9 min 5 sec

High School Student Earns $20,000 Making Wooden Bow Ties

When a young woodworker receives a wooden bow tie as a gift, he’s unimpressed. After making his own, he earns $20,000 while going to high school full-time.
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What It's About

Tie-red of shoddy craftsmanship, this high school student decides to make matters into his own hands.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Woodworking & Creativity
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

In the beginning, Paul was making and selling general woodcraft items on Etsy and it was going okay, but he started making real money once he identified something to focus on.

Don't try and do it all—find things that are successful and do those really well instead!

Fun Fact

Paul had been tinkering with woodworking for a long time, but only pivoted to making wooden bow ties when he was given one as a gift. He liked the concept but was sure that he could do better than the bow tie he was given, and he set out to prove it.

Notes from Chris

Episode 423

When twelve-year-old Paul Kaster was first introduced to woodworking, he had no idea how big a role it would play in his life. Paul’s love of this craft came about after watching popular YouTube woodworkers like the Wood Whisperer (yes, this is a thing), which encouraged him to continually push the limits of his abilities.

Plugging away at the craft, Paul started experimenting with different ideas. Once in a while he’d list his products on Etsy, or sell them to family and friends. His first customer was his mom, who bought a cutting board from him. At a time where most teenagers would develop and pursue new interests, the encouragement Paul received helped him stay the course and he continued working on his hobby.

His passion project would turn into something more four years later. Paul had received a wooden bow tie as a gift and liked the concept. The only problem was that the tie he received was chunky, unattractive, and poorly finished. From his years of experience woodworking, Paul knew he could do better. And that’s exactly what he set out to do.

Paul first began by taking a look around in the Etsy marketplace. Most of the wooden bow ties he saw were large and chunky, like the one he’d received, while others were flat and lacked contour. Paul knew the ideal bow tie would be somewhere in between. (He was looking for the Goldilocks of wooden bow ties.) He loved the feeling of classic fabric ties, so he crafted a wooden one that emulated this look and style.

These wooden bow ties took off! The natural search and discovery features of Etsy drove initial sales and Paul quickly realized that the bow ties sold a lot better than the other products he listed from time to time.

So how did it work out financially? Crooked Branch Studio made $20,000 in profit on the back of 40K in revenue in 2016. With his low startup costs funded by Kickstarter, Paul was able to turn woodworking from a passion project to a profitable side hustle without incurring any risk.


  • Crooked Branch Studio: Don't get tied down with conventional bow ties—head on over to Paul's website (or Etsy page) to pick up a unique conversation starter for yourself!
  • Carbon Cravat: If you're looking for an even more modern take, check out Paul's other bow tie side hustle where he makes bow ties out aerospace carbon fiber
  • Shopify: Paul used Shopify to set up his store for Crooked Branch Studio, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Create your online store with Shopify using an exclusive discount for Side Hustle School listeners. For a limited time, get a free 21-day trial and a 10% discount for a whole year.

Many Side Hustle School listeners are building sites using Shopify's easy-to-learn platform. Try it free today!

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Quote of the Day
"You don't need to do 100 courses to be an entrepreneur, just educate yourself about how other people built businesses and get out there and start doing something."
—Paul Kaster #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau