Was a Teenage Woodworker

Pros encourage a 14-year-old who wants to be in business to go for it. October 3, 2006

I am a 14 year old, interested in starting a small woodworking business. I mainly make bandsaw boxes, cutting boards, small shelves, etc. My dadís professional level shop is located at my house and I have total access to it. My only costs would be buying occasional lumber, however most of the things I make can easily be made from scraps. I would hope to make 2-3 thousand dollars a year, working maybe 7-10 hours a week. Do you think this is possible and if so, any advice?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor A:
Go to the furniture stores, your parentsí friends and neighbors and ask them what they need built in the way of (as you said) small shelves, cutting boards etc. Keep asking the question until you get the same answer over and over. And this will be what you need to build. It may be pullout drawers for pots and pans, it may be mailboxes, or it may be jewelry boxes. But make sure you ask your parentsí friends, neighbors, local stores etc.

From contributor C:
Go, Go, Go! Your goals are very reasonable and attainable for someone in your position and with your ambition. Produce a bunch and then hit the craft shows and flea markets.

From contributor D:
Absolutely! When I first started turning pens on my mini lathe around Christmas time a couple years ago I sold almost $500 worth in two weeks - this would be a perfect business for a young entrepreneur like you. Set yourself up a store on Ebay and post some good pictures of your stuff, plus work some craft shows and you may find you have to hire some help! Itís really refreshing to see a young person with that "go-get-'em" attitude!

From contributor E:
I would like to recommend that you not get too comfortable with the free ride at your dad's shop. An important lesson to learn is what the true costs of running a shop are, and how important it is to keep a shop running efficiently. If you leave a mess or break even a drill bit or dull a chisel it can have a big impact on the next day's production. This is a great opportunity to learn some real life skills, but approach it like a professional. Maybe pay rent on the shop (not a lot, but enough to let your dad know you're serious), or perform some maintenance in exchange for the privilege of using his stuff.

From contributor F:
Make some items (cutting boards, band saw boxes, etc.) but things that are different. Design and build things that you can't go to a store and buy. Put a nice finish on it. Take photos and put in an E-bay store. If you have the interest, you can learn web design and run a web-based business. Like Pat suggested, ask your neighbors if they need small items. Good luck. I hope my kids are as enterprising as you are when they are your age. Your dad should be proud.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the tips!

From contributor G:
My son is also 14 years old and he makes wagons to put in yards as ornaments. They are about 26" wide and 40" long. He can complete one in about 3 evenings and he gets $100 each. He will stock them up in the colder months, then sell them at stands in the warmer months. Good luck to you and it's good that you are getting your early start.

From contributor H:
Here's another idea for a small project you could sell. Years ago a friend made a stand for a recipe book for my girlfriend - one that would hold the book upright on the counter where she would be cooking, and something to hold the pages down to the page she was working from.

From contributor I:
Someone I know makes cutting boards that have center inlays (full thickness so it shows both sides) of local icons. Around here that is stars and longhorns. He can't make them fast enough. Make some with your states and local universities mascots. I bet they would sell like hot cakes.

From contributor J:
I, too, enjoy your ambition. I am writing because I feel it is a good idea for you to have a plan. Do I think your goal is attainable? Yes, I do. There are, however, many questions left unanswered. The most important is whether or not you wish to "walk-away" with 2-3 thousand after expenses? I will assume that this answer is yes, and will continue based upon that. I start my plan by looking at the numbers. If you work 10 hours a week, for 50 weeks a year (2 weeks of the year are spent on vacation of course), you will have 500 hours put into your endeavor by the end of the year. If you wish to earn $3,000 by the end of this year, you must produce $6.00 worth of product per hour worked ($6.00 x 50 hours = $3,000.00). Now, this is an ideal situation - it does not take into account any additional expenses that you may incur, i.e. must you pay for materials? Will you be charged for shop space? Will you have to pay for gas for someone to drive you to your clients? Every expense that you can think of would have to be added to the $3,000.00 for you to make what you want to earn. This also effects how much product you must manufacture in order to attain it. Let's say you have $500.00 in expenses - you must make $3,500.00 a year in gross sales. $3,500.00 / 500 hours = $7.00 worth of product manufactured each hour.

The last point I would make is that not all of your time will be spent manufacturing. You must also spend time selling your product, developing new product, time to do bookkeeping (very important), and time to deliver your product. I subtract this time from my total time worked during the year and call this unproductive time. Let's say you must work 100 hours unproductive time, 500 hours - 100 hours = 400 hours of productive time. This also affects how much you must produce in an hour of productive time. $3,500 / 400 hours = $8.75 worth of product that must be produced in an hour. Could you make a cutting board in one hour and sell it for $8.75? I bet you could. You could probably even make two an hour and sell them for $5.00 a piece and be well on your way to success. But wait, who pays the sales tax? Where's dad?

From contributor J:
Someone made me aware that I made a mistake in my first calculation. $6.00 x 500 hours (not 50) = $3,000.00.

From contributor I:
The guy I mentioned who sells cutting boards gets $40 and up per board.

From contributor D:
The pens I turned to 30 minutes to make and I got $25-$35 a piece for them.

From the original questioner:
What do you think would be the best way to advertise? Should I just make a couple flyers and then rely on word of mouth?

From contributor I:
Make a few samples and take them with you everywhere, showing them to everyone you come into contact with. One way is to casually mention what you are doing, then almost as an afterthought, ask them if they would like to see one you just happen to have with you. By Christmas time, you should be busy as all get-out. Don't go for the large orders at first, because you couldn't keep up. If you are doing the in-laid cutting boards, before long you will meet someone who will ask if you can do a fish or the Baylor Bear, etc. Take pictures of each one so you have a catalog.

From the original questioner:
Does anyone know where to get a good, free (or very cheap) web site that I could use?

From contributor K:
An eBay store might be a good one. You can even tie in Paypal for credit cards and shipping too. There are also places like olm.net that have various levels (prices) of sites. If I were you, I'd wait to do an online store. Just do a brochure-type website for now so people can see your work easily. Then, once you start selling a lot, expand by opening an online store.

From contributor F:
There are many places you can rent space on the web for little money. When I looked into it for less than $400 bucks you can do your own website. The sites have templates, graphics, etc. It would be good experience for you to see and learn how it's done. You need a domain name. Try to find something short and something people will remember. Once you website is up, I think you can link it to Ebay for not a lot of work or money. But check into an Ebay store as well. They are both good options - just pick the one that's best for you. Also, go to Amazon.com and look up a book called "Guerilla Marketing". It is full of free and low cost ways to market a business.