. Then there are the regulations, taxation, minimum wage, quality control, financials, staff, and customer complaints that are set to wear you down. With every fall you get to know yourself a little better. When you get back up to try again, you become the backbone of society. That is why there will always be special people that ride bulls, and those with the guts to start businesses. Not many will be able to say that they've done both.

In 2014, as a rodeo star riding bulls and a father to be, Beau Brooks built for his wife Nerissa, a yard swing set and a bedroom set. Friends and family saw the items and wanted the same. The garage was quickly turned into a workshop, and the fledgling business called Wicked Willow Log Works took flight. As demand and requests for new products grew, they had to expand. Since then, they've outgrown the garage. They added some friends to the crew and started to chase the dream of building log cabins in 2017, with the first one delivered and another in process.


It is striking to see the core values of the Cowboy culture in Beau and Nerissa's business. You have two humble, committed, community focussed, and hard-working people with big dreams and big plans. Judging by the pace set by Nerissa, they also have the energy to pull off. They are succeeding in building a flourishing business during one of Alberta's hardest economic downturns.

The products are as unique as the materials they use. They do it with Alberta lumber and take pride in every item that leaves their store because it is rustic and authentic. It is hand-made in with a lot of Wicked Willow talent and commitment.

I asked Nerissa and Beau about their goal for the near future. "If we can build our own cabin like we do for other people, it will be wonderful!", was Nerissa's reply. I have every bit of confidence that the cabin is a lot closer in their future than they expect if you judge it by the demand for their work.

We look forward to visiting them soon in their own home.

Hendrik van Wyk
Log Cowboy

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