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Forum topic by therookie posted 12-31-2010 04:24 PM 1965 views 4 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2856 days

12-31-2010 04:24 PM

I might only be fifteen right now, but soon enough I will be out in the world on my own and I would like to start off my life by owning and running a woodworking shop full time. I have some major questions that I would like help getting answered.
1. Has anyone else started their own business?
2. What sort of advertising do you people suggest.
3. What kind of inventory is suggested?
4. Where is the best area to sell the extra items I make if I am in michigan?
5. How do I get commissions when I am just starting out like right now???

Any feed back would be welcomed and I hope every one has a wonderful new years


20 replies so far

View lew's profile


12103 posts in 3785 days

#1 posted 12-31-2010 04:32 PM

I never had a woodworking business but I did run a Scuba shop. I know they are not the same but maybe this will help.

Word of mouth is your best form of advertising and it’s free.

Keep your inventory to a minimum.

Customer service and how you present yourself to your customers is as important as your product.

Listen to your customers. You don’t learn anything while you are talking.

Get your work in front of the public. Offer your pieces on consignment to local retailers. Donate some of your work to local charity auctions. Donations are tax deductible and it gets your work in front of influential people.

Hope this helps.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2856 days

#2 posted 12-31-2010 04:37 PM

Thanks Lew this helps a ton. I am waiting on delivery of my biscuit joiner and then I can finish my cherry table set and put them on consignment down at a furniture shop in town from me. Thanks again and Happy New year


View JdCustomfurniture's profile


13 posts in 3051 days

#3 posted 12-31-2010 04:46 PM

Best advice is to find a custom shop and get a job. Sweep the floors clean the bathrooms whatever you got to do to get your foot in the door. Once your there the rest is up to you. I started in the shop that I am currently at when I was 17 sweeping floors. I am 29 now and I went from sweeping floors to building cabinets then to the lead builder and now I am in design and management. It was not a easy road but I worked my butt off and here I am. Right now I am in the begining stages of starting my own bussiness. I can tell you with out my previous work experince I would not have standed a chance at 18 starting my own bussiness. There is so much to learn and I am still learning everyday.

-- Whatever you do,work at it with all your heart,as working for the lord,not for men. ( Colossians 3:23 )

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 3294 days

#4 posted 12-31-2010 05:06 PM

Starting a woodworking business is no easy feat, especially this day and age. I am 23 and I do woodworking mainly as a hobby but I do get some commision jobs every once and a while. Mostly they are for friends and family so I really don’t make much money working for them. But, like Lew said, word of mouth is your best bet and you friends and family will be the first ones to talk about you.

Looking at your projects, you look like you are quite a bit further ahead than most 15-year-olds.

I would probably try to find a niche. Something like adirondak furniture or your scroll saw work. Myself, I am thinking about trying to sell some outdoor games like cornhole boards, washers, or maybe some other popular games in your area.

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#5 posted 12-31-2010 07:27 PM

Do installations – that’s some of the easier work to get and it leads
to more work sometimes. Install trim, cabinets, hang doors, install
windows and become proficient at fixing stuff other tradesmen didn’t
do right. A willingness to refinish floors and furniture comes in handy -
it’s dusty, unpleasant work, which is why people will pay you to do it
for them.

Word of mouth can take a long time to build up – it depends on a lot
of factors other than your worthiness for the work. Most important
thing for any start-up business is to know your market and choose who
you want to work for.

I’d go after the more affluent people in your area – they’ll be more easily
able to say yes to larger bids and jobs and will recommend you to their
affluent friends. Knocking on doors isn’t a bad way to get started –
choose the neighborhoods you want to work in and go out and make
yourself known as a woodworking specialists.

The truth is a lot of homeowners have had “handymen” do stuff and not
do it right.

I hired some people in the past who claimed interest in woodworking,
but couldn’t be bothered to read books about it. They wanted to
be trained “hands on” and be shown everything, which puts the onus
of their learning on somebody else. Lots of odd-job guys don’t understand
the geometry and precision of woodworking – they’re hacks. You’re
better than a hack – you’re a woodworking specialist who knows how
to get the correct result with this very complex and versatile material.

Don’t underprice your expertise – but do work for people you feel good about
working for. Feeling good about the job is worth more (to me anyway)
than squeezing the most dollars out of the marketplace.

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3089 days

#6 posted 12-31-2010 08:16 PM

At 15 years old you should be learning not making money.

