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  1. #1
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    Starting a Frame Building Shop

    Good morning community!

    I have an interest to start a bike shop in the Saratoga County, NY region. My main focus will be on custom frames/bikes, custom quadracycles and other forms of bicycle vehicles will hope to expand if possible.
    The part I would like to open for public discussion is where I should start and what should my focus be? I have a little bit of frame building experience along with years of bicycle repair experience. Any and all help would be much appreciated.

    -Steve

  2. #2
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    A buddy of mine told me years ago that the best way to make a million dollars in the windsurfing industry was to start with with 2 million dollars. It seems to apply here as well from what you're saying.

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    Building conventional bikes is a piece of cake compared to things with more than two wheels ;-)

    Work out what your USP (unique selling point) is - what are you good at, and will people pay you for it? Don't make the product first, find the market first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jay_ntwr View Post
    A buddy of mine told me years ago that the best way to make a million dollars in the windsurfing industry was to start with with 2 million dollars. It seems to apply here as well from what you're saying.
    Dang, I was going to post "Start with $2 million" but reconsidered since it's not helpful. So I'll say it differently: write a business plan first.

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    The business plan is a good start but also consider the market and how you can compete with the existing players.

    On the low to mid end it will be basically impossible to compete with products from China. The high end also has a pretty big crowd of players with good things to offer.

    If you can find a niche that might work but it might also be boring.

    An approach that might work is to focus on something else as your "real" job and do the bike building as a hobby or "pet rock" business. Over time your "pet rock" might become something but don't expect too much too soon.

    Good luck and have fun.
    Mark Farnsworth, Raleigh, NC
    http://farnsworthbikes.com

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by febikes View Post
    An approach that might work is to focus on something else as your "real" job and do the bike building as a hobby or "pet rock" business. Over time your "pet rock" might become something but don't expect too much too soon.
    This is the advice that I have been living for the past 6 months.

    My work space looks cooler than it used to, and I don't have as much savings as I normally would this time of year. I don't have as many cool tools as I'd like.

    I'll get it there when I get it there. Some days it is frustrating. Some days it is exciting.
    Latitude: 44.93 N

  7. #7
    pvd
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    Just....don't.

  8. #8
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    If you think your competing with big box brands or China, you're beaten already. You're also not competing with other builders. You compete mostly with yourself. Most builders who fail do so because they never realize that the product they're selling is themselves. It takes more than just fab skills. It takes a good head for business, marketing, personality, an ability to connect with people, discipline, and a mastery of basic mathematical and accounting principles. Understand that you will spend less time building than you will on the above. If you're cool with that, it's all golden.

    Start with a desired personal income. Do the math backwards to determine what it takes to realistically achieve it. There are builders who net solid 6-figure incomes, have expensive hobbies, nice houses, etc. It's not impossible, it just takes a lot of work. A lot of work.
    A man must have enemies and places he is not welcome. In the end we are not only defined by our friends but those against us.

  9. #9
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    You made no mention of whether you need this to be your primary source of life-sustaining financial income, or whether you're already independently wealthy and just want a hobby business that won't be profitable.

    If your situation is the former, and you will be depending on profits for your living expenses, then you need to put a lot of time and thought into this first. I also would suggest not quitting your day job and easing into this as a very gradual transition from hobby to side-gig to real job over the course of years.

    I would find other shops all across the country that are similar to what you envision, and ask to speak to the owners about their startup experiences, challenges and lessons learned. I suspect most of them will be very willing to share with you and you might get to learn some important lessons the easy way instead of the hard way.

    Obviously, as with any new business venture it's important to do lots of research, a well thought-out plan and LOTS of getting out on the street and asking people if they think a place like that would be something they would actually use and spend money on.
    Bend, OR

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    Have you ever started or run a business before?

    Personally, my feeling is that this industry is a difficult one to make money in. I suspect that most of the people who are successful in it, would be successful in ANY industry and would make far more money doing something else.

    I also understand the value of doing something you're passionate about. I'm self employed doing upholstery repair, which i have no passion for but makes me a livable wage without working too terribly hard. I do daydream some sort of romantic version of being a bike-builder but i'm not sure i'd actually want to act it out.
    Bend, OR

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DWF View Post
    Start with a desired personal income. Do the math backwards to determine what it takes to realistically achieve it.
    I tell everyone that I run into that wants to start a frame gig this exact same thing.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TroyS600 View Post
    Have you ever started or run a business before?

    Personally, my feeling is that this industry is a difficult one to make money in. I suspect that most of the people who are successful in it, would be successful in ANY industry and would make far more money doing something else.

    I also understand the value of doing something you're passionate about. I'm self employed doing upholstery repair, which i have no passion for but makes me a livable wage without working too terribly hard. I do daydream some sort of romantic version of being a bike-builder but i'm not sure i'd actually want to act it out.


    I have main source of income already, so i'm not worried about trying to 'get rich quick,' just looking for a hobby to start making a little bit of more money while help supporting our frame building community.

  13. #13
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    Perfect! That changes everything! In that case, just do what you want to do.
    Bend, OR

  14. #14
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    Just FYI, this will not be a profitable hobby. If you want a fun hobby and don't care about the money angle, build bikes for yourself and your friends and not the general public.

    If you want to break even or better, building the occasional frame isn't going to work - you are going to face a lot of up-front costs and then you'll need a space to work from, insurance, etc that will eat up your per-frame profits pretty fast if you're only doing a dozen a year. The framebuilding universe is FULL of nonprofit (whether they realize it or not) operations. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but IMO it's not a "service" to anyone (including yourself) to start a business with no intention of making money that you'll just close in a few years after you get tired of it.

    I'm rambling. If you want a hobby, don't start a business. At least not a bike business.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    Just FYI, this will not be a profitable hobby. If you want a fun hobby and don't care about the money angle, build bikes for yourself and your friends and not the general public.

    If you want to break even or better, building the occasional frame isn't going to work - you are going to face a lot of up-front costs and then you'll need a space to work from, insurance, etc that will eat up your per-frame profits pretty fast if you're only doing a dozen a year. The framebuilding universe is FULL of nonprofit (whether they realize it or not) operations. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but IMO it's not a "service" to anyone (including yourself) to start a business with no intention of making money that you'll just close in a few years after you get tired of it.

    I'm rambling. If you want a hobby, don't start a business. At least not a bike business.

    -Walt
    Totally agree. I also am one of those people who hobby with a day job. I have built and re-built more wheel-sets, converted and modified components and had lots of fun experimenting, studying new topics and engaging with a small group of people than ever I could being focused on business.

    Eric
    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

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