Tyler’s Firewood Company’s South Surrey founder and operator Tyler Reid

Business idea starting to catch fire

South Surrey teen looking to expand wood-chopping enterprise

What started nearly four years ago as a means for Tyler Reid to focus his energy in a positive way has turned into a booming business that is expanding far beyond his family’s South Surrey backyard.

Reid, 17, is the operator of Tyler’s Firewood Company, which he started when he was 14 for a pretty simple reason – he just liked chopping wood.

Spurred forward by his great-uncle who had asked Tyler to collect him some wood for a campfire, the South Surrey teen began scouring his neighbourhood for scrap lumber – perhaps tossed to the curb by a neighbour – as well as nearby wooded areas for fallen trees or dead wood.

Then, he’d haul it into his backyard, and sometimes with the help of his younger brother, Nicholas, and his dad, Kevin, he’d chop it up and bundle it.

After that initial request for firewood, Tyler continued collecting and chopping wood, which began to pile up in his backyard.

“One day, I said to Tyler, ‘What are we going to do with all this wood?’ and he said, ‘We could sell it!” Kevin explained.

And thus began an operation that grew quicker than either Reid ever expected.

It’s been more than just a job or a hobby for Tyler, his dad points out. Sure, he has made a few dollars from it, but it has helped him in other, more important ways.

Reid has dyslexia, as well as a co-ordination disorder called dyspraxia. When he was younger, he struggled with organized sports – he’d run the wrong way on the soccer field, his dad says – and school wasn’t always easy, either.

In elementary school, he was often bullied by classmates. In 2008, Reid appeared on the cover of the Peace Arch News – alongside younger brother, Nicholas – after his younger sibling, then 10, took a school speech-writing assignment and turned it into a powerful anti-bullying message, which he read aloud to his older brother’s class.

Things have changed much since that speech – for the better.

And much of Tyler’s progress, Kevin Reid, insists, is a result of his wood-chopping endeavour.

“For Tyler, it gives him a purpose, and that’s huge. Self-respect, confidence, all that stuff – it comes from this,” Kevin said.

“He goes around now and tells his friends, ‘I own a company.’ There aren’t too many 17-year-olds who can say that.”

And while the supply of scrap wood and dead trees eventually dried up, the amount of choppable wood has not. Neighbours, once aware of Tyler’s efforts, bring him scrap wood when they can. They’ve even had companies drop off old wooden pallets that they would otherwise have to pay to dispose of themselves.

A property owner in Hazelmere has also been gracious enough to allow the Reids onto his land, to clear away whatever excess wood they wanted to take.

Now, Tyler’s Firewood Company has one buyer – Hazelmere RV Park. Back in the summer of 2011, Tyler sold five bundles of wood to the owners of the park. Despite being more expensive ($12/bundle) than other commercial suppliers, the wood was purchased so quickly that more was requested.

That year, Hazelmere ended up buying 105 bundles of Tyler’s firewood. In 2012, that number increased to 378 and this year, they expect to sell more than 500 bundles.

From Day 1, Tyler has also used some of the money he’s made to give back to the community. Fifty per cent of the proceeds from every bundle sold goes to the Semiahmoo House Society.

“It’s taken on a life of its own, and it’s only fair to give something back,” Kevin said.

And it’s that charitable endeavour that the Reids hope might entice a major Lower Mainland lumber company or land-developer to help them expand their business.

The Reids have sent proposals to a number of companies asking them to invest in a “50/50” partnership with Tyler’s Firewood Company.

The Reids are hopeful that a company might provide them with space – preferably covered, so they can chop during poor weather – to expand their wood-chopping enterprise, while perhaps investing financially so new woodchoppers could be hired.

In return, Kevin said, the company will get the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping Semiahmoo House Society, which will continue to benefit from sales.

Despite the increase in demand – and the possibility of future growth – Tyler never seems to tire of wielding an axe, even on the days when he’s outside in the yard for hours at a time.

His dad calls him “the king of chopping wood.”

Tyler shrugs when asked if he ever gets tired of it.

“I don’t really get tired. I just keep going until the pile is done,” he said.

Kevin, meanwhile, has a theory on why Tyler’s firewood has been so in-demand, despite some of the wood looking old, knotty or weather-beaten, as opposed to other commercial sellers.

“All of Tyler’s wood, it comes with a story.”

For more information about the company, call 604-541-8490.

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