Chris Bailey: From Master Woodworker to Custom Home Builder and Renovator

Jul 1, 2019 | Entrepreneurs, Positively West Virginia

Rising Sun Construction, owned by Chris Bailey and located in Morgantown, West Virginia, is a full-service design/build construction company with a crew of full-time employees. 

Bailey, originally from the Charleston, West Virginia area, is an experienced master woodworker, builder and renovator of fine custom homes, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Design from West Virginia University. 

His craftsmanship has been featured in homes and galleries from Washington D.C. to West Virginia. One of his renovation projects of a historic West Virginia farmhouse is featured in the June 2019 issue of Country Living magazine!  

Bailey was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast, hosted by Jim Matuga. Bailey and Matuga talked about Rising Sun Construction, how it all began, the farmhouse project and his advice to young entrepreneurs and business owners. 

How did you get started in this line of work?

“I want to take the time and opportunity to thank my mom, my dad and my grandparents for being hardworking people of high integrity and strength. I would say that was the start, just master woodworkerhaving a wonderful family that held me accountable. I think, with anything you do in life if you do it well, it is a good thing,” said Bailey. 

“I was very lucky to grow up in an environment where I was encouraged to just follow my imagination. I was that kid could walk into the woods and make a crummy little lean-to, but to me, it was the Taj Mahal. That was what propelled me into art.” 

“But getting back to construction, we have a long history of volunteering in my family. It’s something that we would do on Sundays after church once in a while. I remember going to the grocery store or Toys R Us and picking out presents, not for us, but to take to someone who was in need, especially around Christmas.” 

“I remember that so fondly and in that same vein, we volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and so I got some construction experience from that when I was 10 or 11 years old. We also have a farm and we would build things like a bridge. Also, my dad was one of those dads that couldn’t sit down and we would just build things. We built a boat that we don’t even use. I just think it was really important to my dad to spend time with us. We created things together.” 

“During college and right after college, I was doing woodwork and worked for some woodworkers around the space. I didn’t really mean to become self-employed. I was in Thomas, West Virginia and the only space I could rent and keep my shop tools, it was kind of on Front Street and that was where a lot of tourists walk. It was a dumb luck mistake on my part. So I’m in there working on my own projects, and people would wander in because they thought it was a shop and they would ask if I could make them something. Honestly, I know this sounds ridiculous, I’d love a more romantic story, but it is the way that it worked out.”

“So, I think people maybe saw more in me than I saw in myself. And they just started buying stuff and I thought I’d take advantage of it. I started building and designing furniture. Then, I went over to D.C. and walking into galleries and started talking with some interior designers because not being shy is something my parents and I instilled in my brother and I. I got into a gallery there and started making a line of furniture and started parlaying that into different avenues and it went along like that for quite some time.”

“When the economic downturn came along, it really hit D.C. hard. A lot of the contracts I had dried up. I couldn’t sell things fast enough to pay my bills. It was actually probably one of the most difficult moments in my life. I hate to say I lost everything because I didn’t lose everything. Everything that wasn’t bolted down was sold. I started from scratch from that point. I had $1,000 left and I bought a van and a miter saw and started into trim carpentry for other contractors.” 

Tell us about the farmhouse project?

“It was an honor and totally unexpected. First of all, I have been very blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people. I also seem to get connected to people who are great. The interior designer on that project was Stephen Shutts. I think he did a great job pulled elements together on that home. The clients were really open-minded throughout the entire project. They collaborated with us and the interior designer and it just came out to make a really nice product. They had the flexibility and the vision to work through the job with me. That’s why a job really turns out well.” 

What is one piece of advice you would give to young business owners and entrepreneurs in West Virginia?

“I think having a vision or goal is important. Have a point on the horizon that you want to get to and start working your way there. Whether you start slow or you start quick, start moving toward that point on the horizon. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the voices inside you that make you feel worried about what you’re doing. I think there are ups and downs in the business and you need to realize that and ride the waves out. That’s a part of being in it. Especially as a contractor, there are going to be jobs that you pay to finish or that you don’t make any money on. That’s a part of the game. Just stay strong and stay in your vision and try to effectively communicate that to your employees,” advised Bailey. 

What is essential for being a good leader? 

“This is a question that I ask myself weekly. I think that people don’t want to be managed. They want self-manage and they want to be led in a direction. The question is, are you a puller or are you a pusher. So you have to determine what type of leader you are. For me, I’ve always been a pusher. I’m trying to determine if that is the best leadership strategy for my company still.”

“So, people want to be led and they want to self-manage. The question is how do you inspire them to self-manage. That’s a tough nut to crack.”

“When people are good leaders, you want to follow them because they seem charismatic and they seem to know what they are doing. They have a vision.” 

Bailey was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.


  • RECOMMENDED BOOK: Up the Organization by Robert C. Townsend and Elements of Building by Mark Q. Kerson
  • PIECE OF ADVICE: “I think having a vision or goal is important. Have a point on the horizon that you want to get to and start working your way there,” advised Bailey. 
  • ONE THING THAT CONTRIBUTES TO BAILEY’S SUCCESS: “Starting the day with a workout.” 


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