You've stumbled upon the idea to build a sawmill cottage business and now you're ready to take the next steps.
There's a lot to think about when building a business, so we put together a guide on how to get started, launch, grow and run your sawmill cottage business.
We also provide you with real-life case studies and examples of founders running successful sawmill cottage business (and how much💰 they're making today).
💡 Introduction To Starting A Sawmill Cottage Business
Is Starting A Sawmill Cottage Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a sawmill cottage business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a sawmill cottage business
• Rewarding work
Starting a sawmill cottage business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet as a sawmill cottage business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• Daily physical activity
Sawmill Cottage Business's typically involve a much greater degree of movement than other lines of work. Most days, you will spend your day walking, running errands for your business, and performing a multitude of tasks. This can have a positive impact on energy levels and your overall health.
• Amazing perks and discounts
Working in the sawmill cottage business comes with its perks! As a seller for these products/services, you typically also get to enjoy industry perks and discounts.
• You are your own boss!
With starting a sawmill cottage business, you are the one to make decisions for almost all of the operations. Calling the shots can be empowering and liberating!
• Local Community
One of the best parts of starting a sawmill cottage business is that you can develop a local following by selling your products at craft shows, farmers' markets, or even local storefront businesses! This gives you access to additional revenue streams and loyal customers.
• Higher likelihood of getting referrals
This business is all about referrals, which can be a a very impactful way to attract and retain customers. It's critical that you have a great referral program in place that incentivizes your customers to tell their friends about your product.
• Location is everything!
When operating a physical storefront, the location often speaks for itself and serves as it's very own marketing tool! It's important to choose a location in a high traffic area so you can spark curiosity and get people through your door!
• Face to face interaction
If you are the type of individual that thrives on human interaction, then this is the business for you! With a sawmill cottage business, you will be hands-on with customers and or employees every day.
• Simple business model
A sawmill cottage business has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• You get to do something you truly love
With starting a sawmill cottage business, you get to put your energy into something you are truly passionate about! You'll find yourself devoting as much time and energy as possible into the business to make it successful.
• Easy to Learn The Business
When starting your sawmill cottage business, there is a ton of information readily available to you online (Facebook groups, Youtube videos, Starter Story etc). This will help you get the business started and answer any questions, doubts or concerns you may have.
• Never a dull moment
With starting a sawmill cottage business, there is truly never a dull moment. Your job offers a lot of variety and allows you to meet interesting people from all walks of life.
Cons of starting a sawmill cottage business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your sawmill cottage business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Finding The Right Supplier
Most businesses in this space go the supplier/manufacturer route, which isn't a bad thing! However, finding the right supplier can take a lot of time, energy and trial/error. If done properly, this process can save you months (if not years) of time and energy. More on this below in the "finding a supplier" section.
• Motivation of employees
If you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you're able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.
• Low margins
The gross margins for your sawmill cottage business are typically around 43%, which can make it more challenging to incur new expenses and maintain profitability.
• High employee turnover
In the sawmill cottage business, employee turnover is often high, which can be quite costly and time consuming for your business. It's important to try and avoid this as much as possible by offering competitive pay, benefits, and a positive work environment.
As a sawmill cottage business, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It's important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you're taking on is worth it.
• High overhead expenses
With starting a sawmill cottage business, there are overhead expenses that come with selling a physical product. You will want to make sure you strategically budget for these overhead costs. We discuss this more in the startup costs section below.
• You may need to charge sales tax
If you are selling your products in various states, you may be required to charge sales tax. Although this may not impact your financials specifically, it can be a headache to create a process and procedure for this. To learn more about sales tax, check out this article
• Time commitment
With starting a sawmill cottage business, all responsibilities and decisions are in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, work life can take over at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• You might struggle financially (at first)!
If you bootstrap your business or choose not to pay yourself (or pay yourself less than you were making at your corporate job), this can be financially taxing. It's important to adjust your lifestyle and set a plan for yourself so you don't find yourself in a stressful situation.
