Woodworking for profit: Diversify?

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My dad recently got into woodworking, and through a heavy budget and a lot of willingness to learn, his woodworking has improved quite a bit. As he has progressed, if he thinks a new tool will give him better results, he just goes out and buys it, and being a workaholic, he spends alot of time out in his shop too. All this has helped him become a decent woodworker fairly quick.

Now he has some crazy ideas sometimes (I think I got that trait from him)but with Dad, once he is locked onto an idea, no will convince him it won't work. He is convinced that there is profit to be made making and selling wooden caskets for pets. So he has bought the stuff, purchased a bunch of special tooling and supplies from a local 100 year old casket factory here in Maine, and has been making pet caskets.

But nothing is selling. Several stores he approached won't let him put caskets in their store because its "creepy" and word of mouth just isn't doing much either. Plus we live in Maine. In the winter the ground tends to get VERY hard from the frost so at best he has a 8 month season he can lock in on.

Now his employer has cut his hours back to 32 hours a week, and at 61 years old, he has another year till retirement. My mom would like him to get into making wooden toys or something else that sells, but my Dad is convinced that there is money to be made in pet caskets. I admire his resolve, but kind of wonder, if things aren't selling, should he diversify some? Its kind of sad to see him pound out casket after casket to a non-existing market, but as he says "you can't sell something that isn't made". I like his conviction, but I wonder if his niche market is too creepy and special to make any money at it?
 

Vaughn McMillan

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There are other people who seem to be making money selling pet caskets (a quick Google for "pet caskets" yielded 101,000 hits), but I think your dad is going to need to reach into markets beyond his back yard. As Alan said, the Internet is probably the fastest way to get exposure outside your local economy. I can imagine selling pet caskets in Maine is about as easy as selling snowshoes in the Bahamas. I'm guessing a lot of rural people just don't need or want them. City folk, though might be a different story.
 

Stuart Ablett

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There are other people who seem to be making money selling pet caskets (a quick Google for "pet caskets" yielded 101,000 hits), but I think your dad is going to need to reach into markets beyond his back yard. As Alan said, the Internet is probably the fastest way to get exposure outside your local economy. I can imagine selling pet caskets in Maine is about as easy as selling snowshoes in the Bahamas. I'm guessing a lot of rural people just don't need or want them. RICH City folk, though might be a different story.

:D

Good luck to him Travis, but I do think he needs at least one more thing to sell. :wave:
 

Art Mulder

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London, Ontario
I agree about the Internet. However, you should not be googling for pet caskets, IMHO. Instead you should be googling for pet cemetery's!!! Since I agree that this is more an urban/city/wealthy person's purchase, these people are also going to need a place to put their pet once they have the casket. So, find the cemetery and try to place some brochures with them. Or, also check with some city/urban vet offices (they're the ones who would be helping folks who need to put down beloved pets) and see if they would like some brochures as well.

Finally... if you want him to stop, I would take the argument that you only need 2-4 caskets on hand as samples, so maybe he should stop and build something else for a while.
 

Jim O'Dell

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Travis, the pet casket business would be a small market. There are pet cemetarys around as Art mentioned, but that's not the route that most people take. If they don't leave the body with the Vet for disposal (usually a mass grave out on the Vet's farm property) they usually go with cremation. Now, that opens up a bigger market. We have several of our personal animals and a few of the rescues that passed while still in foster care that were cremated. Most are simple cedar boxes with a small brass lock on a brass hasp. Tastefully small and fit on a bookshelf or mantel. We do have one early one that is metal, like a small magazine collection holder, say Reader's Digest size. These hold, of course, the ashes. The wood ones have a brass plate attached with the dog's name engraved on it. Might be able to do lettering routed into the box with a small router or Dremel, and a lettering kit. The Vets we use all have several to choose from. I'm sure these are supplied by the company that does the cremation. I haven't persued this yet, but have thought about it some. My idea is to use bandsaw boxes to be different and unique for the upscale owner. Regular boxes (I'll add a couple pictures below) for the normal crowd.
DSCN1896.jpgDSCN1897.jpg
Maybe this will give your dad something else to show. He could still have the caskets to show as well. Jim.
 

Jeff Horton

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The reminds of the Saturday Night Live skit, the "Scotch Tape Boutique" Shop sold nothing but transparent tape. He kept saying people just aren't used to the idea of buying tape here yet.
 

