Handyman

The unique handyman Bob Vila on discovering success accidentally

It was 1978 and a then 30-year-old Bob Vila had just started his own company renovating and restoring antique New England homes.

“I was really focused on building my business back then,” Bob Vila, former TV host of “This Old House,” told CNBC Make It.

When he was approached by a television producer who had seen one of his renovations in a local newspaper and was asked to film a pilot for a possible home improvement show, the idea initially aroused no interest.

“At that time I wasn’t interested in a TV show,” says the 73-year-old Vila.

But at some point, Vila changed his mind. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to get the word out about my work,” says Vila.

After filming a few pilot episodes, Vila didn’t hear from the show for months.

“Then a year later the producer called again and said we got money and were going to buy an old house and fix it and are you going to do it with us?” Says Vila.

Vila agreed and spent the next four months recording live every step of his home improvement projects.

“It was pretty complicated to record a home renovation that would normally take a year and try in a few months,” says Vila, who spoke to CNBC Make It while promoting its partnership with Quinstreet, which manages Vila’s Find a Pro- Network.

On February 20, 1979, the first episode of “This Old House” debuted on the Public Broadcasting Service Network in Boston, and after 13 weeks on the air, the show was nominated for a regional Emmy award.

“I won it too,” says Vila, “it was a minor thing because it was the regional Emmys, but that eventually turned into a media career I could never have foreseen.”

Photo credit: Time & Life Pictures / contributor

Vila hosted the show for 10 years before leaving in 1989 to become a spokesperson for Sears and start his spin-off show, “Bob Vila’s Home Again”. In the 1990s, Vila was asked to star in ABC’s Home Improvement comedy, starring Tim Allen, known to a TV handyman as Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.

While Vila admits that studying journalism and architecture has helped throughout his career, he largely attributes his fortuitous success to his dedication to his craft.

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