Sam & Jamie Elrod

This husband and wife duo were encouraged by some great friends to start Elrod Timber to get away from the days of unnecessary stress. 

Take us back to you as a kid.

Sam: As a kid, I spent time helping my grandparents with chores on their farm.  I loved the country life and the reward of bowling with my grandpa after! I enjoyed playing basketball and baseball and went on many missions trips with my family.  My dad began building a log cabin when I was in late elementary school, and I tagged along, learning all his tricks.  My passion for woodworking still wouldn’t be realized until much later in life, but I think that cabin was a great foundation for my skills. 

Jamie: I was a big bookworm.  I read every Babysitter’s Club book, Nancy Drew, and just about anything I could get my hands on.  I hated getting dirty or sweaty, or heaven forbid: covered in sawdust.  Oh, how things change.

Who did you want to be?

Sam: Like most kids, I wanted to be a professional athlete.  Little did I know, my athletic prowess was average.  I decided on actuarial science instead. 

Jamie: I have a younger sister who was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when we were very young. I thought for sure that I would be a scientist and dedicate my life to research.  Fun fact: research is not my forte. I quickly learned that I enjoyed working with people more than data and pursued other paths. 

"I hated getting dirty or sweaty, or heaven forbid: covered in sawdust.  Oh, how things change."

What was last Monday like for you?

Sam: After working my “other job”, I programmed our CNC machine to cut a few signs and hung out on the couch with our dog Wrigley. 

Jamie: I got up around 4am, stained and painted a couple of pieces, went to my “other work”, met with clients about paint colors for their home, bribed our neighbor to take our dog to a nail grooming appointment that I thought was the next day, had a few more meetings, came home, sanded and stained a few more things in the garage, had chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese for dinner (Sam cooked), watched a couple Netflix episodes of Friends and read from a new book Homo Deus – a brief history of tomorrow, and passed out around 10.

Walk us through the days leading up to starting Elrod Timber?

Sam: I was beyond stressed at my “other work” and decided I needed a change.  I stepped down from my position and began making a few pieces here and there for some stress relief and time fillers.  As more people saw our pieces, some great friends encouraged us to launch a website and start an LLC.  Boom – Elrod Timber just kind of happened!

Jamie: Our days were full of unnecessary stress.  Sam was working crazy hours for a great job and a great company, but was completely unfulfilled and overworked. He was a building a few things in the garage to try a decompress when some friends suggested turning that passion into the real deal.  We took the plunge and haven’t looked back!  We work more now than we ever have, but it’s extremely satisfying and completely intentional.  Our lives are full, not busy.  We are choosing this life because it’s great and exactly what we’re supposed to be doing!

What keeps you busy?

Sam: Two jobs.  Literally.  We have a great family and wonderful friends that we try to sneak in time with between jobs and time with the dog. 

Jamie: Orders! 

How do you stay focused?

Sam: My wife helps with that.  It really comes down to the desire to continue to grow the business.  I really do enjoy building, and it doesn’t seem like a job.  We have had great clients who have unique ideas.  Those push me to stay creative and help our brand to grow.  

Jamie: The joy of seeing someone look at their custom designed piece for the first time is fantastic!  When we know that is what we will see at the end of a long day, or a struggle with a piece, it’s easy to stay motivated. 

"As more people saw our pieces, some great friends encouraged us to launch a website and start an LLC."

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Sam: Time and space.  We are limited in our time to work and available room in the garage.  

Jamie: Balancing work, and work, with life.  We have incredible friends and family and we are making the effort to foster those relationships more than being in the garage/shop.  We still kind of like each other and are committed to having adventures/traveling too!  Hit us up if you’re headed to the Iowa State bowl game, or want to chill in Nashville for New Year’s!

How did you overcome it?

Sam: We work on this every day.  Jamie is usually up around 4a working on pieces or admin stuff before she goes to work.  I get home around 4p and work a couple hours before she is home.  We re-group when we’re both home and eventually, figure out something for dinner.

Jamie: It’s making choices everyday to live the life you want and the life we are made for.  It’s not easy, but it’s ours!

"When we know that is what we will see at the end of a long day, or a struggle with a piece, it’s easy to stay motivated."

You get to redo something you’ve done. What would that be and why?