Frank Fusco

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His idea is good but his approach was backwards. The market should have been identified first. But, as others have said, using the Internet, he will be able to locate cemeteries and offer his products to them. This seems to be a growing market. Meanwhile another product should be considered. I'm out of ideas as I'm looking for something myself. My gunstock idea is bust due to the poor quality of the duplicating machine I bought.
 
Travis, can you modify your dad's thinking just a little? I belong to a woodworking club here and they make and donate small caskets to a group here that is called Precious
Angels. This organization lines the boxes and gives them to families to bury their premee baby that can not afford to buy a casket. Also most infant caskets are 24" long at the shortest. These caskets that the culb builds are 12, 14, and 18 inches. I know that your dad wants to make some income but if he is getting an over flow of caskets maybe he could check this out. I don't know if there is an organization like this in your area but it is a great public service. Even by selling them at a low cost would be great. You could also contact local hospitals about the need for premee caskets.
 

Ian Barley

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It is very difficult to build a business trying to sell what you can make. Always much more fruitful to make what you can sell. I agree with Vet practice as a source but am gonna guess that Maine (mostly rural right?) is not a place with lots of people with the level of sentimental attachment necessary to buy a pet casket. If its gonna happen for him he needs to find a wider exposure and the web is the cheapest way for that to happen.
 
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Hi Travis :wave:,
Fortunately he likes wood working and stays productive.

Just recently and I'm not even sure where, I noticed an article about beds for pets.

Many different styles, beds with headboards and foot boards, creative contemporary, arts and crafts, even smaller reproductions of the bed their masters sleep in. Course, they would need a mattress.:dunno: Maybe build the beds to fit mattresses on the market. This could be a year aound thing.
Wish him well!
Shaz
 

Peter Lyon

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Puyallup, WA
Personally, I think Jim's suggestion to build pet "urn's" is an excellent one. Here in Washington state, it would technically be illegal to dispose of an animal carcass by just burying it. That's not to say it isn't done all the time in rural settings for a single animal or two, but a vet would never get away with mass burials unless they followed accepted procedures. Instead, most family pets are cremated. The owner then has the choice to take the ashes or pay the vet to dispose of them.

When my mother-in-law's beloved dog died :)thumb:a vicious little ****zu named Porky, whom I despised), she asked me to build her a small box to put the ashes in. However, had her son-in-law not been a woodworker, she would have gladly spent whatever it took to get a nice urn. I suspect a lot of totally devoted pet owners feel similarly.

An added advantage to the small box/urn concept is that shipping becomes a whole lot easier if the buyer is remotely located.
 

Douglas Jones

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Portland, OR
Urns are definitely a good additional product to offer for your dad. I used to make urns for the sublimation market, folks would put a image of the pet and any verbage they wanted onto a tile that would be attached to the front of the urn. This way, it was visable from a mantle or shelf. I designed them so that the bottom was loose at purchase, to be glued in after placing the ashes in.

I also got started making feeding stations. It is said that for the larger dogs, a taller station is better for them than eating from a dish on the floor or ground.

I had a internet site that I sold from and supplied a number of vets with products. I would suggest that your father contact any local vets about placing a sample in the office along with purchase information.

Doug
 
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2,369
He's started making urns which is a good thing I guess. I think one of the major problems he is going to have is my mother. You see her father (my grandfather) made wooden toys and supplemented his income in his retirement years by doing the craft show circuit and selling his toys. I think deep down she hates his casket making business (won't even let him try to make a human one) and really wants my Dad to make toys. She is very controlling (or tries to be) so he has an uphill battle if he wantes to make what he really wants.
 

Bill Grumbine

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Kutztown PA
Travis, I think urns are the way to go, and he can probably make them without coffin up any more money for tools. :eek: I have them on my own "business plan" for the next step if I ever get caught up with doing the stuff I am doing now. I have made a few already, and there is a pet crematorium just a little over a mile from my house that covers almost about a 30 mile radius here. But he is going to have to develop a larger market, not just the local one unless of course, there is a pet crematorium near you folks too! That means developing a plan for shipping, advertising, etc.

One thing to offer your father, if he has not already thought of this, is to make urns with a holder for a picture of little Fluffy. That way the people who buy these thing have a value added thingy to make his urns more desirable than the other guy's. Of course, if he gets a lathe and starts turning, we are going to have to talk...

I also agree that he needs to diversify. Any business built on a single item or customer is in danger if desire for that item or that particular customer disappears. I am not getting rich here, but I am keeping my head above water. But I turn, teach, build furniture, sell some tools, and the movie stuff helps quite a bit too. Diversity is key, at least when it comes to woodworking. ;)
 
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