Tools for Success
Writer / Rebecca Wood
At the age of twelve, Michael Williams found his calling.
A friend whose father owned a building company invited Williams to work on a construction site. The construction workers took Williams under their wings and taught him the fundamentals of everything from plumbing to framing. The experience was life-changing for Williams and provided direction for his future profession.
During the next several decades, Williams furthered this passion by studying and working in construction and woodworking. He earned an industrial design degree from Notre Dame and went on to work in the power tool industry.
Recently, he used this wealth of experience to create Calavera Tool Works, a company that designs and sells original products. While artisans and laborers have welcomed his creations, he had an unexpected customer: the National Football League.
Calavera was started when he noticed a problem. Woodworkers store a plethora of gear, such as nails and screws, within a tool belt. Many woodworkers treat their tool belt like some women handle their purse—as a catchall for everything with little knowledge about what actually lurks in its confines. Williams surmised that simply organizing the belt better could decrease costs and increase productivity for craftsmen and hobbyists.
For the next several months, Williams worked feverishly on a tool belt design that combined aesthetics with function. Williams shadowed tradesmen to gauge how they used their tool belts. He purchased a sewing machine and learned the skill from a handful of patient grandmothers. He spent immeasurable hours creating the finished product.
“Michael has never been the kind of person who does something halfway,” says his wife, Marie. “If he says he is going to start a company, he doesn’t mean ‘I’ll take a stab at it and see what happens.’ He means, ‘I am going to go after this with all my
heart, work every day until 3 a.m., make 5,000 phone calls, learn how to sew, learn
how to brand leather, and so on.’”
His final creation is a modular gear bags system designed for utility belts. The bags attach to tool belts and onto a hanging device affixed to a workbench. In addition, Williams creates handmade leather aprons designed for woodworkers.
Business partner and woodworking hobbyist Connor Crook states, “I use it all the time in my shop now to keep things organized. A lot of hobbyists don’t realize it, but one of the secrets to being efficient with your time and money in the shop is being well-organized.”
Williams and his business partner also purchased Diamondback Toolbelts. With this addition, Williams says their company offers products that appeal to the entire market from the framer to the fine-finisher.
While Williams created his product for those in construction and woodworking, the National Football League also took notice. The NFL approached Williams about his gear bag utility belt system. They wanted to use the bags and belts to outfit the NFL coaches during the Pro Bowl in January. The coaches used Williams’ products to house their headsets during the game.
Williams flew to Orlando and stood on the sidelines of the Pro Bowl. While most in the stadium were mesmerized with the playing field, Williams watched intently how the coaches were using his products and whether he could make any tweaks to his design.
Currently, Williams is negotiating with a national sports league to provide belts for sideline coaches next season. Williams’ drive and dedication transcend his business and spill into his personal life. He is a seasoned ironman competitor. A few years ago, he crashed his bike during a race and broke his pelvis. Competing in another ironman after the accident seemed unlikely. But Williams doesn’t like the word “unlikely.” Within two years, he was back on the bike chasing his competitors again.
He was doing what he does best: working hard while chasing a dream. Williams lives in Zionsville with his wife Marie and their four children. “Michael has never been the kind of person who does something halfway,” says his wife, Marie. “If he says he is going to start a company, he doesn’t mean ‘I’ll take a stab at it and see what happens.’ He means, ‘I am going to go after this with all my heart, work every day until 3 a.m., make 5,000 phone calls, learn how to sew, learn how to brand leather, and so on.’”