FRANKLIN GROVE – Nobody shares secrets in the construction business, especially older generations.
Except for Kyle Stumpenhorst.
The Rural Renovators owner started taking pictures and videos years ago because he wanted current and future customers to know what they were getting. As social media evolved, so did Stumpenhorst’s Franklin Grove construction company. The Sterling resident took videos that showed his process. And people liked it.
“Clients loved it and could see what was happening,” Stumpenhorst said. “They understand what it takes. I saw it added value to the brand. People were searching for Rural Renovators.”
Rural Renovators specializes in post frame buildings, which are multi-use barn structures. A YouTuber wanted to build one in New York 2.5 years ago and found Stumpenhorst on social media and hired him to do it.
That YouTuber told Stumpenhorst he had to start a channel of his own. He did. Rural Renovators now has 449,000 subscribers on the video platforms.
“When people want to build a garage, they’ll look,” Stumpenhorst said. “I never expected it to blow up. I wanted customers to know what they were getting. Now it’s a ton more. I get asked to travel around and shoot content with tool makers for educational things. A lot of people enjoy it.”
Stumpenhorst thinks social media’s biggest benefit is that it’s a community of like-minded individuals looking to elevate their craft. He found others were more likely to share their trade secrets if he shared his.
Seeing comments and videos made by others on social media showed Stumpenhorst that in order to take the best picture or video, he had to build better.
“It’s moved me to look at the operation and skillset and improve,” Stumpenhorst said. “Old-time carpenters do the same old stuff and don’t help anybody. I get messages from people across the world that say I changed their lives and helped.”
Stumpenhost turns down 10-12 jobs each day. He works in the area, despite having offers to do jobs around the country due to his following.
Stumpenhorst recently went camping with his family in Virginia and was recognized from his videos. Rural Renovators sells t-shirts on its site and the YouTube channel receives ad revenue due to its high number of viewers.
“Ad revenue is part of the YouTube scheme, it’s not my career,” Stumpenhorst said. “That’s icing on the cake. YouTube could be gone tomorrow and my work won’t change. I started selling the t-shirts because I couldn’t afford to send them to everyone who wanted one. That’s what I used to do, but I started getting too many requests.”
Stumpenhorst used to think that competitors would take his secrets and use them against him if he put them out on social media. But that hasn’t happened. He actually wants someone to recommend when he can’t do a job. He recently told a customer he can’t do a job until next year.
Competitors may be able to replicate what Stumpenhorst does in his videos, but that isn’t all of the equation, he said.
“You can show the horse the water,” Stumpenhorst said. “You can show them the secrets. But they have to care.”
Stumpenhorst started in 2007 as a small remodeling contractor. He did bathrooms, kitchens and decks. He eventually got bigger and built houses, which he didn’t enjoy as much. He doesn’t like being at long jobs with contractors that don’t care as much as he does.
With post frames, Stumpenhorst can control the entire project and its quality. On a job, it’s just him working with one or two contractors. He has no employees.
Among Stumpenhorst’s favorite jobs was a high-end storage facility for a golf cart business in Amboy. Rural Renovators builds passion projects like Oregon Music Garage, a music shop currently in progress.
The company builds hunting lodges, man caves and family fun barns with things like basketball courts. Rural Renovators has won three building of the year awards.
“I think there’s a lot of contractors that will do a post frame,” Stumpenhorst said. “We specialize in it. I’m the salesman, owner and the guy swinging the hammer.”