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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fulfilling a Woodworking Dream

After 25 years in marketing for franchise restaurant chains, Felisa Benton decided to turn her passion into a full-time career and become a custom furniture designer and home remodeler.


You could say it was in her genes—the Kentucky native’s grandfather was a contractor and her father built furniture. In fact, it was in her father’s workshop one summer that Benton remembered how much she enjoyed working with her hands.


Her dad’s advice was to buy three tools: a table saw, a band saw and a drill. The rest, as they say, is history. Benton began salvaging 2 x 4s from construction sites and learning by trial and error. She used other resources, too—she did her research online and received lots of advice from her mostly male counterparts, who were happy to help. As she improved, her business grew. Friends and neighbors became clients.


“I just loved it!” exclaimed the 44-year-old South Mountain transplant whose goals include building custom homes one day. She is thinking about getting a showroom, too. Currently, clients connect with her through her website, www.bentonchf.com.


“Ten years later, this is where I am,” she said.


In 2007, Benton left corporate America to launch her furniture business full-time. “It was tough . . . it was tough,” she recalled, thinking about the economy and the risks involved with entrepreneurship. Yet the referrals—from clients across the country—sustained and built her business.


Today, Benton is sought out by corporate and residential clients alike. Her specialties include transforming a spare bedroom or middling den into a custom office, complete with bookcases, a desk and a Murphy bed—“I’m talking, the whole room is me,” Benton said.


She designed, built and installed custom furniture for Tempe residents Monique and Ramsey Echeverria. Monique said she didn’t consider hiring anyone else because she and Benton “saw the same vision.”


“I would call her a perfectionist—she doesn’t cut corners,” Echeverria added. “Everything is amazing. She’s very passionate about it.”


Benton also has carved a niche for herself building functional-yet-supple custom gun boxes for Olympic and professional shooters. Made from plywood and lined in satin, the gun box business grew after one client couldn’t find what she was wanted and commissioned Benton to design the perfect gun box. Not a shooter herself, Benton’s research included a trip to the shooting range to see how the boxes might be used in the field.


After her house was broken into, Benton learned to weld and built a gate. Today she works with metal, wood, brick—even drywall. She also can crochet and knit, a skill passed down from her grandmother.


Another hobby is making natural soap, which also has the potential to become a business. Made from all natural ingredients and infused with fresh herbs, Benton says “if I really wanted to move it forward (as a business) I know I could.”


She jokes that she never has to go to the gym. She prides herself on doing all of her work by hand, and by herself, for now, from pounding every nail to staining all of the wood and completing each installation.


Like a true Phoenician, in her free time Benton is perfecting her golf game.


But it’s the influence of her roots that brings a little something extra to her clients—“I definitely have the Southern hospitality,” she said, “building the relationships.”





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