NS Builders–Building a Solid Foundation for Business via Social Media

By:  Karen Olson

Putting a 21st Century spin on a trade as old as time, Nick Schiffer, a 2006 graduate of Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton, utilizes social media, alongside a blend of time-honored and contemporary craftsmanship techniques, while building his successful forward-thinking Boston-based construction company.

Google Schiffer and you will find articles that he has written for Fine Homebuilding Magazine, @nsbuilders on Instagram where he posts his portfolio, including both professional photography – highlighting the beauty and integrity of his extensive high-end work, and organic everyday photos taken from the viewpoint of the trades and craftsman, and short Youtube videos of NS Builders’ renovation on Tuckerman Street in Boston, a home Schiffer now shares with his wife Megann and infant daughter, Marley.

You’ll also find Schiffer’s work on Facebook, and Houzz.com.

Schiffer does much more than talk-the-talk. His success is grounded in a lifelong love for building things.

As early as two years of age his grandmother would hand him a hammer and nails and let him bang away.

At age eleven Schiffer joined his grandfather’s business, Canton Fence in Stoughton. Once his father bought the business, Schiffer got heavily involved in the shop production. “I really wanted to do everything, work as hard as I could, make as much money as I could, and help in any facet that I could to grow his business.” Says Schiffer. He eventually worked his way up to shop foreman, taking on responsibility for all wood and metal fabrication.

When it came time for high school, Schiffer chose the vocational route. “I knew about the vocational option because a friend went to Blue Hills Regional,” Schiffer said. Once he heard Southeastern was an option, he went straight to his guidance counselor and asked, “What do I need to do to get in?”

He arrived at Southeastern with his portfolio under his arm. “I couldn’t wait to show my Carpentry teachers.” said Schiffer. “I knew I wanted to build houses, so I hit all the key trades during exploratory, along with Advertising and Design. I’ve always had an interest in design. I ultimately picked House Carpentry.”

Schiffer and his classmates spent their years at Southeastern gaining real-world experience constructing a 50’ x 100’ building that houses the district’s administrative offices. He says, “It was a group effort, a collaboration of all trades. I worked on everything from siding, roofing and interior framing. It worked out in all our favors.”

Joe Markt, longtime Southeastern Cabinetmaking/Construction Instructor, taught Schiffer trade-theory in the classroom. Markt says, “Nick had artistic talent. He could just ‘see’ things. He drew the District Office building, in perspective. It’s beautiful.”

Markt quickly recognized that Schiffer had a plan. “He was a cracker-jack. You could tell right away, within two minutes. You could see where he was going.”

At 15 Schiffer landed his first paying construction job. He submitted a proposal to his art teacher for a 10 x 12 shed. Schiffer’s mother shuttled him back and forth to the worksite. He began his solo career with a hand-me-down jig saw, screw gun, and a can-do spirit.

Dana Batchelder, one of Schiffer’s House Carpentry instructors, remembers him fondly, “Nick is an amazing young man. A quality person.”

Batchelder noticed Schiffer’s social media expertise budding while in high school. Schiffer admits to an online presence as early as high school, “I had a home-made website through Geo-Cities, but my efforts weren’t honed on that front until much later.”

Schiffer attended Fitchburg State College, earning a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in Construction Management. Although he values the time spent, and the opportunities that were given him, he felt the four years spent in school put him behind.

Schiffer encourages those eager to start a business. He says, “Go full in. Become the hardest worker in that industry that you know. Try to be the best and strive to do better on every job or project.”

Rather than go to school to learn the paperwork end, he suggests it’s more important to establish the business and then add people to your team that can do the paperwork and accounting. “Focus on what you’re good at and hire the rest out.”

Schiffer, who’s always travelled with his tool belt tucked behind the seat of his truck, worked as an Assistant Superintendent and Assistant Project Manager with AvalonBay Communities once through college. However, he always had a plan to run his own show. “Since I sold the shed at 15 years old I was gearing up for NS Builders,” says Schiffer.

NS Builders officially stepped out on January 1, 2014. His primary business is high-end residential construction and renovations, focused in the Boston area.

Schiffer appreciates complex construction situations that others may shy away from. He says, “I’m always up to the challenge and willing to think and execute outside-the-box.”

He says, “I’m a yes-man. I tend to say yes, and then figure it out.

Schiffer’s online presence works well for local designers and architects who can bring his brand into the equation before he ever steps foot on the job. He says, “Having a design ‘eye’ of my own, I mesh well with architects and designers.”

Schiffer is also working alongside two fellow craftsmen – dubbing themselves as the North Eastern ‘renegades of restoration’ – in an effort to launch a podcast at www.themoderncraftsman.org highlighting younger craftsmen in the trade. Schiffer says, “We feel it’s important to highlight those kids that are interested in the trade, and care about the craft.”

With that in mind, Schiffer is also looking forward to reconnecting with his alma mater, Southeastern, to see where his experience can benefit others.