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From nursing to carpentry

A woman wearing a buffalo plaid shirt, leather apron and safety glasses, cuts wood with a power saw. Sawdust can be seen in the air. There is a light shining in the background.
Denika Coakley — creative carpenter, social media influencer and mom of two — is the talented, award-winning powerhouse and NSCC grad behind DC Woodworks.

As she prepared to start a four-year nursing degree, Denika Coakley, owner of DC Woodworks, quickly realized she wasn’t cut out for a career in the medical sector.

“I was visiting the nursing program and watching students give needles to dummies when I got faint and nearly threw up,” says Denika. “It was a very clear moment. I love talking to people and nursing was a secure career, but I knew right then it wasn’t for me.”

In high school, Denika says she was always painting murals, entering art shows and taking on complicated DIY projects, but never considered her creative talents a potential career path.

“Carpentry was a hobby. Something I did for fun after work and on the weekends. There was never an entrepreneur booth, an art or passion booth at the career fair. Nothing that made me think I could turn what I loved into a business.”

Leaving nursing behind, Denika turned her creative energies to esthetics, training and working in the beauty industry for several years.

“It was creative, hands on and I got to be around people,” she says. “It was what I thought I wanted. I was really good at it, but I still came back to carpentry. It was always my outlet.”

The program gave me a safe start and helped me build my confidence and knowledge. Once I had that, I was good to go.

Denika Coakley

A different kind of nails

Four years later, Denika found herself trying to convince her brother – a professional carpenter – to let her work on his crew on the weekends. His response: “Why don’t you just do it? Go to school for carpentry.”

For the young woman who lived for HGTV, but didn’t know how to change a saw blade, it was a light bulb moment. “That night, I went online. I couldn’t go to school full-time. I was a mom with a mortgage and bills. I couldn’t turn my life upside down.”

That’s when she found Nova Scotia Community College’s blended Carpentry Certificate, which allowed her to complete her training through a combination of online and in-class courses.

“I could’ve learned from my brother, but I was intimidated,” says Denika. “I’d built things all through childhood, but I still felt dumb going into a hardware store. The program gave me a safe start and helped me build my confidence and knowledge. Once I had that, I was good to go.”

Why not me?

Today, the creative carpenter, social media influencer and mom of two, is the talented, award-winning powerhouse behind her own carpentry brand. Her signature honeycomb shelves, wooden mosaics, murals and one-of-a-kind pieces have been featured in national campaigns for Kent Building Supplies, throughout the last three QEII Dream Homes and in countless segments on CBC, Global and - just to name a few.

“I didn’t plan on being an entrepreneur, it just sort of happened,” says Denika. “I knew I needed to be creative and the result was life-changing.”

Sharing her skills on Instagram and her YouTube Channel, Denika’s popular posts now help other DIYers re-do their stairs, build floating shelves and tile floors. “I don’t want people to think you need $50,000 to put into a kitchen. Sure, that would be great. But I’d like to show another approach – for those on a budget.”

She adds that the platforms also help her combat the perception that carpentry is a male’s domain. “No one carries around a binder of their work. But, when I’m in the hardware store naming all the supplies I need and someone says, ‘You’re a carpenter!?,’ it’s a really cool way to shut them down and say ‘Why not me!’”

Fast Fact

NSCC’s blended Carpentry Certificate allows students to complete their training through a combination of online and in-class courses.