I thought I would write about the experience so that some might make use of the discoveries I’ve made in the process and others might have ideas that I’ve missed.
I am not writing this from the viewpoint of how one should do this sort of thing. It is being written because I took an approach that seemed to be so far off the beaten path that it just might work for someone else who is trying to come up with a way to start a company with very little seed money.
I’ve created Floyd Custom Framing, a custom picture framing business, which sounds like an unlikely prospect for a guy who used to design computers, but I needed to use every bit of business and technical knowledge I have to make it happen. The startup costs, including insurance, equipment and supplies was covered with an ordinary credit card.
The timing may seem odd because America’s picture framing business is in a long-term downtrend because of changing demographics. New Gen X and Gen Y home buyers do not seem to have the disposable income of the previous generations. Plus, every big box retailer is selling ready-made frames at what seems like pennies on the dollar.
So, you might ask, why this business? And why me?
The basic answer is that there has been no custom picture framer within 25 miles for several years and there is a growing number of artists who are turning out amazing work at an ever-increasing rate. They need custom picture framing at an attractive price to expand their business. I have seen this at a personal level because I was spending more time every month obtaining frames and mats for the pastels that Gretchen was turning out. It was getting to be a chore and the choices were limited.
I decided to teach myself conservation framing techniques and to convert my wood shop into a professional framing shop. The rest just seemed to follow naturally.
What I created is not your conventional retail store business. I don’t have a storefront, but I have a display window in a prime location. I don’t keep regular hours, but I have a backlog that is growing so fast that I have to scramble to handle it.
I have written my own software to create POS estimates and it also generates orders for framing supplies. I have a trusted supplier, Roanoke Moulding Designs where one of the owners has mentored me on the finer points of running a custom framing operation. I have had great feedback on my services so far and I am finally getting around to writing a tri-fold brochure that describes what services I provide.
It amuses me that this venture violates every sensible startup procedure except one and that was discovering a market niche that was woefully under-supplied.
I was essentially coaxed into the business by my artist wife who needed a service that wasn’t readily available. Once I discovered that the rest of the artists in the Art Under the Sun Gallery were in need of the same services, it all started to make sense.
It also aligns with my long-term purpose to help artists create viable businesses and contribute to sustainable economic development for this region.
I will try to cover more interesting bits about this startup in the next few posts. Feel free to ask questions and suggest alternatives I may have missed.