Entrepreneurs are fueled by a desire to do something worthwhile but one that also provides income. Nowadays, old-school vocational jobs are making a comeback, as consumers are increasingly looking for products different from factory-produced lookalikes, and they are willing to pay a premium. This trend has prompted some entrepreneurs to turn their attention to cabinet making, carpentry, metalsmithing, ironwork, landscaping and the like.
If you have an interest in an artisan venture, you’ll surely find takers in a world where many people are looking for something special and made by hand. While artisan businesses inherently differ based on the specific goods they create, they all share a few factors that must be considered before diving in.
Never forget that such trades are capital and labor intensive and initially will be slow to make money. It might be disheartening in the beginning, but a little perseverance and patience will turn the tide. The key is to let people know you exist. Advertise, market and showcase your goods. Promote your work, show how you do it and for how much. Elbow grease, midnight candles and plain old grit will determine whether you succeed or fold.
Failure will lead to success
This is as cliched as it comes, but it’s the truth. Failures will determine your next course of action. When one avenue closes, another will open. Sometimes the situation may become dire enough that you’ll be forced to think out of the box and pivot your operations. This is an eventuality you should be prepared for.
Standard operating procedures
Many small businesses, namely labor and capital-intensive ones, tend to be run in a haphazard manner. Developing systems and processes for every job and task will save you and your customers a lot of headaches. Also, if you have employees, it’s a primer for when you aren’t there. Standard procedures and systemization are a great way to showcase prospective clients your capabilities and professionalism. Documentation makes it easier for you to delegate and get the best from employees. But it shouldn’t turn your employee into a machine rather give them a tool to think independently.
Hire as soon as you can
For new entrepreneurs, it’s always the hardest and the most important decision in their life cycle—the first hire. This individual will be an integral part of how your business functions in the future, so be sure they are an excellent fit. Many new businesses hire cheaper staff upon starting out, but this be counterproductive. Cheap staff will give you what you pay for; experienced staff will provide a stellar work ethic and comprehensive knowledge.
Less is more
When starting a new business, chances are you will be inundated with tasks you are unfamiliar with. Logic implies that beggars can’t be choosers, so you might try to pick up everything that comes your way, meaning you are biting off more than you can chew. But you should only do tasks that you are good at or in which you can make a niche for yourself. People tend to remember that one person who does that one thing perfectly, rather than the person does a little bit of everything. Play to your strengths and excel in them.
Push through to financial stability with the above points and break the brutal business cycle. Remember, business is good but cash flow is what matters. In a business like cabinet making wherein profit ranges between 3%-20%, every penny will count
How Skills Can Be Molded into Business:
Two Real-Life Examples
Smith Shop metal studio in Michigan
Gabriel Craig and his wife, Amy Weiks, owners of the Smith Shop metal studio in Highland Park, Mich., feel a sense of empowerment in converting metal into a piece of art. Craig’s work has been exhibited at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and Weiks’ work has shown at the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tenn., and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C.
According to Craig, metalworking skills are a process of continual learning. Developing proficiency in this art takes time, even five years of working full-time. You must work with the material at least 10,000 times to gain proficiency, Craig says. And to grow it into a business then requires increasing your capacity—a bigger space, more equipment and an efficient team. Craig clocks 60-hour work weeks in order to be able to create artistic and exclusive items. The couple rely on online retail but seek to connect with global boutiques carrying handmade objects. Social media connects the shop with a community of metalsmiths around the world, and the art of metalwork is undergoing a resurgence that will will evolve with time, he adds.
Woodmaster's Cabinetry & Millwork in Oklahoma
Barry Suderman, owner of Woodmaster's Cabinetry & Millwork Co. in Tulsa, Okla., states when considering a career in cabinetry, the first round of preparation includes taking mathematics classes, principally geometry, and learning mechanical drafting. To make use of advanced machines, build a strong foundation in computer operations. This business is all about custom work, meaning you get to work on diverse projects. As a business owner, he doesn’t believe in the concept of a “40-hour” work week; for him it’s usually a 50-60 hour work week.
You will need a business plan to get started, Suderman adds, in particular marketing responsibilities that require a lot of preparation. Contractors who know and appreciate the quality of your work will supply most of your business, along with loyal and satisfied customers who provide references. Build a reliable team, hire skilled and competent laborers, and develop a realistic budget as this business tends to be cyclical, but woodworking as a career is very satisfying, he adds.