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2856 days

#7 posted 01-01-2011 05:57 PM

Thanks Steve I think that this will help a ton I am reasearching a business plan example as I am talking to you. But thanks everyone for the tip and have a great year.


View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3220 days

#8 posted 01-01-2011 06:25 PM

Also keep in mind to learn and grow, from 15 to 80 there is something more to learn. Working for a cabinet maker or furniture restoration firm will teach you the tricks to work fast and smart. If you are paid by the job the faster you turn that job and start another the more money you will make. Good luck!!!

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Wingstress's profile


339 posts in 3544 days

#9 posted 01-11-2011 07:26 PM

First off, GO TO COLLEGE! It doesn’t matter how talented you are, everyone can benifit from the foundation built in college. When at college, take classes relavent to buisness management and also LEAN manufacturing. Knowledge in these two subjects will keep you inventory and cost down and allow you to get a return on your investment without sinking yourself into overwhelming debt. At 15 I’m sure you’ve seen all the commercials or heard them on the radio about how to get out of debt. As an adult, banks will let you follow your dream right into the toilet. Debt can ruin lives, marriages, relationships etc…

Just like a house, you need a strong foundation. Stay in school!

At 17, I owned my own tree service and landscaping company. I was talented with my hands and loved to work and wanted to build a buisness. Luckily I stayed in school and became an Engineer. I’ve since worked in Germany for Mercedes, Seattle for Boeing, and I’m now working at an aerospace company in CT. I’m concidering starting my own woodworking buisness, just as you are. The only difference is that I have a foundation that I can always fall back on. I have collateral for my lowns, and a Lean manufacturing knowledge that I can apply to my buisness to keep cost down. I’ll start my buisness because I want to, not because I have to to get by.

Hope this helped – I hope I didn’t sound too much like your parents :-)


-- Tom, Simsbury, CT

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#10 posted 01-11-2011 08:13 PM


1. Has anyone else started their own business?

Yes. It’s a good way to make more money for the work you do – but
with it comes more responsibility.

2. What sort of advertising do you people suggest.

Direct response advertising methods. Read John Caples “Tested Advertising Methods”
and advertising classics by Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy. Familiarity with the concepts
taught by Jay Abraham will give you a serious advantage in planning your success.

3. What kind of inventory is suggested?

Depends on your business concept. If you want to make seasonal money with
hand-crafted goods, the holidays are big. Some Renaissance Faire or summer
fair vendors make stuff for 8 months of the year and sell it for the other 4, give
or take. If you’re going to be a custom cabinet-maker (which is competitive
but the work is there and always will be) you won’t be holding much of an
inventory. I wouldn’t anyway – the idea is to have the tools and knowledge to
turn flat sheet goods into a value-added product as efficiently as possible.

4. Where is the best area to sell the extra items I make if I am in michigan?

Etsy. Craft shows, etc. Get yourself to the Philadelphia furniture show to
see how the real high-end furniture makers go about marketing their stuff.
The gift show circuit can be good too. Booths at these big shows are costly
but that’s because they are well-promoted and the buyers with real money
are there.

5. How do I get commissions when I am just starting out like right now???

Custom jobs you mean? In my opinion you should have the tools of the trade
and the knowledge to do casework and trim carpentry. If you’re just starting
out you probably don’t have those tools and it will be much harder for you
to say “YES” when you are asked “Can you build x for me?” If you stick with
it you’ll get to the point where you know the craft and you can say yes with
general confidence. It takes awhile.

View Colin 's profile


93 posts in 2840 days

#11 posted 01-12-2011 09:55 AM

Steve and wingstress make good points. Well, there are a lot of good points but Steve has a pretty good list going. I completely agree with wingstress about looking into lean manufacturing. That has a lot to do with your questions on inventory but involves every aspect of manufacturing a product, like making your process poke yoke. That’s the other good thing about lean, you get to use all sorts of silly sounding words.

I also agree with the comments about learning first. You can learn a lot by getting a job in a cabinet shop or the like. Formal schooling has the advantage of being more comprehensive. When working for a wage, your boss teaches you what will make him money. If you find a good woodworking program, you get a better foundation.

If you are going to have your own business though, you need to know more about business than woodworking. Classes are a start. Marketing, purchasing, logistics, management, human resources, accounting, a small business owner needs to be proficient in all these areas (and more)or know to delegate their weak areas. I would also say it would be best to get some real world experience in managing before you go it alone. Learn all you can on someone else’s dollar. Trust me, I know from experience how expensive beginner mistakes are when you try to start a business with little experience in managing a business.

