You can’t help but admire someone who takes the initiative to learn a new trade or skill on their own—and in this case, become a top graduate from the “university of self.” As a full-time family man who also juggles a time demanding career as a district manager for Ralph Lauren, Chad Copher has also found a way to string in his musical loves into the mix. Along with singing, he plays both the guitar and ukulele regularly with his band, and has taught himself how to skillfully handcraft over twenty-five customized ukuleles and counting—with a six-month waiting list of clients hoping to get their fingers on one.
Copher’s passion for what he does is instantly received over the phone. He shares how he initially started out in his early years attending community college, but felt he was much more interested in what he was learning as retail sales associate. He departed before earning a degree to pursue a career in retail, and studied the business from the floor up (literally) from companies such as Guess, Gap, Pottery Barn and Apple. Through the course of of his career, Copher specifically honed in on his love for teaching others and leading a team. After fifteen years with a proven track record in growing store volume and building teams to drive results, he launched himself into his current role for Ralph Lauren’s specialty stores in the Northern California region, sharing, “retail is one of those fields where the whole ‘people piece’ is so challenging to teach; difficult conversations, performance evaluations, change, etc.—and my specialty is being able to support that. Retail is also always changing which I love—I have a short attention span, and it feeds my self-starter mentality.”
Although his day job requires travelling to store visits several days a week, Copher, being a father of two lovely girls enjoys spending time with family as much as possible. He explains how becoming a dad inspired some of his musical hobbies to reignite. “I played guitar a bit in high school, but when I had my daughter I wanted her to grow up with music in the house and reacquired one. Originally I just wanted to sit on the couch and play, but later took a few lessons from a bluegrass player and got to a point where I learned to transpose songs on my own. I also wanted to figure out if I could sing—which evolved into me getting the chance to play and sing with other people. Since then, I get to play with my friends in the midst of our busy schedules, and it’s been a blast.”
During Copher’s re-acquaintance with music, he also became intrigued with learning to play the ukulele and placed an order for one online. Becoming impatient with the seven-month delivery wait, he decided to research how to make his own. “I had no woodworking experience, but I’ve always dreamed about building one. I was really curious to see if I could even do it, he admits.”
Since Copher’s first handcrafted masterpiece, he’s been hooked ever since. Through word of mouth, previous articles, and his social media sites he’s accumulated quite a waiting list. “When someone orders one I like to get to know them a bit first to customize it to their liking, and I also send them progress pics. It’s not a big money maker, but I’ve slowly raised the prices depending on the wood choice—and I price them as reasonable as I can for what I do. One of the most rewarding parts of doing this is the surreal feeling of stringing up a finished piece, knowing I creating something that makes music with my own hands. I made one for a friend recently and he did a recording playing on it—seeing my work in the hands of other people has really been a high point for me as well.”
When it comes to juggling work-life balance, Copher has found ways to combine his hobbies with family time. “I’ve sort of merged them you can say. We like to go hiking on occasion, (and I also like to ride my motorcycle), but when at home, my daughter often likes to come out and dig through the scrap wood and help build things. Being that my life is really busy and I have a million things running around in my head, I’m not really good at relaxing, but when something pulls in all my attention that helps—and that’s what this does—going out to the garage for an hour or two each night is very therapeutic to me. Sometimes my wife will also sit with me and read while I’m working,” he shares.
Being that Copher is very articulate about all he does, it should be no surprise he takes attention to detail in his personal style and (of course) self-taught his own grooming regimen. “I’ve learned myself how to clean it up and got a nice pair of scissors to trim it. I also use Beardbrand’s beard oil to manage it as well—it has a nice weight to it.”
While providing lots of face-time in and out of his stores, he’s observed some great style points on how sport your beard in the workplace, and states, “the cool thing about my brand is we have a variety of styles, so I’ve never had any problems bringing my beard to work. I’ve also noticed a return to haberdashery in bearded culture today. You see guys with great beards, but are in suiting—and I think that’ a great way to be fashionable with a beard in or out of the workplace. I personally love the mix of a bearded-rugged look with refined clothing on.”
Just as his whiskers continue to grow, Copher has the same expectations for his future, admitting, “I’m not going to quit my day job for ukes any time soon, but if I see it as a second income or perhaps when I’m retired that would be great. I want to continue seeing that evolve in its current form. I’d also like to take things to the next level and become a regional manager. I really love what I do and want to continue to move forward. I don’t want to end up as someone that talked about all the things they dreamed about doing, but never actually did them.”
As driven and well-orchestrated Copher is in juggling all his passions, one can only imagine what’s next in store for him—but if there’s one thing for certain, it will draw inspiration from a sincere place, be well-mastered, (and most likely self-taught).