MikCin creations

Mike Leas moves a container in the MikCin Creations wood shop on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

For Victoria residents Mike and Cindy Leas, the journey to creating their own woodworking craft business has been a long, winding road filled with debt, stolen cars, floods and hard work.

The couple has been in business full time since December, but gained national attention through the DIY Hero competition, in which over 10,000 do-it-yourself crafters participated to win $25,000 and a feature in Make Magazine. The couple would finish in the top 250.

MikCin creations

Several of Mike Leas’ charcuterie boards line the shelves of the MikCin Creations wood shop on Thursday afternoon in Victoria. Leas said he particularly enjoys making the boards because he loves the grain of the wood.

However, the path to get there goes back to when they were first married and lived around the Austin area, when, during their honeymoon, their car was stolen, still emblazoned with “just married” stickers, Mike Leas said.

That would start a series of unfortunate events — including a second car being stolen — that would drive up their debt and force the couple to rely on making things they need, like furniture, shelves and other items, to save money. At one point their debt was as high as $100,000.

Mike Leas said he hated shop class when he was younger, but his wife asked him to build things for one of their children’s birthdays so they could spend money on party supplies.

The unfortunate events would be compounded in Kyle in 2015 when, during the Memorial Day Floods in Central Texas, their rental house and their car would become flooded, Mike Leas said.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas works on an assortment of spoons on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

“We literally had to swim out of the house,” he said.

Unfortunately, since they lived near a creek that would frequently flood, no insurance company would provide flood insurance, he said.

So after picking up what they could recover and move it into a storage unit near the Kyle Flea Market and sell what they could to recoup what they lost financially, they said.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas works in his garage and wood shop on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

The rent on the storage unit had gone up, so being next to the flea market was convenient and allowed them to sell what had survived and much the art Cindy Leas had created over the years, she said.

Here, Mike Leas’ woodworking talents and Cindy Leas’ art skills would be put to use. The market would be come the base of their business, called MikCin Creations, where they would make thing to sell, including weathered wood pictures.

At first, they were doing it without permission as the open-air flea market was only open on weekends and then the manager of the market noticed them and gave them permission to use a wood shop there, he said.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas reaches for a tool on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

This would lead to requests from customers for specialty items, leading to the first origin of MikCin Creations.

However, they would have to leave Central Texas due to the cost of living and eventually landed in Victoria after a cousin offered Mike a job, they said.

While that job didn’t work out, they gained opportunities to sell their wares at market days around the region, while Mike picked up jobs at Formosa Plastics and H-E-B.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas sands the bowl of a spoon on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

It was particularly difficult at times, as the couple’s work schedules kept them apart for much of the day. Cindy Leas and their children were busy during the day and Mike Leas worked at night, she said.

However, after years of pinching pennies and paying off their debts, their money grew to a point where they could finally commit to focusing solely on their craft business full time, Cindy Leas said.

Initially, they were going to start at the beginning of this year, but they wanted to take advantage of the holiday shopping season, she said.

MikCin creations

Cindy Leas shows her husband, Mike Leas, a stencil design on Thursday afternoon.

“We wanted to show our children that even if this was something we failed, at least we tried and that’s what’s important,” Cindy Leas said.

At the beginning of the year, Mike Leas, who manages the business’ social media, saw a notice for the DIY Hero contest and entered. One of the tactics the couple used to pay off their debt is whenever there was a prize giveaway from an account with only a few followers, they would enter, as the odds of winning were higher compared with those having a higher number of follower, he said.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas, left, and Cindy Leas, right, of MikCin Creations, pose for a portrait in their wood shop on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

When they entered the contest, they didn’t think much of it, but once they made the cut they started campaigning to get people to vote for them. They reached the top 250 but fell out in a round that cut the field down to the final 32. It’s unclear where the Leas finished in that round, as DIY Hero didn’t disclose where they finished overall when compared with the group they were in.

MikCin creations

Mike Leas works on a spoon on Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

The greatest thing about the experience was they saw so many people who they never even met vote for them, Mike Leas said.

While the contest hasn’t resulted in an increase in business yet, that fact they got so far was humbling, he said.

Now you can find them back to the grind, with Mike Leas putting the wood craft projects together through their open garage while Cindy works in the house filled with various item they made as she designs their next items for their next market day.

“We couldn’t do it without each other,” Mike Leas said. “Cindy is the brains behind MikCin and I just kind help make it happen. Whatever she asks.”

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Health Reporter

Kyle Cotton was born and raised in San Antonio and graduated from San Antonio College and the University of Texas at Arlington. Cotton has covered economic development, health care, finance, government, technology, oil and gas and higher education.

(2) comments

C Droost

What an interesting local story — just what I enjoy seeing in our local paper. I wish the Leas all the luck in the world with their endeavor.

What a shame the Advocate didn’t proof the copy for grammatical errors. Newspapers are not social media where the rules governing good writing are thrown out to accommodate brevity and fat fingers, or at least they *shouldn’t* be. Sister Celestine would have failed me for submitting something like this.

Glenn Wilson

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