• More of a challenge to run your business from home!
Running your business from the comfort of your own home is a big appeal for many entrepreneurs. With a sawmill cottage business, you are more likely to run your business out of your office or storefront space.
- African Advice (62.6K Alexa Ranking)
- SCARBOROUGH.GOV.UK (770K Alexa Ranking)
- Ireland Look Up (1.35M Alexa Ranking)
- Oglebay (1.59M Alexa Ranking)
- Duplex plans, House plans and Apartment plans (1.75M Alexa Ranking)
- Kamwo Timber (5.99M Alexa Ranking)
- Wood Prices (5.25M Alexa Ranking)
- IndonesiaBizlist.com (4.93M Alexa Ranking)
- Stone Cliff Inn (4.56M Alexa Ranking)
- SawmillTrader.com (4.52M Alexa Ranking)
Let's take a look at the search trends for sawmill cottage over the last year:
How To Name Your Sawmill Cottage Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your sawmill cottage business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your sawmill cottage business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your sawmill cottage business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your sawmill cottage business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your sawmill cottage business:
- RuinedSawmill check availability
- The Owned Mills check availability
- Neighbouring Lumber Pro check availability
- Nearest check availability
- Owned Sawn check availability
- Neighboring Factory Collective check availability
- Grist Mill check availability
- New Factory Collective check availability
- SuccessfulSawmill check availability
- Noisy Lumber check availability
- Cooperative check availability
- Modern Lumber check availability
- Windmill Place check availability
- Owned Milling check availability
- Neighbouring check availability
- Tribal check availability
- Local Lumber check availability
- Wind Windmill check availability
- The Nearby check availability
- Swedish Softwood check availability
- Lumbermill Group check availability
- Profitable check availability
- Sized Sawlog check availability
- The Tribal Sawing check availability
- Factory Group check availability
- Upright check availability
- Distant Lumbermill check availability
- Hand Chainsaw Pro check availability
- Deserted check availability
- Upright Sawing Trading Co check availability
- Lumber Trading Co check availability
- Backwoods Sawing check availability
- Miniature Sawing Group check availability
- Typical check availability
- DownSawmill check availability
- Scale Silviculture check availability
- Lumber Spot check availability
- Small Milling Spot check availability
- Lumbermill Pro check availability
- Down check availability
- Crude Chainsaw Collective check availability
- Man Lumber Collective check availability
- ProfitableSawmill check availability
- Little Milling check availability
- Swedish Shipyard check availability
- Sized Sawing check availability
- Little check availability
- The Large check availability
- Nearest Chainsaw Pro check availability
- Crude Windmill Co check availability
- Sawing Co check availability
- Commercial Milling check availability
- The Largest Lumber check availability
- Occasional check availability
- Big Chainsaw Collective check availability
- ScaleSawmill check availability
- NewSawmill check availability
- Crude Sawing check availability
- Grist Mill Collective check availability
- Temporary Factory Trading Co check availability
- HandSawmill check availability
- Swedish check availability
- Mills Pro check availability
- Sawing Group check availability
- Sawn Collective check availability
- Lumber Place check availability
- Miniature Lumber check availability
How To Create A Slogan For Your Sawmill Cottage Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your sawmill cottage business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your sawmill cottage business:
- From Big To Stingy
- Portable Mill, Big Sawing
- So Easy, No Wonder Sawmill Is #1.
- Small Foundries Are What We Do
- Schhh... You Know Sawmill.
- Sawmill Is A Never Ending Story.
- Small Timberlands Are What We Do
- You'll Wonder Where The Yellow Went, When You Brush Your Teeth With Sawmill.
- First Waterwheels Are What We Do
- Designed For Sawmill.
- Site Of The Lumber
- Wouldn't You Rather Be Sawmill?
- Sawmill, I Want It All.
- Don't Play With Fire, Play With Sawmill.
- Large Sawmill, Satisfaction Guaranteed
- I Can't Believe It's Not Sawmill.
