By John Wonderly, SMA Member, Owner – John Wonderly Architectural Woodworking

John Wonderly Architectural Woodworking consists of one employee and myself. I have been in the stair building industry for over 34 years. I have been with the SMA close to 20 years with a short break in the middle. Today, my shop is currently located in a rural area of Ohio and is nestled in the middle of eight acres of woods. Given the setting and the fact we custom make every part in house, we do not get much interaction with other people in the stair industry on a regular basis. This trade is such a small niche of the overall construction and manufacturing industry that I found it very difficult to “talk shop” and discuss technical and business issues with other people who design and build the same or similar stair projects. Being involved with the SMA and especially the StairCraft Awards has definitely changed that.

Attending the annual conferences and seeing all the photos of the other entries has been a great experience for me. Over the years, it also affirmed that I am a fellow member of a group of very talented and passionate crafts people. During these conferences the interaction I was lacking on a day to day basis became a special few days every year where special bonds were built and conversations happened that showed me a unique group of similar-minded stair builders. These interactions have helped me develop friendships and strong business relationships with fellow members of the SMA.

It was at my first SMA conference that Dave Cooper, the SMA Code Development Representative, asked me why I did not submit an entry into the StairCraft Awards. After explaining why I had not, he assured me that I was building unique stairs and he strongly encouraged me to enter the next year. Even though I had received a national design award from a woodworking organization several years earlier, my thought at the time was that I did not build anything worthy to submit along side such a talented group of stair builders. Finally, several years later I submitted my first entry to the SMA StairCraft Awards. I did not win an award that year, but the experience was very worthwhile. In the years since, I have received the honor of winning in several of the categories.

A few of the many benefits to winning a StairCraft Award is recognition from your peers, validation of your dedication to the craft and being promoted on the SMA website. From a business point of view, a huge benefit is also the advertising possibilities. Additional perks of winning one of these awards includes other organizations in the building industry adding the winners to their publications, websites, and information streams. Adding “National Award Winning Stair Builder” to all of your literature and promotional items and advertising is helpful for marketing one’s business. Every winner could create a drop down on your website for the winning stair and award. Every winner and for that matter, every entry inspires others within the industry to expand their creativity in their designs and offerings to their customers. Ideas that are generated by the entries and winners further enhances every aspect of our industry.

There are many different categories to enter within the Stair Craft Awards. Everything from Straight Traditional Stairs to Modern Curved Stairs and many others. There are even categories for just stair parts, just balustrades and even Anything but Stairs. So whether you build interior or exterior stairs, wood or steel stairs, or build stairs from any combination of materials, there is a category for you. If you are a parts manufacturer or distributor, there are categories for you to enter as well.