As far as getting commissions, that is a term usually used when dealing with ultra high end pieces. You need years to develop experience and a reputation for unique, stylish work. If that is your goal, start taking pictures of everything you make as mentioned. Never skimp on quality even when it will effect your bottom line.

That’s why it is best to build a portfolio while managing someone else’s business, even if it has nothing to do with woodworking. You don’t have to worry about things like how you are going to afford to eat breakfast the next day. You can just focus on turning out quality product and developing a reputation. Then the advertising will start taking care of itself; as others said, word of mouth. Then you can start thinking about using your business as your main source of income.

I was told all these things too but didn’t listen. You don’t have to make the same mistake.

Nothing wrong with starting a side business as you do these other things to better prepare yourself for success. Just don’t try to make it your source of income right out of high school.


View Whum's profile


1 post in 2721 days

#12 posted 01-14-2011 03:58 AM

Hey, I’m a few years older than you but following along the same line. Here’s an outline that I got from a book that my brother used to start his own business. I know other people have told you lots of helpful things too. My two cents is that as long as you are happy doing what your doing, the money won’t matter. God Luck!!

Business Plan Outline

Title Page
Statement of purpose (Moral Foundation)
Table of Contents
Business Description, including: Product or Service Location and competition Management and Orginization
Market Analysis and Marketing Plan, including: Description of the overall market Target market of of the business Analysis of the competition Customer needs and characteristics Overall sales plan
Financial Data, including: Capital equipment needs or assets Funding sources Balance sheet Break-even analysis Cash flow projections (one year) Income projections (three years) Past financial history (balance sheets, income statements up to three years)
Supporting Documents Resumes of management and partners, letters of recomendation Personal financial statements and cost-of-living budget Relevant contracts and legal documents Documentation of market research, if available

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 2856 days

#13 posted 01-15-2011 12:02 AM

Thanks Walker this helps me out a lot.


View trainwreck's profile


43 posts in 2721 days

#14 posted 01-15-2011 04:29 AM

For marketing, don’t underestimate the power of social networking!

If I were you, I’d start with small, inexpensive things. For craft fairs, see if someone is willing to share a booth with you, that way it doesn’t cost you as much for a table. Some of the smaller, more local shows are not very expensive for an 8-foot space to display your wares. Lots of women shop craft fairs, and kids things tend to sell well, as do inexpensive items (under $25). American Girl dolls are huge, but they get ridiculous amounts of money for the doll accessories, so you could easily make some doll beds, etc. and sell those. Partner up with someone who sews to make mattresses, pillows, blankets, etc. Then you’d have someone to share the booth, and your products “go” together.

I’d be blogging all my projects, whether I plan to sell them or not. That way people can see what you do. Share the blog with everyone you know, and let people know you’d like to sell this stuff! You can also set up an Etsy shop, but that will have to be smaller items or the shipping costs will make people run for the hills! I’d still set one up, though, even if you only have one or two different products there. You never know when someone local will find you there and want you to build them something big.

I’d also get business cards printed, even if you start with just the freebies from Vistaprint. Make sure your website or blog address is on it, though. Hand those suckers out to everyone you can! I’d also put your web address or blog address into your signature on any forum that allows you to do so.

It also may sound wierd, but check out They have some forums that are geared towards crafting, but there is a craft fair/crafting for business forum there as well. Some of it won’t apply, but read it anyway. There’s a lot of good information and good ideas for you there. Also some good ideas to be found in the Etsy forums.

Also, I don’t know if your state has this, but Minnesota has a small business guide that the state will send you for free, or you can view it online as a PDF. Check your local small business association for resources as well. They’ll be able to give you all the forms you might need to do everything the legal way. Since you’re under 18, though, you may need a parent to sign/be responsible.

View nate22's profile


475 posts in 2904 days

#15 posted 01-18-2011 04:57 PM

Therookie, trainwreck has a lot of good points. I have done some of the things that he has suggested. Like I have a etsy account. And I got all my pictures of my bunk beds and loft beds that I make on a website that is called If you want you can check mine out and get a idea. Mine is And another thing advertise on craigslist and if you do have a website eventily put on the craigslist ad what your website is and they can then look at everything you have. Thats just my advice.

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

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