- Local And Oval
- The Art Of Sawmill.
- Sawmill, How Did You Live Without It?
- Sawmill Keeps Them Coming Back
- Plant Is What We Do
- Old Lumbermill, Little Lumberyard
- Big Factory, First Mills
- Two Sawmill Are Better Than One.
- From Old To Young
- From Little To Mature
- Dairy Farmer Is What We Do
- Small Lumberman, First Chainsaw
- Portable Plant, New Chainsaw
- Big Sawmill, We Take Care Of You!
- Orchard Is What We Do
- Saved By Sawmill
- Portable Sawmill, Better Results
- From Unpowered To Supercharged
- Rate Of The Milling
- First Sawmill - A New You
- Sweet As The Moment When The Sawmill Went 'Pop'
- Portable Millings Are What We Do
- Sawmill Is Crazy Good.
- Work Hard, Sawn Harder
- Sawmill Makes Your Day.
- Textile Mill Is What We Do
- Old Factory, Large Lumbermill
- Powered And Inspired
- New Forestlands Are What We Do
- Beware Of Expensive Sawmill.
- From Little To Great
- You Better Get Your Sawmill Out.
- Sawmill First At The Finish Line!
- Nothing Is Faster Than Sawmill.
- Large Sawmill, We Take Care Of You!
- Sawmill Keeps Going And Going.
The Brick & Mortar Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a sawmill cottage business, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want (brick and mortar, eCommerce, or both)!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a Brick & Mortar store:
If you do plan to open a physical store, it's important that you find a spot in a high-traffic area. This is a great way to gain exposure for your business and also get new customers.
It's also important to consider the higher costs associated with operating a physical store (ie - employees, rent, utilities, etc) and the long days/hours associated with running a store.
The main benefit, however, is that customers love being able to see products in person. It's important to recognize that although some people enjoy shopping online, there will always be the shopper persona that likes to touch, feel, and see the product they're buying.
🎬 How To Start A Sawmill Cottage Business
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Sawmill Cottage Business
If you are planning to start a sawmill cottage business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a sawmill cottage business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $12
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $37,876
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a sawmill cottage business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Cleaning Supplies: Cleaning supplies are essential products we used daily at home and in almost all places worldwide. These items are used to effectively and safely remove dirt and germs to control allergens and prevent the spreading of contagious diseases, helping us stay healthy.||$63||$200|
|First-aid Equipment: First-aid kits can be bought as a set if not gathered one by one. These are vital in all places of work, homes, and even in cars, especially when you plan to travel or go camping. So, to protect your workers, clients, and kinsfolks, you must always keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy.||$3||$500|
|Uniforms: In this business, it's common to wear uniforms. The cost will depend on the number of employees you have and the quality of uniform you buy.||$0||$500|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$66 (min)||$1,200 (max)|
|Retail Business Expenses|
|Shop Decor: If you plan to operate a physical store, you may want to consider decorating the place with wall decor, furniture, plants etc.||$0||$5,000|
|Utilities (storefront business): This refers to the cost of monthly utilities for your storefront location, which is typically based on a per-square-footage rate.||$0||$1,000|
|Building improvements and remodeling: If you plan to operate a physical location, you may find yourself dealing with building improvements and remodeling costs. Even if these costs are minimal, this is something to consider when renting/buying a physical location.||$0||$950|
|Storefront Property Rent: This refers to the storefront space you rent or buy for your business. The cost depends largely on the city and the size of the space. Keep in mind that other costs may be involved with your base rent and your lease will define additional expenses you are responsible for.||$1,250||$3,500|
|POS System: Gone are the days of cash registers! Many businesses now use point-of-sale systems for their checkout needs and to track sales and inventory. Here is a list of the best POS systems for small businesses!||$0||$1,200|
|Total Retail Business Expenses||$1,250 (min)||$11,650 (max)|
|Upfront Costs For Inventory: This includes all upfront inventory you will need in order to launch. Be sure to compare prices of wholesalers to ensure you're getting the best deal and margins remain high.||$300||$5,000|
|Inventory Storage: If you decide to have a physical space for your sawmill cottage business, whether it be used for inventory or as a showroom, you may have monthly rent payment or a large down payment associated with renting/buying the space.||$0||$5,000|
