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Forum topic by JAAune posted 02-13-2016 05:57 AM 1549 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JAAune

1644 posts in 1782 days


02-13-2016 05:57 AM

...Start with a large fortune.

While funny, that joke doesn’t actually reflect reality. Reality is, a woodworking business that can’t turn a profit is simply based upon a poor business model. There are many woodworking companies that rake in piles of money.

What about a cabinet company that makes Inc 500’s list of fastest growing companies under private ownership? It’s happened. SemiHandMade launched in 2010 as a one-man sole-proprietorship and is now a 40-employee company that’s on a trend of doubling sales each year.

What’s the secret? Find an under-served market and focus on that. SemiHandMade sells after-market doors for Ikea cabinets. Think about how brilliant that idea is. Ikea is probably in more kitchens than any other one company thanks to low cost and ease of install. The one big downside to Ikea cabinets is the severe limit of style options. SemiHandMade offers many styles of designer replacement doors and drawers in sizes that pop right into existing Ikea cabinets. The target market is huge and competition non-existent. Even Ikea will soon be out of the loop because they are switching to a new cabinet system that will leave former customers unable to buy replacement parts for older cabinets.

Cabinet Company in the Inc 500

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com


20 replies so far

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Dabcan

252 posts in 2136 days


#1 posted 02-13-2016 12:59 PM

So glad someone wrote this. Too often I hear some old guy come up to me and tell me he used to sell woodworking pieces but it would take him three weeks to make an intricate box that he could only sell for $50. I’m always polite and listen, but deep down I’m thinking this guy was making the wrong thing.

I do this for a living, I’m not rich, yet. The reality is, as with any business, some things are profitable, and some aren’t. Sometimes I design a new product, make it, realize it takes longer to make than I can charge for it, and that’s the end of the line for that item. There is money to be made in woodworking, as in any business, but you have to use some business sense when creating your business model.

-- @craftcollectif , http://www.craftcollective.ca, https://www.etsy.com/shop/craftcollective?

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rwe2156

2198 posts in 946 days


#2 posted 02-13-2016 02:04 PM

I am not making a living ww’ing but I do own a business so I can relate to you guys.

I believe WW’ing is a niche market and you guys are correct you have to identify and target your market.
You also have to be prepared to compete because whatever idea you come up with, you probably won’t be the only sheriff in town for long. I also think you have to be flexible. Be prepared to abandon the market you want and focus on a market that you’ve either discovered or has come to you.

I am working on a plan for when I retire/semi retire from my business. I would like to produce something from my shop that I can supplement my income and give me something to do. Any input from you guys will be appreciated.

Believe it or not, I know a couple guys who basically got their businesses started on Facebook, so I think that plus a website are step 1. Here is what’s circulating in my head:

In the beginning don’t limit myself. Take any job that comes along that I can do. I know I need to develop some new skill sets such as veneering. Treat every job like it belongs to me and focus on turning out the best quality work I can.

I don’t have a target market identified – yet but I have some ideas. I would like to eventually build furniture (I’ll never be a Doucette and Wolfe but that’s a dream). I realize this is an extremely limited market in my area so any custom furniture job I get would be a pearl. I know a couple contractors who I could probably get some custom cabinetry or counter top work from and I don’t mind doing this type of job. I’ve got a good bit of experience in building cabinets.

I have already done a few furniture repairs for friends and neighbors. I think restorations/refinishing can be a way to get a foot in the door toward some custom pieces. I figure people with furniture they think enough of to fix just might spring for a hand built piece.

There is a farmer’s/crafts market in an upscale area of the historic part of town (I live very close to a 1 million+ city) where I can display a few pieces of furniture and advertise. I figure you never know who will run into you.

I’ve talked to a friend about building a couple gun cabinets on spec and he will display them at his gun club.

I think I’ll start there.

Then what to charge. Materials + Time = ?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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WhoMe

1467 posts in 2708 days


#3 posted 02-13-2016 02:37 PM

Rwe, there is a thread or blog here on lumberjocks dealing with woodworking as a business. Not sure if it is still active. I think it was about 18+ months ago. From what I remember, it has some good information. Try a search and see what comes up.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

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Jim Finn

2413 posts in 2387 days


#4 posted 02-13-2016 03:21 PM



“So glad someone wrote this. ...... with any business, some things are profitable, and some aren t. Sometimes I design a new product, make it, realize it takes longer to make than I can charge for it, and that is the end of the line for that item. .....-” Dabcan

This is so true even at the semi/hobby level. I do not earn a living at woodworking but I do have a self funding woodworking hobby+. I have made and dropped many items and have found a few that, only I make (around here) and can make a little money selling They do sell well enough, for me. Took me a few years to figure out what works for me and I am still experimenting as I go along.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

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DocSavage45

7705 posts in 2308 days


#5 posted 02-13-2016 07:02 PM

FYI,

Huff is the man who wrote a great blog on woodworking as a business with information from life experiences in a successful business.

