I get asked all of the time where the idea for Lincoln Block came from. Our story has many parts, and it’s a combination of so many different things, so it’s hard to pin it down to just one explanation. I’m lucky enough to have been around for all of it just because of my relationship to the inventor, and if you have ever met him you know that we will never get a straight answer and he would never give himself credit in the way that I can.
Necessity is the mother of invention. We’ve all heard that before, heck I’m sure you’ve come up with a handy fix for something along the way because you needed to! Well, Lincoln Block is no different in that sense. My dad John Venturo invented Lincoln Block because he needed to solve a problem for himself. You see, he broke his back- and was unable to lift, let alone build a structure! For someone with over forty years of history and experience in the building industry this was devastating. He was not used to having to hire out contractors. After firing multiple crews off a simple roofing job- he called in my brother and cousin to finish the job whether it killed him or not. He was in so much pain. It was 100 degrees outside and having to yell up to them on the roof to walk them thru the job instead of just being able to do it himself was his own idea of hell. He knew then that he would never be able to pull off his and my mother’s dream of building another home on their property using traditional methods. After a long, hot day he threw up his hands and went fishing. It was on the bank of Lake Roosevelt WA that the idea for Lincoln Block came into his brain.
Ever since that eureka moment on the lake, it was like someone lit a fire in him. My dad has always been an entrepreneur; he is so good at building businesses he could teach classes. At first that’s what we all thought this was. Just another business idea, and the many, many, MANY notebooks of drawings and calculations made us just think that Dad had gone crazy. That was until he manufactured the first block. It is weird to remember it now- it replays in slow motion almost in my head. Dad holding the block in his hands and stacking them up just like the toys of our youth, but this time it was a finished structural wall! We were enthralled. Dad knew right then he couldn’t keep it to himself.
Bringing a new product to an established marketplace is harder than you think. Being a pioneer and willing to try something new is not for the faint of heart. Developing, patenting, and protecting your invention takes every ounce of your time, energy, money, and focus. It is 100% true what they say though: “people buy people”. Every customer we’ve had has trusted in my father and this block system to perform the way he said it would. Every customer’s project we’ve facilitated with Lincoln Block has undergone tweaks and changes, providing priceless hands on research and development for this innovation.
To break the doors down in the building industry and make a name for yourself without losing your mind or starving in the meantime is only something I think someone with my dads’ character can handle. He is TOUGH as nails tough and has taught us to be excited for the word NO rather than fearing it. He believes that the only way to fail is to quit and he is not a quitter. Every single business relationship that we’ve made through Lincoln Block is because of this man. His reputation alone has opened doors to major suppliers, and where reputation wouldn’t do, his master skill-set and knowledge have paved the way.
He is humble to a fault. He credits my grandfather for all of his knowledge. It’s funny looking at things now, how our family has been building forever. My grandpa Joe built the first skyscrapers in New York that you can still see today! A conversation when I was four years old in our tiny mother-in-law house behind my grandparents’ home in Arlington, WA sticks out in my Dads head even now. Grandpa was drinking coffee and dad was cutting firewood. They were throwing ideas back and forth on how to develop the back side of their own property. Steel buildings with brick? No- Too labor intensive and wouldn’t meet the insulation codes. Modular homes? No- garbage material and not a sustainable answer.
Grandpa insisted that “You are never going to figure out how to build a cheap house until you go back to building with block. We used to build a house a day with block. We built thousands of them.”
That stuck in Dads head forever. He worked with many of the people in the wood industry over the years who were trying to make a block out of wood. They came to him looking for answers. He was and is a total wood nerd! Consulting with these other companies to help them kept the idea in the back of his mind especially when they just couldn’t figure out how to scale up their ideas in a way that would make their products affordable and attainable. People with money are always going to be able to build what they want, but in order to really fix the affordable housing problem their ideas were not going to be sustainable for the masses.
Grandpa Joe being a master mason made it common knowledge to Dad that brick was fast and efficient. Brick is not really cost effective or good for the environment though. Being an expert in all things wood he knew that it is the only naturally renewable resource used in the construction industry. Wood is strong, more cost effective, and more importantly for him at the time- readily available in the millions of board feet! How could he make a WOOD block?
