Emma Wilson’s parents knew if scrap wood was in the home, their 9-year-old daughter would get ahold of it. If drills weren’t locked away, Wilson would find them. A pile of stray bits of wood bits stacked next to the family’s firepit would disappear, and a rickety, uneven desk would show up in its place.
Wilson’s attraction to carpentry began young, and continued through her adolescence, even staying top of mind during career conversations as she approached 18, yet the idea seemed unobtainable.
“I had always been interested in doing this stuff, but I was told through school that I was too smart to be a carpenter, and that I needed to go to college,” recalls Wilson.
That was, until Joe Drew, owner of Marathon Craftsmen in Valparaiso, Ind., offered her a job. Drew was a family friend, and Wilson’s father had brought her to Drew’s shop to ask for project advice in support of his daughter’s passion.
On the third visit, Wilson left with a job doing cabinetry and trim work. Three months later, she became foreman, and just over a year later, speaks of plans to one day co-own the business.
Her success doesn’t come solely from determination and passion although it certainly helped. The support and encouragement of Drew and Wilson’s family played a key role in charting her path.
“I really lucked out on finding an area and a group of people that are patient and very understanding,” says Wilson. “I’m allowed to make mistakes and learn from them instead of being shamed for not knowing how to do things the first time.”
And now, that support comes from thousands of people on the internet.
Drew recently submitted Wilson’s story to Mike Rowe, and her story gained more than 4,000 reactions and 200 messages of support from strangers across the globe: “Way to go, Emma, you are a superstar!” “Wow. Emma this shows you can do anything you set your mind on doing.” “This was my dream as a young woman years ago! So happy for you that things have changed for women to work at whatever makes them happy or they are talented in!”
Wilson’s experience came full circle when she recently spoke at a career event at Valparaiso University for young girls alongside a local builder, Barbara Biernat.
“I was there five years ago being told I’d never be where I am today,” says Wilson. “And here I am in front of them, like it happened. I did it. And you can do it too.”
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