Sam: I would start Elrod Timber earlier.  It is truly a passion for us and if we had started sooner, we would be years ahead of where we are.  We can’t wait to be another year into all of this!

Jamie: I think Sam said this too, but we should have started Timber earlier.  It makes Sam so happy!

Someone is starting their own thing. What would you say to them if they came to you for advice?

Sam: Go for it!  Have a plan, but go for it!  People will support you.  If it’s something you’re really passionate about, the money doesn’t matter.  Fill your life with what you’re supposed to do.  Be intentional about where you spend your time, money, and life resources.  All of them are in short supply.  We live by the ideas of: Give all you can; Save all you can; Live all you can.  

Jamie: Do it! Be smart, be bold, and ask for help!  People are way more supportive than you would ever think!  Have a plan and have someone who is willing to call you out on the plan.  We have friends who hold us accountable for ideas, actions, and processes.  It’s great that they’re willing to say, “What about this? Why aren’t you pursing this thing? What are you going to do about this in a certain time period.”  Get your village together and do it!

Why Des Moines?

Sam: Jobs, most of our family, and we grew up near here.  Des Moines is a big small town.  It’s nuts how many people we have met with connections to our family or friends! The support from people we don’t even know who just affiliate with us because of our central Iowa roots, is incredible.  We love it here. 

Jamie: Why not Des Moines!?  The people are just the best!  There is something for everyone and even though it’s a bigger city, it still holds many small town truths. 

What’s one new thing that has caught your eye?

Sam: All the new breweries!  They’re a fun way to explore Des Moines and there are so many new options – Mistress Brewing, Fenders Brewery, Firetrucker, Reclaimed Rails, Twisted Vine, New American….

Jamie: Breweries, breweries, breweries, and local makers.  We have a ton of super talented folks here!  And, everyone is so supportive and willing to help you grow your thing!  I think Des Moines has really embraced the local connections and shopping local ideals.  The whole movement is so refreshing!

You can grant Des Moines one wish. What’s that wish?

Sam: An enhanced public transit system. We have visited some larger cities and the train options were vast.  It would be awesome to bring a bit of that to Des Moines.   

Jamie: This is the hardest question.  I think Des Moines is really going places!  I guess, unlimited funding for all the new projects being promoted.  We believe in all that Des Moines has to offer, and I would like to see the visions of many come to fruition.

For someone new to DSM where do you suggest they go?

Sam: A walk at the Des Moines Riverwalk, shopping in the East Village (be sure to hit up Wanderlust!), the Farmer’s Market, concerts at the Iowa Events center, craft beer festival!

Jamie: The East Village is great!  Check out Wanderlust for sure! Wander through the artists at Mainframe Studios, stroll through the Des Moines Arts Center, hit up zoo brew at the Blank Park Zoo, yell and get crazy at a hockey game – Wild or Bucs, eat at the Cheese Shop, La Mie, Centro, Proof, have drinks at Peace Tree, Fenders, Firetrucker, Juniper Moon, New American, Reclaimed Rails.

"Friendly, helpful, kind, courteous, courageous, and a slew of other adjectives that make me proud to live here."

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?

Sam: Des Moines is a sneaky good time.  There is something for everyone and you’ll always find someone great to hang out with.  So, I guess that means our people are underrated.  We’re pretty cool here. 

Jamie: The people.  Hands down.  The best people ever.  Friendly, helpful, kind, courteous, courageous, and a slew of other adjectives that make me proud to live here. 

What are you most proud of and why?

Sam: Pursuing a life that is actually what we want.  I worked for a large company, managing huge stores, and while the company was great, it wasn’t what made me happy or fulfilled.  Knowing that I am working for a life that matters is awesome. 

Jamie: Our life.  We are pursing what we love and trying to help, bless, love on as many people as we can along the way.

"Go for it!  Have a plan, but go for it!  People will support you."

It’s been six months, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Sam: I hope to be working at Elrod Timber full-time or as close to full-time as my pragmatic wife can handle.

Jamie: I would love to surpass this year’s numbers and have a few different collections in some of the stores where we sell pieces. 

One thing that matters most to you is what?

Sam: Taking time away from work to still enjoy life. 

Jamie: Our family.  Wrigley, the cairn terrier included.  When it comes down to it, that’s all that matters.  

Photo credit: Gabi Glover

Derek Jensen