Jeff Lycett is the owner and lead carpenter behind Evryman Wood, a custom carpentry and trim business taking on projects of all sizes throughout the Chicago area. Jeff has been in the field for over 25 years—from project managing high-end construction in New York City to custom carpentry projects in Colorado and Chicago. But simply dipping into his work in building beautiful handrails, kitchens, and built-ins doesn’t paint the true picture of Jeff. It’s his philosophy and business model—and his deep commitment to community—that truly speak to his mission.
The Evryman philosophy
Jeff’s career in construction took a rather circuitous path. He ventured to New York city post-college following his dream of becoming a screenwriter. He worked in the hospitality field to make ends meet, then began dabbling on the maintenance side. Shortly thereafter, he landed a project management role overseeing the punch lists on massive high-end renovation projects. And while the screenwriting gig didn’t play out as anticipated, he discovered and cultivated a blossoming art career, through which he developed the Evryman moniker—a nod to the belief that art should be for everyone, and that everyone can learn to make art. Jeff bounced from NYC to southern France to make art, then returned to the States to start a new chapter.
“Honestly, I just stumbled from a project management job into apprenticing for a master carpenter in Colorado,” Jeff mused. His unique expertise in high-end renovations—and his artful eye—laid the groundwork for what would become his true passion. “I got behind the saw later in life, but within six months, I was pushed into the journeyman role leading and managing projects.” He landed in Chicago seven years later.
Jeff launched a trim carpentry business, called Evryman Wood, in mid-2019, building off of his well-established art brand—“and the philosophy that everyone can learn to create.” He discovered that he much preferred being a craftsman to an artist. “An artist creates things out of thin air to make a statement. It’s an extension of how they see the world. But as a craftsman, somebody is coming to me and saying ‘I want my table or built-ins to look like this.’ I’m essentially folding myself into someone else’s vision, and I find that to be infinitely more satisfying.”
“The business model for Evryman Wood is simple: build things with joy and teach young carpenters how to do the same.” Jeff pointed out. “I wanted my business to have more positive consequences—to exceed my profession.” This was heavy on his heart as he launched Evryman Wood, “But how do I do that? How do I grow with this mission in mind and where do I find aspiring carpenters?” Enter Revolution Workshop.
“When I came into contact with RW there was so much synchronicity. Like, ‘wait, you do what?’ They do exactly the thing I was looking for, with the same purpose and heart.” He met with RW’s Executive Director Manny Rodriguez and Business Services Manager Jackie Gallo, then set about exploring all the ways he could get involved.
“When I met him, I immediately thought ‘I wish we had 100 Jeffs!’,” says Manny Rodriguez, RW’s Executive Director. “He’s a unique combination of skilled craftsman and amazing teacher, and he has the right amount of patience and empathy. That makes him a great employer for our trainees. Jeff really believes in the potential of every graduate, and this allows him to be a strong advocate for what we do.”
It just so happened that he was kicking off a project only a block away from the shop and was looking for help. RW’s tenant Meegan Czop of Great Lakes Yard introduced him to RW graduate Bianca. “I sat down with Bianca, and even though she was getting other job offers, she basically told me ‘this is what I want to do. If I worked with you, it would be my dream job.’”
“You can coach a lot of people to do a lot of things, but you can’t coach that kind of attitude. So from that perspective, I knew she’d be great. Besides, who am I to say no to someone’s dream?”
Bianca was Jeff’s “number one draft pick,” he says. And she’s been with him for over a year and a half now. “Construction will kick your a** mentally, physically, and even emotionally. But she shows up everyday ready to battle. She’s always fighting for that perfection of craft.”
And therein lies the challenge. Good and knowledgeable workers are hard to come by. “If a company is looking for a great worker, that means they’ve been looking for a while,” Jeff commented. Why? Because somewhere around the 1980s, vocational education became uncool. Schools disbanded their shops, and society as a whole discarded the notion of skilled trades as a viable career. “It’s hard to find people who even know this is a job, let alone someone who wants to do it with passion. RW seems to have them in abundance.”
That’s where RW comes into play. “The fact that RW is out there saying, ‘Here’s this career where you get to build something you’re proud of' is so important. It’s not just about finding people to work, but guiding them toward a real career opportunity.” Jeff also shared the access to RW staff as a key value add of RW. “I can go to staff and I can talk through any challenges I’m having. They know everyone who graduates, and they get it.”
Jeff sees RW as a solution to the talent shortage felt so acutely by large and small firms alike.
“Walk in the room, meet five trainees, and there will be two of them you want to hire. I guarantee it.”
Nowadays, you’ll find Jeff deeply conversing with trainees at Mock Interview Days, giving tours of his worksites, and sharing his perspective and insights as part of our Employer Advisory Council. It’s clear he’s a man with a mission.
The human experience
“The goal of Evryman Wood now is to build beautiful things and create opportunity, and just do that in a small way, training one carpenter at a time,” he added with conviction. “I want to create an environment where teaching is a vital part of the craftsmanship. I’ll teach Bianca and then 10 others just like her, so they can build things they are proud of and teach ten others to do the same. That’s 100 people and then 1,000 and so on.”
When asked what drives the mission behind Evryman, Jeff paused for a moment. “The human experience cannot be 100% fulfilling if you are not engaged in the world around you. And for me to have a more complete life, I need to be involved with my community.”
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