There are many definitions of success. Marketing and niche are just a few factors in making money in any business. The same principles of basic business apply and require consistency and desire. Many people who may have been excellent wood workers were poor businessmen and went out of business in the last great recession.

I have reframed my thinking about woodworking as a business.

My wife says “you have to have a product that people want!” LOL! Wise words.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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JAAune

1644 posts in 1782 days


#6 posted 02-14-2016 09:15 PM



Too often I hear some old guy come up to me and tell me he used to sell woodworking pieces but it would take him three weeks to make an intricate box that he could only sell for $50. I m always polite and listen, but deep down I m thinking this guy was making the wrong thing.
- Dabcan

I’ve bumped into similar people too which is the motivation behind my making this thread. One of my mentors that had a big influence on my formation as a businessman said it infuriated him to hear people voice those opinions because they were shooting themselves down with negativity before getting started.

The people that I personally find more annoying are the ones that start up a business then don’t bother doing any work unless people walk in the door to buy something. It takes years to establish a reputation that drives customers to you. Startups need to go to the customer.

...In the beginning don t limit myself. Take any job that comes along that I can do. I know I need to develop some new skill sets such as veneering. Treat every job like it belongs to me and focus on turning out the best quality work I can.

- rwe2156

This is a doable approach with some caveats. The catch is that it requires enormous energy to pull off. You will get bogged down with lots of unprofitable jobs and the only way to get through is to work double-time, keep expenses low and slowly organize to pursue more of the most profitable jobs.

If you have $200 overhead per week and bid a job for $500 then realize it will take 80 hours to complete, those 80 hours need to happen in one week. It’s the only surefire way to salvage an under-bid job.


...I don t have a target market identified – yet but I have some ideas. I would like to eventually build furniture (I ll never be a Doucette and Wolfe but that s a dream). I realize this is an extremely limited market in my area so any custom furniture job I get would be a pearl.

- rwe2156

If you’re going after custom furniture, you’ll need to get very good if you plan to earn a living at it. I don’t recommend anyone attempt this unless they plan to devote their lives to it. It will take 10-20 years to get good enough to survive in that market. I pulled it off in 10 years by averaging 60 hours of hands-on work and study (including dozens of classes) every week for those 10 years. Most people aren’t that insane and will learn the necessary skills over a 15-20 year period.

The penalty for failure to make it into the top 1% of custom furniture-makers is an unprofitable business that comes with a $15 an hour salary when the jobs are available and nothing when the economy is down.

So if you pursue custom furniture, plan to become the next Doucette and Wolfe. Setting your goals short of that will result in failure.


...I have already done a few furniture repairs for friends and neighbors. I think restorations/refinishing can be a way to get a foot in the door toward some custom pieces. I figure people with furniture they think enough of to fix just might spring for a hand built piece.

- rwe2156

If you get the right setup (will cost up to $3,000 which isn’t bad for a business) you can make a good profit doing this. Competition is low because most people hate the mess that this sort of work involves. But with a flow-over system and good stripper, you can knock out $500 of work in a day easily. I don’t actively seek out these jobs but I do it because it’s an important service for the churches I work with. Without trying, I get residential jobs because my company is about the only one in the area that is willing to do it so people come to me by default.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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InstantSiv

259 posts in 1060 days


#7 posted 02-14-2016 10:28 PM

...double post…

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InstantSiv

259 posts in 1060 days


#8 posted 02-14-2016 10:28 PM

But with a flow-over system and good stripper, you can knock out $500 of work in a day easily.

So that s the secret huh… moonlight as a pimp ;)

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JAAune

1644 posts in 1782 days


#9 posted 02-14-2016 10:41 PM


But with a flow-over system and good stripper, you can knock out $500 of work in a day easily.

So that s the secret huh… moonlight as a pimp ;)

- InstantSiv

Sorry, but plenty of people have already thought of that joke. Usually people don’t start cracking them until after they’ve been standing over the methylene chloride for a couple hours.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View Mikel Marker's profile

Mikel Marker

10 posts in 293 days


#10 posted 02-19-2016 06:55 AM

If you re going after custom furniture, you ll need to get very good if you plan to earn a living at it. I don t recommend anyone attempt this unless they plan to devote their lives to it. It will take 10-20 years to get good enough to survive in that market. I pulled it off in 10 years by averaging 60 hours of hands-on work and study (including dozens of classes) every week for those 10 years. Most people aren t that insane and will learn the necessary skills over a 15-20 year period.

