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Kits as a Business?

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Forum topic by Don Broussard posted 176 days ago 883 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Don Broussard

1829 posts in 855 days


176 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question kits

I know there are bunches of experienced woodworkers here who either make a living making and selling completed woodworking pieces as well as those who do similar work to supplement their main income source. My question is: Are there woodworkers whose projects for sale include kits, including the lumber, hardware and instructions to the buyer for final assembly and finish? I am thinking of projects like picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and similar projects where shipping or travel with the completed project present some logistical obstacles. Is there a market for kits?

Thanks in advance for the comments and discussion.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!


14 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

7270 posts in 2252 days


#1 posted 176 days ago

I think so, but you have to look at various factors to determine
if your product can compete.

> your shop overhead. If it’s low maybe you can accept lower
margins than other shops and make your kit product more
price competitive.

> your sanding capacity if sanded parts can make the product more
competitive. In some cases, like dulcimer kits and dollhouse kits,
a few dollars worth of wood can be made into a kit that sells for a
lot more due to effective thickness/finish sanding.

> your supply of lumber. I’ve examined the careers of many successful
woodworkers and some of them have access to fine timbers at
way below market value and this allows them to compete. One
maker manages several acres of forest in Hawaii from which he
harvests koa and other tropical woods. Another lives on a big
farm and manages some daily operations including taking down
storm-damaged trees which he mills for his bent and slab furniture.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1322 posts in 371 days


#2 posted 176 days ago

With the economy the way it is and will be, I would forget about selling anything unless you Cather to the 1% whom can buy, buy, buy, buy. The rest of the world is in no position to despair a dime; and it is going to get worse. We are headed for a global depression not a recovery of any kind. In a depressionary period, cash is king.
Hate to see what’s happening; hate to ignore it more.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

1829 posts in 855 days


#3 posted 176 days ago

@Loren—Good points. I just have a hobby shop with all paid-for equipment but with no belt sanding capacity beyond hand-held, not production. I don’t have access to mass quantities of lumber, so that’s a no-go. I don’t know that I could reasonably address the product liability issues either. I don’t intend to rehash that issue, since it’s been discussed here on LJs before.

@mrjinx—Glad to see you decided to hang around with us, despite the recent technical problems. Like you, I have more pessimism now than I’ve ever had, and I don’t like to be like that.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1322 posts in 371 days


#4 posted 176 days ago

Don, I have been a glass half full guy all my life. The light I see at the end of of this tunnel just doesn’t look right. I hate to look at the dark side of life but, I’ll be a fool to ignore it just the same.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View  Box 's profile

Box

4937 posts in 1912 days


#5 posted 176 days ago

don…I think that the people who are purchasing kits to assemble are more prone to shop at the big box stores and other lower quality locations. An individual has to create something that is totally unique and can not be mass produced.
there are a lot of people out there with money to spend on things they like…you just have to reach them.

Looking at the dark side and being pessimistic is not the answer….but if you choose to look in that direction long and hard enough you will get there.

View Jesse's profile

Jesse

25 posts in 230 days


#6 posted 176 days ago

The economy is not great but there are plenty of people willing to pay for quality still. I have a woodworking business that is only 3 years old, started in my basement and made enough money in just three years to move into a 2800 sqft shop, buy wide drum sanders, CNC equipment, etc. I would also like to say that I did that with nothing more than my paycheck and my small credit card. You don’t need a big bank loan, just a good idea, a commitment for quality, and some online marketplaces to test your ideas like ebay, amazon, goodsmiths, tons of places out there. If you want to move forward, here are the few tips I have regarding your questions:

-Liability insurance isn’t that expensive. They base it off your sales, tell the insurance person you are starting as a hobby and plan to make less than 10k this year with this project. It is pretty reasonable really.

-Shipping will be one of your biggest costs, check around and see what other companies charge for shipping.

-Most places have a lumber supplier, even if you don’t know it yet. I live in Iowa and there are two places that sell to cabinet makers and manufacturers. Even in a home shop, you are now a small manufacturer and if you find a company (google lumber supplier in your state) and you can pick up the order they have small minimums, like 100bdft or less. A maple board that would cost me $30 at Home Depot costs $7 through a lumber supply place, it’s worth it to find one.

-Put the profits back into your business until you have the sanding equipment and stuff that you need. I went from craftsman to General International and Powermatic among other great brands.

-Make your work stand out. I was happy selling my items online and making a living but a large company eventually approached me and we worked out a deal. That has happened several times now, almost by accident, I have never approached a company to carry my stuff, yet I’m going to do over a half million dollars this year with wholesale accounts.

