Choosing family over career

Father of two Ryan Vanderhorst in his workshop.

By Melissa Meehan

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Victoria, Upwey father of two Ryan Vanderhorst was right in the thick of things.

He was working as social media manager for the Department of Health and Human Services managing their Covid-19 response.

The hours were long, the stress was high and he was spending nearly three hours a day travelling to and from work.

“I worked out that was 13 hours a week, that’s 13 hours lost on a train and not spending it with my kids or doing the things I enjoy,” Ryan said.

“It was a huge wake up call for me.”

Ryan’s passion for woodworking continued to grow during lockdown.

He decided it was time to do something he enjoyed, so resigned and hasn’t looked back.

“My passion for woodworking has continued to grow over my life, and that continued during lockdown,” he said.

“So I went from a secure, honest job with the government to making custom furniture and I’ve never been happier.”

Woodworking had always been a part of Ryan’s life.

While he worked for DHHS he ran, and still does, an online woodworking community called Aus Sawdust Makers. He even makes how-to videos for his YouTube channel.

So he resigned in November, and started his new career on 1 December, 2020.

“I started getting orders straight away without even advertising,” he said.

“I had made a couple of (kids play) mud kitchens and started getting heaps of enquiries.

“One customer had posted on a couple of ’mum’ Facebook groups and it went crazy from there.

“She was the one who really helped it become a full-time gig.”

Soon enough he was getting orders from Sunbury and across the state.

“I think, particularly with the mud kitchens, people who didn’t have things for their kids to play outside during lockdown realised that they needed it,” he said.

“I make them a bit extra too … they have pump taps that allow the kids to have running water and each one is custom made.”

So now that his hobby has become his full-time job, Ryan makes how-to videos for lovers of woodworking.

“I guess that has become my side hustle now,” he said.

“There are a bunch of other woodworkers in Australia and we’ve all become good friends.”

Making things are great, but Ryan says there is a lot of time and effort that goes into making his videos.

“It takes a million times longer – because you just don’t make something,” he said.

“It’s setting up the camera, making sure there’s enough lighting, the angles and sound are OK and then there’s hours and hours of editing.”

He says its nice to make things without being in front of the camera, but some friends were already making money by posting the videos on YouTube.

And he’s even been asked to do influencer videos for an Australian tool company.

It’s a busy life, but there is no commute and Ryan is clearly enjoying himself – despite the continual Covid-19 lockdowns.

“I have so much more time with my family and I’m happier than I have ever been,” he said.

Ryan at work.
Ryan’s camera set-up.

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