|Package Design: Packaging refers to wrapping and protecting products during distribution, shipping, and sales.Your package design is your customer's first impression of your brand, so it's important you spend some time and energy to get this right from the start.Many businesses design their own packages using design software and tools. There is always the option to outsource this to a design expert, but that route tends to be much more expensive.||$50||$3,000|
|Shrinkage: Shrinkage refers to the loss of inventory at any point between the purchase from your supplier and the purchase by your customer. Although you will try to avoid this at all costs, this does happen sometimes (especially in the learning stages of your business), and it's important to plan ahead financially in case this happens. Fortune states that retail shrinkage costs U.S. retailers approximately 1.4 percent of their total sales.||$0||$1,000|
|Distribution costs: Depending on what distribution plan you choose, expenses such as renting vans, hiring delivery drivers and gas costs can add up. If you are looking to save money upfront, you may want to consider conducting distribution on your own.||$0||$750|
|Total Inventory Expenses||$350 (min)||$14,750 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A sawmill cottage business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Tradeshow costs: With a sawmill cottage business, attending tradeshows is very common. If you have a booth set up at a tradeshow, the cost on average is around $100-$150 per square foot. In addition to the booth fees, you should also budget for giveaway swag, WiFi/electricity, and other promotional items.||$0||$5,000|
|Networking Membership Fees: Joining local networking groups or your chamber of commerce is a traditional yet effective way to promote your sawmill cottage business - but these fees add up! It's important to choose the right group(s) that align with your business and help with growth.||$0||$250|
|Business Signage: Business signs let people know they're in the right place and are one of the first impressions your customer will have of your business.The cost for signage depends on a variety of elements:- material- size- number of colors- durability- installation and laborThere are plenty of design tools and software to create your own signs, or you can hire a sign business to do this for you.||$75||$2,486|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Influencer Marketing: Partnering with like-minded influencers is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media presence. Many small businesses simply gift a free item in exchange for an influencer post, or pay the influencer directly.||$0||$750|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$75 (min)||$9,636 (max)|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here.||$0||$100|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your sawmill cottage business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Total Software Expenses||$0 (min)||$425 (max)|
|Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Business Email Hosting Service: An email hosting runs a dedicated email server. Once you have your domain name, you can set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are G Suite and Microsoft 365 Suite. The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$1||$15|
|Total Website Costs||$13 (min)||$215 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$12 (min)||$37,876 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Sawmill Cottage Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your sawmill cottage business:
You may not need funding for your sawmill cottage business.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
VC funding is a traditional and long process, but an effective way to raise money for your business.
The term "VC funding" refers to venture capital firms investing in businesses in exchange for equity.
The VC's (venture capitalists) are an individual or small group investing in your business and typically require substantial ownership of the business, with the hope of seeing a return on their investment.
VC's are typically the best approach for businesses with high startup costs - where it would be very difficult to raise the money on your own or through a loan.
When deciding whether to take this approach, it's important that you have a few things in place first, and know what you're getting yourself into:
Determine if your business is ready
Having an idea is not enough to get VC funding.
Typically, VC's will check to make sure you have these things in place prior to closing any deal:
- An MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- A founding team with all proper documents in place (articles of organization, business formation)
- A validated idea with actual customers buying your product/service
Get everything in place and build a pitch deck
A VC individual or firm will be expecting a fine-tuned presentation that gives an overview of your business.
Here's what you should consider including in your pitch deck:
- Management team, their previous experience + current roles in the business
- Market challenge and solution
- Company financials - including a P&L statement, cash flow statement, and projections
- Company progress
- Investment amount - how much do you need and why?
Research the right VC to fund your business
Research the types of VC investors out there and what niche they focus on.
