Rashon Davis knows the day well. November 8, 2019. After 18 years at U.S. Steel-East Chicago Tin he was laid off. The USW Local 5133 member is still waiting for a call back to be transferred to Gary Works or Midwest Steel.
Some people would feel sorry for themselves. But not Davis. He got busy trying to put food on the table for his family in other ways – and thanks to utilizing the ICD benefit he created his own pen business.
“Let’s just say it was a good Christmas for us -- because I took my talent and craft using the woodworking classes (at USW Local 6787 in Burns Harbor, Indiana) and started my own business,” Davis explained. “When you’re selling pens for $50-$60 each the money comes in pretty handy.”
The business – From the Heart Woodworking – is keeping Davis and his family afloat while he waits on a call back to the steel mill.
The name “From the Heart Woodworking” comes from his son, Graham, who was born with a heart defect and died at 2 years old.
“We were in Chicago every day dealing with heart doctors, so the name just made sense to me,” Davis explained. “We gave out a lot of pens as gifts and it just seemed right because all the work is coming from the heart. Making pens was great therapy for me during a really hard time.”
Davis, a Gary, Indiana native, credits ICD instructor John Malyj for motivating him to take his craft to another level and start up his own business. He started by buying a “cheap” lathe for his garage and then began to accumulate more tools for the job.
“Sell a pen, buy a tool, sell a pen buy another tool,” Davis explained. “We sort of got into business by accident. I had to justify spending the money for tools and equipment with my wife (Quiana) because she was very supportive, but it was getting to be an expensive hobby.”
Davis has become so busy with his Etsy business he’s recruited Quiana to help. She’s just as involved with the pen making as he is. They now have their own Facebook page and have a vast customer and client base.
Davis is definitely an advocate of the ICD program. He used the tuition assistance program to earn his bachelor’s degree in human resources from Purdue University and also picked up a Real Estate license with the help of the ICD benefit.
“I can’t tell you enough about what a wonderful program ICD is,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for the knowledge I acquired through the benefit.
“I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact they can make money outside of their jobs and be productive. This was supposed to be a hobby and something fun for me to do, but I’ve made this work for me and my family.”