Partner in Craft Spotlight: Holt & Bugbee

September 1, 2023



Our Partners in Craft program recognizes corporations and small businesses across industries that support the School.

We spoke with Ben Pierce, Credit Manager at Holt & Bugbee and manager of the Holt & Bugbee Foundation, about why they support NBSS, what advice they have for our students, and more.

How did you discover the School?

Holt & Bugbee's sign

I run our Instagram channel (@holtandbugbee), I was looking at all these woodworkers in the Boston area, and I noticed a lot of them had NBSS in their bio. Specifically, I ran across Bob Miller of MassWoodworks, and I’ve become a big fan of his work; he’s such a nice guy, and I know he teaches classes for you. Also, a family member started in one of the Career Training programs, so I got a more inside view through them. I was so impressed. 

I now run the foundation on behalf of the company, and all that made me really want to work with NBSS. When I brought the idea up to others here, it was a unanimous yes. People who had been working here for 40 years sort of slapped their foreheads and said “Why haven’t we been doing this?” And any time you get that reaction you know it’s a good thing.

Why do you support NBSS?

We’ve been around since 1825, and we have a lot of pride in that. NBSS has that deep history too. You’re a Boston-based organization, and so are we—we were originally founded in Charlestown, though we moved further out for practical reasons (it’s hard to run a major lumber business inside the city!). North Bennet does not get enough recognition for what you do in the field, and how you’re contributing to the trades. 

Lumber processing machines at Holt & Bugbee

I myself graduated from high school in 2002, and the trades were not something I considered. I love the idea that people are pursuing what they’re supposed to, what they really want to be doing. North Bennet is such an institution of Massachusetts, of Boston. We’re a Massachusetts institution too, so partnering with NBSS makes a lot of sense. 

We’re excited to see the next generation succeed in the industry, and we at Holt & Bugbee have a lot of collective information about lumber buying that we’re more than happy to share with students. We have a view over what the whole industry looks like, from tree to finished product. If you understand the supply chain you have such an advantage. Your students and grads are our future customers, we’re happy to support the woodworking and carpentry industries.

What is an interesting trend in your field you’ve noticed recently?

I’m seeing that there’s more women in our industry, and we see that trend at NBSS too. More women are coming in and applying for jobs, and that is great for the field, that things are evening out over time. Woodworking is a beautiful art form, and I’m glad that we’re breaking down some of those barriers so anyone can be a part of it who wants to.

“North Bennet is such an institution of Massachusetts, of Boston. We’re a Massachusetts institution too, so partnering with NBSS makes a lot of sense.”

Complete the sentence: If I wasn’t in the lumber industry, I’d be a _.

This is a hard one for me, because I was born into this field. I’m a 7th generation member of the business. I have always been passionate about cooking and hospitality, so I’d likely be working in that area if not here.

What’s the best thing that you’ve read recently?

Stacks of lumber

Could be a whole book, an article, or any other bit of whimsy, information, or inspiration.

The most recent book I read was Dune by Frank Herbert. I go back and forth between sci-fi/fantasy books and memoirs, biographies, and non-fiction. 

In whatever I read, I see themes of leadership. For those lucky enough to be in a position of sway and authority, I think it’s important to take that responsibility very seriously and make it a more equitable place for others. So for example, I don’t want to be a tyrant like in Dune! Also, when you’re in a family business, you see themes of family dynamics everywhere.

What motivates you? And/or what do you love about your work/field?

The thing that motivates me is that people use our products to create beautiful art. Sometimes you can get lost in the day-to-day of the business, but people are building beautiful houses, cabinetry, and just woodworking in general. That motivates me: you want to do the best job, so people get the best products, so people can make the best art. 

I was in a slog at work yesterday, and someone tagged us in a beautiful cherry cabinet they’d made, and it lifted me for the rest of the day. I’m not artistic myself, but I have such a deep love for it. We’re selling a canvas so someone can paint a beautiful painting. It’s unique, selling a raw material. I always encourage people to share their finished products with us for that reason, and social media helps with that because you can develop those relationships.

What life or career advice can you share with our students and graduates?

Person operating a machine at Holt & Bugbee

If you’re going to North Bennet, you have a huge advantage because you’re pursuing something specific that you’re truly interested in. That’s a nice starting point. I was always jealous of those hyper-focused people, as I was more in the liberal arts, my education was more general. Those focused people have such passion. 

One piece of advice I would share is that everyone has positive attributes. Try to bring that into the business or organization that you pursue. And if those qualities are not being fully appreciated, find somewhere that will. I always want to bring out the positive traits and ideas of our employees—rather than being molded to fit or boxing you in, find someone who’s truly open to what you bring.