Then, put together a list of target VC's you want to approach and your strategy around setting up meetings.
Be sure you have everything in place (as discussed above) before setting up any meeting!
Make sure the terms and expectations are right for your business
Committing to VC funding is a big deal and a decision that should not be made lightly.
Although the money and experience from VC's can help your business quickly grow, you are also giving away a stake in the company, and the money comes with strings attached.
Be sure you do your due diligence in finding the right investor - one that truly believes in the growth and success of your business.
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting A Sawmill Cottage Business?
As a sawmill cottage business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Business Savvy Skills
When starting a sawmill cottage business, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting a sawmill cottage business.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Self Motivation Skills
Self motivation and discipline skills are critical in order to become successful in this field.
It's likely that you will find yourself starting and running your sawmill cottage business from home, which could mean there are more distractions for you.
Here are the basic skills needed for self motivation & discipline:
- Becoming a self starter: It's important that you are capable of independently completing a task without the help or direction of anyone else
- Listening and following directions: When you are given direction by others, it's critical that you are able to follow directions and ask the right questions in order to get your job done
- Taking the initiative in problem solving: Instead of taking the easy route, you'll need to learn to troubleshoot issues on your own as much as possible.
Customer Service Skills
Friendly communication with customers and the ability to address service issues is a critical part of the job.
Here are some customer service skills you may want to consider prior to starting a sawmill cottage business:
- Professionalism: The way you act, present yourself, and respond to situations all leave an impression on your customer. It's important to stay professional at all times when handling customer requests or issues.
- Problem-solving: When issues arise, it's important that you are able to think quick on your feet and address the situation with a calm and clear solution
- Friendly-manner: This is an obvious one, but customers truly appreciate someone that can respond in a quick, efficient, and friendly manner.
- Proficient in writing: These skills include the ability to write well-crafted emails, service tickets, and any other programs used by the business (ie. chat functions, SMS texting)
Advice For Starting A Sawmill Cottage Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a sawmill cottage business:
Miriam Zelinsky, founder of Lazyjack Press ($21K/month):
I went to the mill and had a little trouble (to say the least) because of their religious beliefs - they did not think a woman should be in this business.
Read the full interview ➜
Harris Derner, founder of Brine Brothers ($10K/month):
We invested a total of $11,000 in 2016 and had a business valuation of $200,000 3 years later.
Read the full interview ➜
Adam Elliot, founder of D*** At Your Door ($25K/month):
What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity.
Read the full interview ➜
Colin McIntosh, founder of Sheets & Giggles ($200K/month):
Build a business model first, not a product. So many entrepreneurs spend time and money building a solution for a problem they perceive without ever validating that it’s a viable business.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your sawmill cottage business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Sawmill Cottage Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Sawmill Cottage
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a sawmill cottage business is determining how much to charge for your sawmill cottage .
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your sawmill cottage , it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your sawmill cottage so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your sawmill cottage may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your sawmill cottage , you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your sawmill cottage business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your sawmill cottage is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your sawmill cottage fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your sawmill cottage , so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Understanding Your Costs
Example from Ishan, founder of Ugly Duckling
First objective: profitability
Our profitability is OK at this point but definitely not where it should be yet. To this day I have not paid myself a regular salary yet...and it’s been 4 years!
The problem is not the cost of goods which are well under 20% of sales, which is good by any standard. The problem is fulfillment costs. In 2018 we transitioned from our first fulfillment company to a much bigger company. We did this because we wanted to provide faster shipment speeds and a better quality of packaging. In hindsight, we chose a company which would have been more suitable for a larger company with bigger volumes. We ended up being tied in with some pretty large minimum monthly payments. So currently fulfillment costs are currently around 45% of sales...way too high.
We are now looking to transit to another fulfillment center. Our target is to get our fulfillment costs down to around 30% of sales which I believe from what I have researched, is possible.
