Hello, I just came across this forum and and hoping I found the right place, if not and you know of a better forum for a couple who are just starting out it would appreciate it!
My husband and I both grew up around carpentry and have always wanted to get into it more. As of now my husband is active duty Army and I am a stay at home
Mom, so for now we are just starting things up, making plans and testing out our skills so that once he retires we should have a solid career going.
What would be your advice to a couple starting up a buisness? We haven't even decided on a name or logo yet. So as I was saying, if you know of a forum geared more to the hobbiest or small business owner that would be great, unless you don't mind me here :)
We are very excited about this and plan on starting off by building things for our own home, a bed for our daughter (cute Pickett fence bed) as well as a coffee table and buffet as well as other decorative little tables and maybe some play equipment for the backyard for the kids.
What we would really love to do is be different from your average wood working shop. We want to create the *wow* pieces that people talk about and do our advertising for us LOL. Like our daughters bed we want to make it a loft bed with a Pickett fence as the rails and then under the bed a gate to get in and a play house be underneath. Or for one of our boys we want to make a tree fort style bed with a slide down pole and possibly a slide. Then for like say man cave furniture we want to make a coffee table made from half of a whisky barrel. You get the idea. We plan on making log style beds as well as customer ordered custom jobs as well. We just want to be different and keep things interesting and fun!
We have 5 kids, 4 boys and a girl and we hope that this will grow into a family business that they grow up helping with ( their first job will be making their own lemonade stand). So as we work on picking out a name and logo I would love for it to have longevity and not hold us down to one type of woodwork as well as use our last name (Silver) to show it is a family buisness. Is there a good forum to go to so I can get some help and ideas on names and possible logos? We want to be able to create a brand of our logo that we can stamp on all of our work. I would love for the main feature to be a tree but beyond that I'm not sure.
I'm very anxious to get all of this started and wood love any advice anyone could give me on a place I could go to learn more on the rules of starting this kind of business. I don't know where the line is from creating furniture and things for our home and friends and family and maybe selling some pieces on local Facebook pages or maybe Craigslist and having our own little FB page to show off what we are doing, to officially becoming a business where we have to register and start paying taxes. So if anyone can point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it :) Thanks so much!
As soon as you sell anything, you need to pay taxes. So, with sale 1, you are professionals. Your state will dictate what kind of licenses and tax requirements will need to be met. It's simple for the Feds, just send money! I would find a graphic artist or find their forum to design a logo. Asking here about art and design won't get you very far. CraigsList would be about the worst place to sell custom made anything. Everyone shopping their is looking for bargains and garage sale prices. Facebook will be much better with a business page and LOTS of friends. For some reason, pickets (pointed pieces of wood comes to my mind) and children's furniture doesn't seem to be too safety conscious in my mind. Especially in a loft bed form. I always put as soft as edge as possible on children's furniture instead of points. Children's furniture has a ton of safety requirements. Do your homework and have a great liability insurance policy. Small business classes will be your best bet. Maybe some retraining classes will be available to your husband because of the military background.
Find and contact your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives).
Both of these offer free counseling to business owners (or those desiring to start a business). There are short courses and seminars tailored specifically for startups. Since these are local they would know your local and state rules. Some of the seminars and workshops are offered during the day. Some are offered in the evenings. Some may be offered on the weekends.
Being a veteran (I am one also) may afford you some extra opportunities. Ask about veteran programs at SBDC. I am not up to date on what is being offered, but they will know.
Over the years I have worked with both organizations. I have had some great counselors. These are all folks who have been in business themselves before they became counselors. They have been there. If they do not know the answers you need they can put you in touch with other counselors that do.
SBDC counselors are full-time, paid counselors. This is their full-time employment. SCORE counselors are retired business people and enjoy helping businesses with their wealth of knowledge and experience.
I do remember that SCORE has a lot of on-line webinars. These are typically one hour training sessions on a specific topic. You can "attend" from your own home or office at your own computer. On the live broadcasts you can even ask questions.
You may find another forum slightly better for your situation than this one but I personally have spent hrs looking at the knowledge based articles on this site and it is helpful. One thing that I find is that learning from someone else is way faster than starting from scratch. What I mean is you may consider working for a successful company similar to what you are envisioning becoming. After 15yrs in business I still feel like I am reinventing the wheel sometimes because I lack the experience under someone else. This causes lost time and money and long hrs. Also remember, the failure rate for new businesses is very high. Make sure you have a general plan and financial stability if you can. As a friend said; It probably is better to be a businessman in the woodworking industry than a woodworker trying to be in business." But, don't let this discourage you. Start somewhere and at least give it a try. Having the military pension will be a big help that most uf us do not have. good luck.