I am a firm believer in that the answer presents itself when the need is most present. The combination of my Grandfather’s knowledge passed down to my Father, with his own wealth of knowledge in all things construction and wood was the missing link! He realized that they had been overthinking it! It really was as simple as making a wooden brick! The mills were overrun with lumber that didn’t make “big box” or store grade. The same wood that is being used for pallets and wood chips could be re-manufactured into this simple wood block inexpensively, quickly and with minimal labor. Now he was able to bring this new building component to the world. Of course… the world wasn’t ready. Though the need was there for sure, breaking into a market with existing methods and trying to show people that you have a new, easier and stronger method that will still allow you to retain your profit margin while giving the people an affordable high quality home was largely met with sentiments of disbelief among our peers.
No one believed it could be real. How could we be showing the people that you can build your own home for the price of a car? How could that be when every building method used today is so much more costly? Having something like Lincoln Block was too good to be true. They needed more proof, so we hired an engineer, and when the engineer was confused, we hired a mathematician to prove it to him in a language he understood. At this point, the physical properties of Lincoln Block were proven to be undeniable. We have it! The fastest, strongest, most affordable and energy efficient wood block building system available today.
This kind of passion and drive is something that is missing in the world. I have so much respect for inventors and pioneers in any industry. You must have thick skin and your dream must be bigger than every objection you come up against.
My dad has been taking care of everyone around him my entire life. Him and my mom fed our entire towns at risk youth for years and we have always taken every single person into our lives as family. It’s just how we roll. My parents have always helped hold people’s hands until they were ready to stand on their own again. It’s my favorite thing about them. When you hear about someone giving the shirt off their back- my parents have given their home, their lives, and every penny they have made to helping everyone around them stand on their own. They did it with love first and didn’t let the wrong ones walk all over them and It created so much respect. Much like an old school mafia mentality without the violence.
I am so lucky to have the parents I have. Where others may have seen the world as bleak and without hope, my parents have brought opportunity. And now with Lincoln Block we have the opportunity to make really big changes on a large scale. In order to fix the affordable housing crisis, we have to be able to build quickly, easily, inexpensively, and give the people the ability to help themselves. We can do all of that with Lincoln Block. This system gives the people something that they can do on their own with minimal knowledge and skillset while giving superior results. Lincoln Block not only gives them a quality material at an inexpensive price point- but it gives people confidence in themselves. I was able to help build my grandma’s tiny home and it’s a really cool feeling to know that you BUILT a home. I’m pretty good with a glue gun but that is the extent of my DIY experience, but forever and ever now I get to say that I can build homes with Lincoln Block!
It’s the greenest building product on the market today. It absorbs carbon rather than emitting it and we are manufacturing it from recycled wood! There are no new trees being cut down- in fact we are helping to utilize an undervalued product line and giving it new life! From pallet and wood chip stock to HOMES! Lincoln Block can be manufactured quickly, inexpensively, and is stronger and more energy efficient than traditional construction methods. Every block is 100% made in the USA and we know that the jobs that could be created by building the amount of homes we need would be life changing to countless families.
Too good to be true? The answer to the affordable housing problem?
You be the judge of that. I am honored to be a part of this company. I know that I am lucky to be my parents’ daughter- and when I was in a place where I’d lost my job due to health reasons, Dad asked me to come in and help him with paperwork. I NEVER thought that it would turn into my passion in life. I still suck at paperwork, but being a part of Lincoln Block means that I get to work with an incredible team that shares the same goal, and it has been the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life so far and I am so incredibly blessed to be on this journey. I know together we can house the masses and really make a difference in the building industry. We have been called disruptive technology and we embrace it as a compliment. We may just be a small business in Lake Stevens WA, but we are ready to disrupt the status quo and make a difference. We really CAN build a better future with block- just like my Grandpa Joe told Dad all of those years ago.
About The Author
Crystal FryeVice President
Lincoln Block Inc.