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This secret cost me $20,000,
but I'll let you have it for free.

by Adam King
found on the internet, admired, and reprinted with permission
600 S. Whittle Ave.
Olney, IL 62450

When I left school, I was eager to begin the next phase of my woodworking journey - establishing my very own shop. I had a dream and a vision that I couldn't wait to fulfill. Full of passion, desire, and momentum, I embarked on what would be my toughest and most valuable woodworking lesson to date.

A very detailed "business plan."

I wanted to start a venture of my own, but I was clueless about how to do it. So, I started reading books, business magazines, and online articles. I researched what others did to start their own businesses. I kept encountering the same basic advice over and over, so I came to the conclusion that all of this common advice was clearly the path to follow. What did I know?

One thing I had read over and over again was that you spend money to make money, so maybe a business loan was in order. With some hesitancy, I borrowed around $20,000. I used it to acquire space, equipment, and a cargo van for deliveries and supplies. I had a shop and now I just needed customers.

And now the "marketing" strategy.

So, I did the whole logo and business card thing, got some stationary, mailed post cards, attended local art shows, and basically executed a very haphazard marketing plan. Despite everything seeming like it was "in place" I found myself struggling to start making any money.

Out of my ignorance, I took anything and everything that came through my door. It didn't matter what kind of project, I took it. I thought I had to. I thought that's the way it worked. Beggars can't be choosers right?

The result? I had a fair number of projects coming through the door, and I hated almost every one of them. They were of no interest to me because they didn't allow me to work at my highest level of skill and potential.

I limped along like this for almost 5 years, taking mindless jobs and working other part time gigs to make a little money. This translated into stress, lack of desire, and even bouts with severe depression. Sound like fun? Suddenly my "dream" had become a total living nightmare.

So, what was missing? What was that one thing that seemed to elude me and my success?

Bottom line: I wasn't thinking like an entrepreneur.

I was very resistant to this because I thought of myself as a Craftsman first. I figured if I built nice things, the customers would come. I kept saying, "I'm a woodworker, not a business man." Can you see the folly in that statement? It turns out the secret was something I was totally aware of, but completely repelling from day one.

It's hard to realize in the beginning that it's essential to your woodworking venture's success to think line an entrepreneur FIRST and a woodworker SECOND. That's right. Woodworking comes second in importance. Don't think that I'm demeaning the importance of high quality woodworking skills. Those are the foundation of your product. What I'm talking about is a total shift of mindset once you begin selling your work.

If you're planning on making a living from your passion, then you need to absorb entrepreneurial training into that passion. If you're not passionate about becoming an entrepreneur than you're just not passionate about your own success. There's no way around it. Entrepreneurial thinking paves the way for working honestly and harmoniously with your values, principles, talents, and passions. You use these as tools for success instead of limitations to your success.

Take a look at what I described above. Look at all the steps I took to get a woodworking business together. Where was I getting my information and education to get things going? I was getting my business training from long established outdated conventional wisdom. Wisdom that had me running my business into the ground from day one.

Was it a mistake to start a business in this location? Was it wrong to get a loan? Was I mistaken when I got business advice from magazines and websites? The short answer is, no not really. All of these things have their place in certain kinds of businesses. What was wrong, however, was that I approached things as if I was starting a large operation and not a one man shop. Thus, I came to rely on the conventional wisdom and practices of "big business".

Conventional wisdom can help start a business but it doesn't make you an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is anything BUT conventional. In fact they thrive on the unconventional. It's essential to their success and satisfaction. An entrepreneur looks to position themselves outside of the conventional model of business. They search for underserved niches and educational gaps to enter into.

The second you accept money for your goods or services, you become self-employed, and the journey to entrepreneurship begins. You better have the thinking and mindset in place to begin that journey.

What about you? If your woodworking is part of your livelihood what's been your experience with starting your business and entrepreneurship?


The author Adam King askes "...what's been your experience with starting your business..." and presumably is anxious to hear from you, but so am I, to refine this web site on starting your solo craft business. You can contact me through the email link in the footnote below.