Rich & Charles both gave good advice. I'd add: have a business plan in place. Wanting to make "cute" things and being able to market them profitably are two completely different things. You are lucky to have his retirement income because starting a business takes far more $ than most people think. You will become very familiar with the concept of "cash flow." Marketing is more important than making. Get that worked out first. Sales through retailers might be possible but they will want to keysotne (100% markup.) Sales through galleries typically mean they take 50 or 60% of the sale price. We manufacture commercial interior things for a man that manages to sell on line. Getting lots of people to look @ your Face Book or web site will be the trick there. Shipping is expensive! & prone to damage. You will need a PayPal account &/or take the major credit cards. Start slow. People manage to market in niches that I wouldn't have considered. A man across the street from my shop sells Gongs, on-line.
While I applaud your desire to create a sustainable family business, a couple of things raise serious red flags for me.
First and foremost is an apparent lack of experience in a production woodworking environment. Whether you are building a single commission piece or a run of 30 units, the same time management principles come into play. Time is money and you have to be very efficient in your processes to be profitable. A custom shop producing unique items profitably is a wonderful dream, but one few of us are able to accomplish. You must have an economic base that sustains the business, and that will take time to build.
The second red flag is the desire to produce juvenile furniture. I strongly suggest you consult with several liability insurance providers. General business liability insurance is a must in today's litigious society. I can tell you from personal experience the difference in policy premiums is huge when you add juvenile furniture to your business. We simply could not afford the premiums and have dropped that offering from our business.
Making a decent living as a small custom shop is not easy, but is doable. I promise you that you will work harder and longer hours than you ever have before, and many times you will wonder what in the heck were you thinking. There will be times you will want to throw up your hands and walk away, I know I have.
But tomorrow morning I'll be right back in the shop, it's a wonderful way to drive yourself crazy.
I can sum up the hardest and most important lesson in one word: "SALES". Figure out how you'll sell it, and then sell it to death. I used to have the same idea as you: "Make a great product, and the world will beat a path to your door". Maybe it used to work that way, but it doesn't anymore. The world is filled with great products, and people's short attention spans are saturated with a million other ways to spend their money.
Will you sell direct? Then you need a good marketing plan and an advertising budget. Start local with a Google Adwords campaign and a nice website, or outsource your marketing to a company like Yodle. Craigslist is filled with cheapskates and tire-kickers, don't waste your time there. Facebook is a good place to get the word out to your family and friends, you might consider paid advertising there as well.
Hopefully you have some retirement pension coming from Uncle Sam, if so you are in a better position to weather the ups and downs of a startup. Good luck!
Make sure that what you are going to sell to your customers are of good quality. The one that you yourself would use. Being transparent and providing your customers what they deserve are just a simple pointers every starting business should always consider.
You have had excellent response to your questions. focus on two of those suggestions. Go to work for someone (move temporarily if needed) doing what you want to do. That will be the most important training you can get! Don't run it with your heart! Efficient, money making businesse.
I spoke with an editor from Fine Woodworking magazine. He interviews all kinds of "great" woodworkers. Says " they create masterpieces, but are starving artists, they can't charge enough for the hours they invest" but they might be on the cover of a national magazine........
He says the people who make it are those who build 1or 2 things and crank it like a factory. All artist are immediately turned off!! They also refuse all other work,that they very well could do.
A large danger is trying to turn heart passion into a job.
When I proposed to my wife, it was not a business decision........
I'm not trying to kill your dream, just being honest.
Listen carefully to these very experienced voices on this forum.
My family has suffered because of the long hours and never ending money drain(bldg. Equipment ect.) I have poured into all this and not them.
After too many years, I have finally found a successful niche fits all the above criteria, still to many hours.....
Unfortunately I think Jim has a more accurate view of what most craftsmen end up with. I know I suffered that same thing. Didn't make it successfully until I made it a business. I made what I could sell and make a living. I made what the customer was willing to pay for. If I couldn't make a decent living and get where I wanted to be I wouldn't make a loosing sale. I finally found my niche. It isn't what I had wanted it to be. I'm a business man, no longer a craftsman.
I know when I've priced about right, people complain about the high price! But they buy because it fills a niche not readily available from the smart shops. They get what they are willing to pay for. I always offer alternatives and the price I will take. Never cut your price without the customer giving up something.
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