Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens is vice president of Scottsdale-based Woodworkers Source, which his father founded in 1978.

For as long as he can remember, Mark Stephens has been around woodworking. 

His father, Keith, opened Woodworkers Source in 1978 and even as he tried to get away from the shop by earning a degree in English literature from Arizona State University, Stephens couldn’t keep away from the thrill of woodworking for very long.

Today, Stephens is vice president of operations for the wood-supply company, which is headquartered in Scottsdale and has locations in Tempe, Tucson and North Phoenix.

And he has grown the company in a way he never could have imagined. 

In 2011, Stephens was trying to figure out a new way he could grow his company online when his colleagues had suggested making a YouTube channel. 

“Our channel started off as us dabbling with ways to promote the company online,” he said. “All we knew was that we should try video and we started off trying to make ads but then after a while we figured out a better way to use the medium.” 

After years of tinkering with its content, Stephens figured out a way to make his channel successful for his shop and for the average consumer. 

“Maybe six or seven years ago, when we started doing content about products and how to use it, we started to see some sales generated from the videos,” he said. “We also got customers who would come in and ask questions about a video we put out.” 

Not only has Stephens seen his business grow from his channel, but he also feels that he has saved an artform. 

“If you go back over 20 years ago around when schools stopped teaching woodshop, this had become a field of knowledge that was dying and only appealed to the aging men,” he said. “We’ve seen a change in the last five years where a lot more women and younger folks have gained an interest in woodworking.” 

At first, Stephens admits he found it embarrassing to have patrons in his store recognize him and point him out from videos they’ve seen.

But he has since adapted to the newfound fame. 

“Initially, it was quite embarrassing,” he said. “If I go to any store today, it takes around three minutes for someone to say something to me.” 

Stephens has also seen an uptick in the number of customers who come into the store inquiring about something they saw on one of his videos. 

“It’s built up to a point where if we put out a video about a type of wood that could be used for a project and we show you how easy it is to work with and how beautiful it can look in a certain type of project, it’s wild how well that will sell product,” he said. 

He has also used these videos to train his staff. 

“These videos have been a good way to inform our staff and acquaint our staff with products that they may not otherwise be able to do,” said Stephens. 

Woodworkers Source’s videos have been viewed by upwards of 7 million viewers and that number is likely to grow as Woodworkers Source was featured in YouTube’s current United States of YouTube campaign. 

The campaign shows a map of the United States that spotlights the most unique channels from around the country. 

Woodworkers Source is one of three channels to be selected from Arizona and the only one from the Phoenix metropolitan area. 

“I knew nothing about this campaign, YouTube contacted me,” Stephens said.

 “At first, I thought it was some sort of scam,” he added with a laugh. 

Once the reality of the honor set in, Stephens began to see who he was in company with. 

“I looked around at the map and I thought a lot of folks stood,” he said. “What makes us unique is that we don’t just do woodworking content but we do hardwood lumber content and we’ve been doing it for so long that we like to think that we are the leader on content directly related to hardwood lumber.”

With an increased exposure, Stephens is excited to keep moving forward with informing his viewers and keeping the art of woodworking alive. 

“We want to start doing shorter videos with interaction from the audience,” Stephens said. “The audience has so many questions and there is not a day that goes by that there’s not something in my inbox from someone who has a deeper question about something that happened in one of our videos.”