Start small, but do start. You don’t want to look back and wonder. The worst case scenario is that you end up with 60 kits that you couldn’t sell and you get rid of them for cheap at a craft show. Best case is that you grow and end up with your dream shop! I get the Grizzly catalog every year and even a company that big sells kits similar to what you are talking about, so there is indeed a market for what you are wanting to sell.

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1322 posts in 371 days


#7 posted 176 days ago

Agree with Greg 100%... It all depends on demographics too. I live 17 miles to the closest town of 220 people. That town is 25 miles to the closest town of 10,000 people, that town is 86 miles closest to the tow of 200,00 people, the whole state is a little over 2 million people. Now checkout Russel, he is perfectly located; between Oklahoma city and surroundings. It is all about exposure; and if you have it, you are good to go; if you don’t, you have to create the exposure via social media or a website. I get over several hundreds of click on my website on weekly basis, but hardly sell anything there. Wonder why??... Shipping cost, not a good enough picture, just the stereotype of Arkansas. Who knows?

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

1829 posts in 855 days


#8 posted 176 days ago

Thanks for all the comments. Good points about having a product that can’t be picked off the shelf at stores.

@Greg/mrjinx—I am an optimist by practice, but I have to include a portion of realism as well.

@Jesse—Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like you made a plan then carried it out, on purpose.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Loren's profile

Loren

7270 posts in 2252 days


#9 posted 176 days ago

The economy situation is improving and people are spending again,
but not extravagantly . I’m in an affluent coastal area though so
I’m seeing it before some woodworkers will.

A kit is not a affluent-targeted product. People who have a lot
of disposable income are often too busy working to pursue building
hobby projects from kits. Thus, by default, you are going after
a middle class market segment. I do not recommend this for
a woodworking pro in general, but for a home shop woodworker
managing a self-apprenticeship (which is the way I learned),
you may not have the savvy and machinery to bid, finish
and get paid at the optimum (affluent) market segment for
fine wood products.

People do love to learn how to make things for themselves
and the impressions they have of the difficulty of working
wood without a lot of machinery (not unfounded) may
attract kit builders. I can build a guitar with a band saw
and an axe, but it would be a major hassle and I’ve built
a few. Lacking the machinery to dimension wood parts
for something trickier than a simple nailed wood box, I
might be attracted to a kit. Understand I’m putting myself
in your customer’s shoes.

If you can put your kit together with a nicely thought
out instructional DVD or book, you might be onto something
that can compete. Consider that duplicating the book or
DVD is easy and cheap after the initial production effort
and it increases the perceived value of the kit product
substantially.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

4756 posts in 1181 days


#10 posted 176 days ago

Great thread Don and a productive discussion as well.

Maybe make a block plane kit?
It should be inexpensive to make and cost effective
to ship.

Just thinking things out.

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

1829 posts in 855 days


#11 posted 175 days ago

@Loren—The DVD instruction idea is awesome! I’d have to have an actor play me on the DVD though. Face for radio.

@waho—Wooden block plane would be pretty easy to make and easy to assemble—it’s got potential. Good thinking.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View antiquerob's profile

antiquerob

7 posts in 176 days


#12 posted 174 days ago

I believe there is a stronger market out there than many think. If I was considering I would first look to see if I would be able to market one or two “bread and Butter” items What I mean by that is those one or 2 projects that would appeal to the most people across the most income levels. I know here it would be bookshelves or dressers. I have no clue what kind of deals you can get on lumber so I won’t get into margins. I think the second biggest issue I would attack is getting your product recognized and known by the masses so when they do go to purchase they consider you. No matter what I think your target market is going to be high middle income professionals and up. I don’t see much money being made attempting to market any lower. People do want that sense of accomplishment and pride in the items they put in there homes. If thought out well and marketed well ai think the opportunity is huge. There’s a ton more to think about and discuss but this is a winner of an idea for sure.

View Dave Carlisle's profile

Dave Carlisle

46 posts in 759 days


#13 posted 164 days ago

I have been making adirondack chairs, tables and footrests for about two years near Memphis, TN. I am retired so this is basically a hobby, but in the two years since my retirement, I have made about 150 chairs and a variety of other projects. I have 26 orders for this spring already and there are plenty of folks ready to buy custom made solid products. Found plans at

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/how-to-plans/woodworking/2919751?click=main_sr

Made my own templates, found cypress at under $1/bf. I use stainless steel screws and good quality stains and paints and keep very, very busy!! You can do it too…....

-- Woodworking Principal

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

1829 posts in 855 days


#14 posted 163 days ago

@Dave—Sounds like you’ve found a good market for your product. Are you selling the Adirondack chairs as kits, partially assembled, or fully assembled?

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

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