While some families grew tired of each other after a year of pandemic-induced isolation, brothers Steven and Santos Gomez used the opportunity to start a family business — and it’s brought them closer than ever.
It started with Santos spontaneously asking his brother Steven, “Do you need an end table?” and evolved into the two making tables for friends, some outdoor sofas and eventually, creating a business.
As a new homeowner, Santos began exploring his passion for building things in order to save money (and stay entertained). Bored and stuck at his own home, Steven also found himself engaged in this newfound passion. After comparing the prices of big name furniture store products with their own cost of production, Steven saw an opportunity to enter the market with their items.
The Chicagoan brothers began Hermanos Woodworks just over a month ago, a woodworking and metal home decor business operating through online orders and an Etsy shop. Santos operates as the “master woodworker” and sketches designs, while Steven works the “front end,” contacting people, managing the social media and coming up with design options.
“We grew up together, but also distanced,” Steven, 28, said. “Now, doing this together gives us a reason to connect and talk about stuff.”
The pandemic sent both of them to work from home, opening the door for the brothers to pursue the business. Both maintain their full-time jobs, Santos working as an IT consultant while Steven works in education administration.
Steven said they have different strengths and weaknesses, which help the business run smoothly.
“Our personalities work because I’m more hands-on, you tell me what you want and I’ll do it and Steven’s like, ‘I’ll deal with the people,’” Santos, 30, said. “I’ll put a little more time in the shop if I have to because I know he’ll deal with the customer stuff.”
While Steven and Santos do the majority of labor, one of their younger brothers also pitches in. Marco, 19, is dubbed their “intern,” doing more miniscule tasks. Steven said he’d be happy to see him join the business in a larger capacity, but doesn’t want to tie him down at such a young age.
To spread word of the business, Steven posted in the Rogers Park Neighborhood News Facebook group. To his shock, the response was “overwhelming” — hundreds of likes and comments flooding his replies.
“He posted it and he goes, ‘I’m getting all this interest,’ and I was like, ‘What, really, you serious?’ And before you know it, we were just rolling,” Santos said. “We haven’t stopped moving. Ever since we started a month ago, it’s been nonstop.”
Initially, they created blanket ladders, shelves and other household items before putting them up for sale. After their Facebook took off, people began to send inquiries and requests for more specific items — even a dog kennel.
The business makes wooden door hangers too, partnering with a realtor friend to feature these in homes. Steven said the goal with this partnership is to spread word of mouth while providing an example of their craftsmanship.
With their grassroots beginnings allowing for a more hands-on buyer experience, Hermanos Woodworks consults with customers to go over designs and budget range. Steven said this allows them to discuss specific materials and find affordable options for customers.
Born and raised in Chicago, the Gomezes come from immigrant parents. Growing up, they long heard their father tell them to “be your own boss.” Steven said their father had always dreamed of opening a business but never had the opportunity, which inspired Steven to set forth and fulfill that desire.
They said their father is elated with them taking the initiative, helping them when he can.
“He loves that we’re doing it, especially as brothers,” Steven said. “He’s called us when we’re working just saying he’s very happy that we’re all working together.”
For the first year of business, they’ve agreed to take any profits and put them back into the business, buying equipment and other necessary items.
Looking forward, Steven said their long-term goal is to move into a commercial space in the next three to five years. They also want to add more products to their repertoire, with Santos interested in expanding to welding.
While hiring employees is a consideration, Santos said they’re not overly concerned with moving beyond family just yet.
“Eventually, we want to get to a point where this is our full-time work,” Steven said. “We have to think that way. Think big, because if you don’t, you’re only going to do small things.”