The other day a guy left his phone number along with a request that I give him some advice about starting a woodworking business. I’ve been thinking about how I started mine.

I’ve had a number of shops but they were all pretty much continuations of the previous version. But when my family moved from Nevada to California in 1987, I had lightened my load quite a bit and taken a job working for a large shop. After a while, I left that job to start another shop.

The problem was that I had no startup money since I had been working for wages. I needed some capital. I had some prospective clients lined up so I resorted to a technique commonly known as “front loading”.

I secured the jobs by simply meeting with the clients and offering them bids on their projects. We went through the whole process and, once they had decided that I was their man, I got deposits on the jobs. That was the money I used to rent a shop space, get the machines installed, build some basic benches and fixtures. By the time I got that done, I had just enough money left to buy the necessary materials. I was able to get enough work done to get me to the next draw and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’m not at all sure that this could be done in today’s economic climate. The point, if there is one, is that you can go a long way on determination salted with a little out-of-the-box thinking. But I’m tempted to tell the guy who wants my advice to run.



  • Aaron Sikes says:

    I’m not the guy who left you his number, but I was thinking of asking you a similar question today 🙂

    I’m working on small projects that I can complete in my garage, without any of the big tools that require a full scale shop. Just a TS, a short table 8″ jointer, 12″ planer, and some portable tools. I do all of my work with scrap pieces culled from other woodworkers I know, and sometimes with new material bought from the lumber yard. At this stage anyway, the most “business” I might be aiming for is selling little boxes and deco pieces at the farmer’s market.

    So I guess I’m going the budget route, working within my means and letting things progress slowly. Of course, it’s a luxury to be able to do it this way. If I were in a do-or-die situation, I’m sure I’d be front loading, too. Or maybe running.

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