Just to be clear, when I say fulfillment that includes transportation costs also - FedEx, USPS, etc. Not just storage, picking, and packing. I am pretty sure that it is possible to get fulfillment costs down even lower, and I suspect that some large pro sellers on amazon.com work with around 20-25% of sales.
So our target P+L for 2020 looks something like this:
- Cost of goods, including inbound freight and clearance - around 22% of sales.
- Fulfillment - around 30% of sales.
- Digital Advertising & Promotion - around 15% of sales.
- Other marketing and office costs, including salary costs - around 10% of sales.
- That would leave us around 23% of sales - enough to pay me a liveable salary and for the company to make a profit and finance future growth.
That's the first objective for 2020: to right-size the P+L so that we are profitable at our current sales level
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Sawmill Cottage
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your sawmill cottage business.
Design A Prototype
Turning your idea into a reality can feel like a daunting task - but it's critical that you have an idea of what your product will look like (even if it's just a sketch) prior to finding a manufacturer.
Here are some common ways you can design your prototype:
- Draw Your Initial Design on Paper
- Form pieces of fabric together
- Consider Taking A Generic Product And Putting Your Own Brand On It
- Try Making the Product Yourself
- Consider Building A Prototype With A 3D Printer
To learn more about how to design and prototype a product, check out our latest guide here.
How To Find A Supplier For Your Sawmill Cottage Business
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier/manufacturer:
Know your design
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your design/product will look like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
To get started, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start drawing - or if you are working on a virtual/software product this can be a diagram that outlines the user interface or experience.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
Where to start your search
Once you have an understanding of what type of manufacturer/supplier will be best to bring your idea to life, there are several areas you can start your search:
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your sawmill cottage on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your sawmill cottage .
Leslie Eisen, founder of AlmondClear discusses how to manufacture products in house
If you want to start a line of unique products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.
I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.
I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!
First, you have to tell the chemist what kind of product you’re looking for, the ingredients that you want to include or leave out, and what you want the final product to look like/feel like/smell like, etc.
Then, the manufacturer sends you the first sample, you try it out or give it to others to try, and then provide feedback for revisions. In my case, the first two products came together fairly easily because I only needed to make small changes to stock formulations.
There are many, many rules and regulations around cosmetics and skin care products. If you want to sell products that contain FDA regulated ingredients then you have to register and get a permit.
My products aren’t FDA regulated, so I didn’t have to go through this step, but I did have to be aware of the many guidelines and standards around labeling and safety warnings. Some people hire a lawyer to help them through this process, but my manufacturer was able to guide me through the regulatory process.
The entire process, from researching labs to work with to having the first finished products shipped out to me, took around six months.
Purchasing Inventory For Your Sawmill Cottage Business
When first starting out, it's important to start small with your overhead to get a gauge for what people want.
Just remember - if you order a line of items that don't sell, it's nearly impossible to recoup the money lost.
Buying the right inventory takes research and planning in order to get it right.
- Identify your target audience: Identify the age, gender, annual income that you will be selling to. This is a defining factor in ordering the right inventory that will sell.
- Research your competition: Conduct market research and identify the different types of styles, price points, and materials being used. This will help you see what's trending and ways that you can improve/stay ahead of the competition.
- Create an inventory wishlist: Identify what you need for the launch of your business and create a budget that you will stay within. Remember, it's okay to start small.
- Find a supplier Make sure to first compare prices and analyze different options.
- Delivery timing: Schedule the inventory delivery to match with seasonality and trending buying seasons
Pro-tip: It's easy to become biased based on your own fashion preferences on what types of shoes/apparel to purchase. This is where a lot of fashion businesses go wrong. It's important to base purchase decisions on current buyer behavior, trends in the market, and specific to your niche.
Erin Hooley, founder of Bailey's Blossoms tells us how poor inventory projections led her to lose over $2M
When we first launched Peyton Bre we did so in a social or direct sales model.
Through poor inventory projections we were forced to change models but only after losing $2 million dollars.
It was a devastating time for us and one we were not sure we could survive.