The penalty for failure to make it into the top 1% of custom furniture-makers is an unprofitable business that comes with a $15 an hour salary when the jobs are available and nothing when the economy is down.

So if you pursue custom furniture, plan to become the next Doucette and Wolfe. Setting your goals short of that will result in failure.

Hello –

Just joined and posted a project so I could ask a question. I’m an amateur furniture builder of about two years. Based on the single project I’ve posted thus far, which I designed and built, do you think I might be good enough to make it as a custom furniture builder?

Thanks

-- Mike ~ mikelmarker.com

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Ger21

1047 posts in 2596 days


#11 posted 02-19-2016 03:33 PM

Hello –

Just joined and posted a project so I could ask a question. I m an amateur furniture builder of about two years. Based on the single project I ve posted thus far, which I designed and built, do you think I might be good enough to make it as a custom furniture builder?

Figure out how much all your materials cost, and then add 25%.
Then figure $75 for every hour you worked on it. Include designing, building, finishing, time to pick up materials. Every minute you spent doing anything to do with this project.
Add up the costs, and add another 20% of the total.
Can you sell it for that price?

-- Gerry, http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/index.html http://www.jointcam.com

View jbay's profile

jbay

816 posts in 364 days


#12 posted 02-19-2016 04:28 PM

Hello –

Just joined and posted a project so I could ask a question. I m an amateur furniture builder of about two years. Based on the single project I ve posted thus far, which I designed and built, do you think I might be good enough to make it as a custom furniture builder?

Thanks

- Mikel46526

It’s not about your skills, of course you have to have them, but it’s more about building something people will buy. Marketing yourself and the product your selling.
Create a niche for yourself. A good example is LJ Chris Davis. His niche is novelty/sport beds and such.

-- My “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly be wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct -- (A1Jim)

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Mikel Marker

10 posts in 293 days


#13 posted 02-19-2016 05:16 PM


Figure out how much all your materials cost, and then add 25%.
Then figure $75 for every hour you worked on it. Include designing, building, finishing, time to pick up materials. Every minute you spent doing anything to do with this project.
Add up the costs, and add another 20% of the total.
Can you sell it for that price?

- Ger21

There’s my answer. Work faster. Thanks!

-- Mike ~ mikelmarker.com

View Mikel Marker's profile

Mikel Marker

10 posts in 293 days


#14 posted 02-19-2016 05:31 PM


It s not about your skills, of course you have to have them, but it s more about building something people will buy. Marketing yourself and the product your selling.
Create a niche for yourself. A good example is LJ Chris Davis. His niche is novelty/sport beds and such.

- jbay

Still looking for that niche. Thanks!

-- Mike ~ mikelmarker.com

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

1113 posts in 2409 days


#15 posted 02-19-2016 05:54 PM

I agree with the comments on diversity.

As I, elsewhere, posted, I have a vast collection of tools and equipment, unlike the average so called handyman, who goes to Home Depot and buys a set of yellow cordless tools and begins advertising for remodel and other jobs. Many of the things I have are for use in my shop (cabinet saw, over-arm pin router, etc), but many of them are for site work (e.g., Bosch table saw with gravity rise, five gallon texture machine, four thousand psi- twelve g.p.m. pressure washer, ladders and more ladders, etc).

Though it’s what got me started and, later, bought my first tool upgrades, I didn’t hang my hope on making plaques, signs or coat racks, as a career. Nor did I try to compete with the big box store and their remarkable looking particle board cabinets (or Ikea’s versions). I collected the tools and equipment so I could take on many jobs and keep busy. Then, as I became more busy, I became more selective. All during this time, I sold on consignment, which opened a lot of doors. A little later, and another huge jump, was learning to bid (people wouldn’t pay me thirty-five an hour, but would pay me three hundred for a project, which worked out to sixty an hour).

Versatility is huge. Today, I can cut granite, router it and polish it (you just need a variable speed angle grinder and the right bits, stones and pads). I can build a cabinet, an art pedestal, a picture frame, a wood jar lid or whatever I want. I can cut glass. I can frame a wall. I can polish a Rolls and not leave a swirl mark. I can spray a house or a fine cabinet. I can install sheet rock on a wall or a ceiling, then mud and texture it. I can etch the glass in a cabinet I’ve built. I can do these things quicker than I could when I started because of the tools and equipment I’ve collected.

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