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Graduate student forms woodworking company

| Friday, October 2, 2020

Irish Woodworks, a local company formed last year, is ”Made at ND, for ND, to support ND,” according to their slogan. It is rapidly gaining popularity among the Notre Dame community.

Daria Kudriavtseva | The Observer
Graduate student at Notre Dame, Jeff Riney, and his journey from making a set of coasters for his friends to becoming a co-founder and a COO of the Irish Woodworks company.

It all started with Jeff Riney — a 2019 alumnus — making a set of coasters to impress his friends when he realized that he fell in love with the laser cutter and engraver located at the Innovation Lab.

Irish Woodworks created a website, within the month, and are gaining more and more viewers. “In past three weeks we’ve gone from 230 [Instagram] followers up to 2800 now,” Riney said in an email.

“I went around to Fisher, my old dorm, and other dorms, and I talked to their rectors, offering to make a set for their dorm and a discount if there’s a student run price, or a customer set,“ he said. “They loved the idea and, that way, I ended up having 150 to 200 orders during graduate school. It was enough to validate that it was a good idea.”

Irish Woodworks is a non-profit company that, as stated in its slogan, supports Notre Dame.

“Irish Woodworks is a start-up out of the lab with the tag line ‘Made at ND, for ND, to support ND’ since the products are actually made in the I-Lab, for the ND Community, and approximately 50% of proceeds come back to ND via licensing and equipment fees, and distributions,” co-founder and director of the IDEA Center’s Innovation Lab Matt Leevy said in an email.

When Riney graduated last year, he wanted to see the idea go on and sold his company to the Innovation Lab.

“Now I’m working in D.C., I’m still overseeing everything going on,” Riney said. “I do eight hours of work for my normal job, and then, I come home and I do about six hours of work for Irish Woodworks. Marketing and design are the things that I specialize in now.”

In response to handling such a demanding workload Riney said, “It’s fun going after something that you’re really passionate about.”

Even though Riney started the company on his own, he now has a team of seven people and is looking forward to expanding and making the company profitable one day.

“Since then, I desperately wanted to see this idea grow,” he said. ”I built out a team so I brought on a designer, someone to do fulfillment [and] a guy to do the website. So, now we have our team of seven people who have their own full time jobs, but use this as a side hustle.”

Their team includes two current faculty members: Matt Leevy and Shreejan Shrestha, as well as alumnae Jeff Riney, Sean Kassen and Ryan Kreager, Leevy said.

“We program the design through to the laser engraver, which just basically prints it out on a piece of wood, and then it will burn off the image onto the surface,“ Riney said about the process of engraving.

Among over 150 products on their website, Irish Woodworks makes coasters for every dorm. “We have an ornament for every dorm, we have a wall art for every dorm,“ Riney said.

Irish Woodworks has partnered with Hall Presidents Council to help increase hall government engagement.

“We’re going to be doing giveaways in every single dorm for the next five weeks. The main purpose of that was to get them more and more students to go,” Riney explained. “We’re providing over 300 free goods for the dorms to use.”

Riney said he hopes the future includes the presence of Irish Woodworks products on the shelves of the on campus bookstore for purchase.

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