I have since become very intentional about the way that we project our inventory needs and we continue to refine that quarterly and even monthly. We have created a KPI for the cost of goods sold to help us hold ourselves accountable.
Ultimately, the better we manage our inventory the less we have need to discount and the healthier our profit margin becomes.
This is, of course, a very high-level overview of the importance of inventory control.
To see the full breakdown on how to manage inventory, check out my guide over on my blog..
🚀 How To Launch Your Sawmill Cottage Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Launch Strategies For Your Sawmill Cottage Business
There are various different ways you can launch your sawmill cottage business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your sawmill cottage business.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your sawmill cottage business, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your sawmill cottage business is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your sawmill cottage business is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my sawmill cottage business stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Sheets & Giggles explains the motive behind their "Premium Unboxing Experience"
I had a particular vision for our packaging centered around one goal: because we were a DTC company and wouldn’t do physical retail in year 1, we needed to focus entirely on an incredible unboxing experience that made the product feel as premium as possible.
Outside: a white box, nice wax coating, logo front and center with no other copy, easy to open, nice and sturdy.
Inside: make people smile from the get-go, have a social call-to-action, include free extra surprises (a knapsack that wraps the sheets and an eye mask), put funny copy all over the place, and add a donation bag that people could use to donate their now-defunct cotton sheets (sheets & blankets are the #2-most-requested item at shelters behind socks).
🌱 How To Grow Your Sawmill Cottage Business
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Cory Stout, founder of Woodies ($250K/mo) provides us with specifics on how to rank better on amazon:
Our main product is walnut wood sunglasses that I sell for $25 on Amazon and Woodies.com.
I dedicated myself to becoming an Amazon expert. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could find. Shoutout EcomCrew I took the basic fundamentals that are out there and I added a couple of my own twists.
Amazon brings me, 100 brand new customers, every day for very little acquisition cost. If I tried that on my own, it would take a TON of work and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as Amazon, so I took the easy road on this one.
Here's an article I wrote on how to rank better on amazon (30+ Tips):
- Beautiful images (minimum 5 images) especially lifestyle images I use UpgradedImages.com for product photography (hey Ken!)
- Keywords in your title (but it still needs to sound human)
- Competitive price (contributes to high conversion rate)
- NOT having 1-star reviews
- DON'T STOCKOUT: it's such a killer and if you DO stockout, definitely DON'T raise your price right before you do, if anything LOWER your price for the last 10-20 units before you stockout, each ASIN has a 'memory' for when you do get back in stock so that will help you regain ranking quickly
- DON'T VIOLATE AMAZON TOS: just don't
- Perform QC on your stock before you send it in (I sent in a wrong box once and I had to 'remove' over 3,000 pieces so I could sift through them and remove the 150 contaminated pieces 0/7 would not recommend
4/5: Pretty Friggin Important
- Minimum 10 5-star reviews (do this before you do anything below this)
- Well optimized PPC campaigns (could do a whole post on this, keep ACOS under 40%) here's a screenshot of some of my campaigns I use a combination of manual campaigns with exact phrases and high bids...and auto campaigns with a broad range of products and very low bids
- Turning on FeedbackGenius for auto review requests (it's not as good as it used to be, but it's still worth it)
- Get a trademark and get Brand Registry, this protects you from hijackers and other unscrupulous sellers
- Quick response to customer messages (under 12 hours) here are my stats my mom does all my customer service "Employee of the Year" status
- Drive outside traffic (amazon loves outside traffic because they don't have to spend so much to acquire customers) Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords are the usual suspects
- Use ocean shipping to save mucho $$$ on unit costs (use flexport)
Read more about amazon tips here.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Sawmill Cottage Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Sawmill Cottage Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your sawmill cottage business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your sawmill cottage business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your sawmill cottage business.
- How To Make Money With A Portable Sawmill Business: John Davidson
- Starting Sawmill Business – Profit Margin, Cost & Business Plan
- Starting A Sawmills Business - Become An Entrepreneur
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