Air Force Vet Making Career Out of Building Backyard Games for Family BBQs

by Amy Myers

When Air Force vet Hector Santiago left the service, he didn’t just take a job behind a desk or even opt for a lofty retirement on the sofa. Instead, he decided to create a new profession for himself out of his two favorite hobbies – woodworking and backyard games. Now the go-to man for those with a love for summer family games, Santiago encourages fellow Texans to get outside and enjoy each other’s company over a game of cornhole or Jenga.

The process begins in the Air Force vet’s own backyard. That’s where he cuts the wood that he needs for each of the custom-made games. Originally, Santiago was only making the games for his own family.

“We needed more stuff to do in the backyard. So, I went online… learned how to build a Jenga set and a Washer set,” the Air Force vet told KENS 5.

Soon enough, he created Sunshine Woodworks, a company that custom creates all kinds of backyard games for local Texans.

“Cornhole, Washers, Jumbo Jenga, Ladderball, Yardzee and Hook & Ring… That’s a pretty popular one, too,” Santiago said.

According to the entrepreneur, all of the games are made to order, which start at $45. Because the final products are so heavy, customers have to coordinate with Santiago to pick up their games. Often, this means the Air Force vet will arrange trips to San Antonio. For five years now, this has been the Air Force vet’s main occupation. And he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“Everything is made to order,” Santiago said. “They’ll tell us what they want and it’s a 25% deposit to place your order and then as soon as everything’s done they just pay the balance at pick-up.”

Take a look at some of his creations below.

Air Force Vet Involves Family in Backyard Business

Besides making some income, Sunshine Woodworking also gives the Air Force vet a chance to bond with his family and pass on his crafting skills. Santiago has two kids – one son and one daughter. According to the business owner, his 10-year-old son in particular has taken interest in the company.

“My son likes to come out here. He likes to help me out,” the Air Force vet shared. “You know, whether it’s cutting some wood or you know, painting stuff. He likes to get involved. He’s 10 right now, but he’s my little protege.”

While his son certainly doesn’t handle any of the heavy machinery just yet, Santiago hopes that the young woodworker will continue the company when he’s old enough.

“Hopefully as he gets older, I can teach him more about the business and how to build,” the Air Force vet said.