The last blog entry left off in March of 2008. The economy had started its downward spiral, sales at Shutter Crafts were dropping, and my father was going to have some hard choices to make in the coming months if something didn’t change. That change, I decided, was to start a new woodworking company, J. Alexander Fine Woodworking, designing and building custom furniture and cabinetry, in order to pursue new sources of revenue.
This decision was not entirely out of left field. I had built myself countless dining, end, and coffee tables, and bookcases over the years. I had also recently completed two large built-in entertainment centers and two office bookcase commissions from random word-of-mouth customers. Still, there is a huge difference between completing a few commissions and running a business that requires a steady stream of work.
The first two years were miserable in terms of sales. The only reason I was able to get a paycheck was because Shutter Crafts was subsidizing J. Alexander. If I had to begin the company from scratch, it would not have survived. The fact that I had to outlay $0 for machinery, and had a 12,000 square foot shop to use, with no overhead payment each month, gave this business a fighting chance.
Many woodworkers dream of running their own shops, but then struggle with having to run a business, and all the tedious paperwork, accounting, and sales and marketing challenges that comes along with it. Luckily, I am not one of them. I love the great game of business and managing the financial numbers. Although, in those early years there weren’t many numbers to manage.
I began chasing after sales in a down economy by creating a spreadsheet with every interior designer we had ever sold shutters to, and calling them and letting them know that we had launched a new company and would love their business. Once I exhausted that list, I added the names of every interior designer I could find in Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, and western Wyoming and Montana. The list was huge! I was hungry for work and I was going to do whatever I had to do to make this new company successful, so I began the arduous task of cold calling all of those interior designers and introducing myself.
In those early years of J. Alexander, I had a lot of time to devote to building the business, since I had very little furniture to build, so I tried to blog every week. This was not just a pointless way to use up hours each week, but, I hoped, a free and simple endeavor that would draw in some eyes to my little company. As a result, I have a plethora of material to remind me of what those early days were like.
Here is a sample:
Woodworking as a Business – My thoughts on being a business owner in those early days
The One That Got Away – On the lessons learned, for me and the remodeler, during the job bidding process
Quoting Projects – Musings on the difficulty of quoting potential jobs
My Target Market – Who are my customers?
Selling To The Target Markets – How do I market to my target markets?
Marketing Material – Trying to look professional
Selling Myself and My Work – How I would stand out from my competitors
In the next entry, I should be able to bring us up to the present and explain how we arrived here!