By Jake Laser In case you aren’t already aware, our student body is quite talented. However, it is rarely the case that students are able to turn their skills into a business before they even graduate; North Park student Jeff DiCiaccio has accomplished such a feat. In the Fall of 2015, DiCiaccio launched his online store DiCiaccio Guitar Company, through Etsy.
As of February 2016, the musician and craftsman hit a benchmark of $750 in sales for his woodworking company. DiCiaccio’s ultimate dream is to eventually build acoustic guitars, but for now, he focuses mostly on wooden guitar picks and wearable rings in order to build his ever-growing brand.
“The first night I put everything up, and I was so nervous about it,” DiCiaccio recalled. “I wake up at like 9 a.m. for my class and some lady made this $55 order … I was off the walls.”
DiCiaccio began his business with selling guitar picks, but has recently expanded his product line to jewelry, specifically multi-layered rings made from exotic and domestic hardwoods. Although he doesn’t yet build guitars for sale, he said that he is currently building a special guitar for a soon-to-be-groom in his band.
According to survey results released this January by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, small business owners see marketing as their greatest need. Actively promoting his company on both Facebook and Instagram, DiCiaccio said he appreciates the need for marketing. However, he noted that this social media activity is his least favorite part of the business. “I can sit there all day making my guitar picks and making my rings but I don’t like the mundaneness of posting about it [on social media],” DiCiaccio fretted. In 2014, Chicago ranked second in the United States for the “Number of Fast Growing Small Businesses”, according to the annual “Inc. 5000” study from Inc. Magazine, lending support to DiCiaccio’s choice of Chicago as the location to start his business.
When we met up so that I could take photos for this article, DiCiaccio began making some picks so that I could document the process. Even after we captured the images that we needed, he continued sanding and sawing away like he was in a trance. If you ever get a chance to talk to DiCiaccio about his woodwork, it becomes very clear that the man is passionate about what he does; his eyes light up and the candor in his voice elevates to a level of happiness that you know is from his heart. His knowledge of hardwood varieties, physical properties, finishes and styles show a passion to take what he does to the next level; he doesn’t just work with the material, he is an artist with wood as his medium. Jeff is very particular in the wood that he uses. Although it is mostly sourced from a company based out of Pennsylvania, there is an occasional opportunity to use woods of more sentimental value, such as fallen shards of the oak tree in front of Burgh Hall.
Someday, you might be able to buy a DiCiaccio Guitar yourself, when Jeff’s brand is spoken in the presence of names like Martin, Taylor, and Gibson.