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At first, Carlos Castro was basically willing to work for free. But the work paid off. Now, his stylish woodwork and metal fabrication can be found in some of Southwest Florida’s most popular spots, such as Narrative Coffee Roasters and Veranda E in Naples. He’s built Black Mangrove Woodworks one connection at a time over the last four years.

Originally from the Cancun area of Mexico, Castro moved to Naples with his family when he was 13. After graduating from Barron Collier High School, he went to Lorenzo Walker Technical College to become a mechanic. He got a job at a landscaping company as a repairman. On the side, he started doing woodwork and sharing his creations on Instagram. “I got obsessed with it,” he says.

He started to ease his way out of the landscaping job by going part time at first, then dove headfirst into woodworking. He rented  a shop in Naples and built a tiny home on the property to live in.

He connected with local business owners and initially worked at very little cost. His first job was at La Colmar Bakery & Bistro in Naples; he reached out to the owner and offered to make a bar top for only a recoup of expenses. The work was well-received, and he went on to get other projects at the restaurant. He’d connect with others through social media. He had known the owner of Narrative Coffee when the roaster was just serving from a cart. They went back and forth via Instagram once Narrative opened a shop in Mercato, and that led to work doing tables and shelves there and at its new Central Avenue location.

Castro currently works out of a shop in Bonita Springs (and since has moved out of the tiny home). Among his latest projects is a bar top for a new microbrewery called Ceremony next door. He likes doing pieces that are innovative or stylish, something that “pushes the envelope.” He may have missed out on jobs by focusing on unique projects, but he’s stayed focused on what inspires him, and it’s led to a viable business. “I have never been focused on money so much,” Castro says. “It’s more about doing something that I love to do.”

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