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If it doesn’t happen, I’ll make it happen

When Tyler Willis struggled to find a job after college, he didn’t get discouraged. Instead, he made a job for himself.Willis recently graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Forestry Business. He said a degree with a narrow focus has its plusses and minuses.”The nice thing is there is not a lot of competition for jobs,” Willis said. “The problem is the lack thereof.”Willis said most forestry-related jobs are with the federal government – a route he didn’t want to take. He ran into difficulty finding work because Colorado doesn’t have much of a wood industry to supply private sector jobs.When the job search dried up, Willis didn’t give up on his dream of working with trees. “I have a strong tie to Mother Nature and I didn’t want to be in an office all day,” Willis said. “If no one will hire me, I decided I’m going to put myself to work.”Willis founded Willis Timber Works, which offers a wide range of forestry services: forest management plans, fire mitigation, mulching, firewood sales, pruning and thinning. “Since I’m my own business owner, I can decide what sounds like a good job,” he said.Willis said Colorado trees are too narrow to harvest for many wood products. If anything, he said the wood can be used for fence posts, dowels and wood chips. “Pellets for fireplaces is a growing market, but the profit margins are small,” he said.Starting a business is costly, but he avoided taking out loans to fund his startup costs. Willis said he was tempted to buy a big, new truck and lots of expensive equipment. But a mission trip to Peru changed some of his ideas about what is necessary, he said.Willis spent two weeks serving communities along the Amazon River. He and his companions built houses, painted churches and removed lice from children’s heads. They also brought fishing equipment and medical supplies to the remote villages they visited.”I was in complete shock to see the poverty and yet to see how happy they are down there,” Willis said. “When I got back to my business, I realized I don’t need all those gadgets. I saw guys (in Peru) cut trees with hand axes. I don’t need as much as I might think. I need a hard-working mentality, a chainsaw.”He started Willis Timber Works with just the tools in his garage and only added to his equipment as he could afford it. “Most money comes in and goes right back into the business,” Willis said.He said he fills in the gaps in his schedule doing accounting for local businesses. He plans to ride out the slow winter months by plowing roads.”Nowadays, you have to find work where you can,” he said. “When you find it, you have to stick with it. You have to be dynamic and always be thinking about how you are going to change with the times and stay on top of the most recent and trendy way to get business.”Willis compared starting his business to getting a train rolling. “It takes a lot of energy to get it rolling, but once it gets started, it’s hard to stop,” he said.His drive is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. “It’s the military brat in me,” Willis said. “My dad is a retired colonel and to do something like that you have to be really driven. It just rubbed off on me.”He also attributes his accomplishments to the support of his parents and his faith. “It’s been a very blessed year. I’m looking forward to the second year,” Willis said.More about Tyler WillisWhy did you go on a mission trip?“My whole life I had consumed and thought I deserve this, I deserve that. After college and I was having a hard time finding a job, I realized I needed to give back. I went to Peru for two weeks and poured my heart and soul into the people and tried to help them as much as I could.”You said you were an Eagle Scout. What was your project? Has it helped you in your profession?“My Eagle Scout project was to create a concrete water runoff skirt for a pool discharge system. The community pool drains their swimming pool at the end of the season and the tube out of the pool was eroding the creek bed. We went in and re-dug the creek bed. We laid down a concrete skirt with stones that slowed the water down as it exited the pool, and prevented the erosion.”It was a huge learning experience as an 18-year-old to do a construction project like that. I learned you have to always be changing your plans.”It’s a blessing to see how many doors open up because of the scouting.”Where did your passion for trees come from?“My love of the outdoors came from my father. He’s the one that got me into scouts. He’s the one who took me fishing every weekend and hiking.”What are your other hobbies and interests?“I like to snowboard; I really like Crested Butte and Steamboat. You get a different kind of snow and more vertical. You get a different kind of terrain there, too. I’m so limited to Colorado skiing, I wish I could go and explore a lot of other different places.”

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