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Starting A Business? Why.

Thinking about starting a business? You’d better think first about why you’d ever do such a thing.

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Businesses fail every single day. I’m sure every person reading this has known someone who had a business fail, witnessed a business they grew up with go under or had business failures of their own. More often than not, the reason for that failure goes hand in hand with blaming an outside influence. It’s easy to push the blame on to a corporation and say you can’t compete. But is that really what’s going on? In this article, let’s dive a little deeper into why some businesses fail, and some succeed.

Let’s first reframe the way we look at the word “business”. Remove the skyscrapers, the corporate board meetings, the company credit cards, and the suits that cost more than my entire shop put together. Business is nothing more than the selling of goods and/or services. That’s it. I have a product. You need my product. I give you my product and you give me something in return. Typically that is money, in today’s society. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Everybody can therefor just create something, sell it, and become successful, correct? Not so much. Although the act of creating something may be simple enough, there is far more needed to succeed. You need to have a reason as to why you’re starting a business.

And that reason needs to be a very good one.

Let’s rewind to June of 2018. Your friendly woodworking bear was not in a good place at that time. Coming off the heels of a decision to admit defeat and stop trying for children after 4 years and no luck, I was crushed inside. Hope was entirely lost. My marriage with my lovely wife, who I had been with since I was 17 years old, was hanging on by the skin of its teeth. We were both full of pain, watching the years tick by and not being able to hear our baby’s laugh, or rock her to sleep. In such a scenario, it is not hard to believe that I replayed every poor choice I had made in my life, hyper analyzed every hurtful word I’d ever said (especially to my wife), and wondered if this was God’s punishment. The breaking point was finally reached and I, a 6’3″ full bearded giant, collapsed in the shower weeping. I prayed, and begged, for God to not take this from my wife. Punish me as you wish, but don’t take this from her. 2 weeks later she was pregnant.

Fast forward to March 4th, 2019. After 40 hrs of labor with no sleep and no food, my wife was rushed into an emergency c-section. Barely coherent, pumped full of morphine, terrified, and blood pressure so high that the nurses were becoming concerned for her heart. 20 minutes later, I heard my baby girl cry for the first time, and laid eyes on the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in this world. She was perfect in every conceivable way. She was everything I had dreamed of for years, and so much more.

A few months, and an unfathomable amount of sleep deprivation later, I began thinking about our financial situation. 9 bulging discs, a neck injury that will never heal, a crushed spinal cord in 3 locations, a crushed vagus nerve, sciatica in my left leg, and chronic migraines all from a horrific car accident 9 years prior left me incapable of holding down a full time job. It was time to stop working odd jobs to make ends meet, and take control. God blessed me with a daughter, and I was going to answer that call and do everything within my power to ensure that she had a good upbringing. So I went into my horribly neglected garage, so packed with the accumulation of a million things that found there way in there that I couldn’t walk a straight line from one end to the other, and began cleaning. Cleaning turned into reorganizing. Reorganizing turned into building cabinets on the wall and work stations. I had no idea what I was doing yet, but I knew I needed a clean area before I could even begin the process of figuring out what the right path was.

Eventually I landed on woodworking. I had entertained the idea of building overlanding trailers, but I didn’t have nearly enough space. Next idea was custom knife making. I quickly shelved that when I began researching the startup costs. So, woodworking it was. I grew up watching my father build stuff, and had done a fair bit of crude building on my own since. I didn’t even know what I was going to build yet, but I knew it was going to involve wood.

Now, that was a long story. You may be thinking “Woodshop Bear, we don’t need your life story, we need business advice”. To that, I’ll ask you to go to the top of this article and re-read the first 3 paragraphs.

The name of my business is Little Bear Woodshop. When our first born daughter was still in the womb, our nickname for her was Little Bear. Upon creation of this business, I thought of many great potential names, but this business was founded with the intention of passing it on to our children when we are too old to continue on with it. But more important than the passing along of a business, I want to pass along the lessons of hard work, of never giving up, and of taking care of your family. That picture above this article contains our logo. At first glance, one could easily get the impression that this was a gimmicky way to capitalize on the bear community. But there is a much deeper meaning to why I chose it as the final logo design for our company. The day after we came home from the hospital, I did what every new father does and put my daughter’s hand in mine. I marveled at how small it was. I wept, holding her hand in mine. I still felt unsure about what my path in life was, and was still harboring a considerable amount of insecurity about myself. Staring at her hand in mine, with tears rolling down my cheeks into my beard, I realized that none of that mattered anymore. The life I lived prior to her arrival, full of copious amounts of overthinking, self doubt, self pity more times than I’d care to admit to, and constantly being hypercritical of myself was over. Looking at that tiny hand, seeing how she had no control or dexterity yet, reshaped my entire view of the world and my own life.

That little paw is hers, inside of mine. I am her protector, her provider, and she is entirely dependent on her mother and I. I designed that logo myself, knowing that in the future when times became hard and I felt like giving up, I would need a constant reminder of why I was doing this. And you’d better believe that after carving 60 wooden spoons by hand with a hook knife over the course of 2 weeks, with blisters so big I couldn’t fully bend my fingers and hands wrapped in cloth and bandages so as to not get blood on the products I was making, I looked at that logo. And it gave me a strength like nothing else could have, and I continued on through the pain. When I wanted so desperately to take a day off after working 8 to 12 hours a day in that shop, every single day, for over 6 months straight, I looked at that sign and said “I can do more today”. This feeling grew exponentially with the recent birth of our second baby girl. As our family grows, so does my desire to provide. That well has not run dry once since I became a father.


Want to start a business? You’d better think long and hard about why you want it. These times that I’m describing are not exclusive to woodworking. In any business endeavor, there will come a point where you feel utterly defeated and you’re ready to give up. If you’re starting a new business you will work so hard, for so long, with so little reward, that exhaustion will not even begin to express what you feel. It is crucial that you have something to push you through that, as that’s often when things are about to start turning around. Businesses fail because people running them either didn’t have something to hold onto when they started, or they somehow lost it along the way. When faced with a challenge, that motivation will be what drives you to adapt in whatever way you need to in order to keep it going. Without that motivation, you will succumb to the stress, the challenges, and the fear.

He who starts a business for riches or fame will eventually fail when presented with a storm. He who starts a business for his family will teach himself how to waterproof his boots, which he also taught himself how to make, before marching into the storm.

I worked for 6 months straight to prepare for the local Farmers Market here in Portland, OR. I lost my spot overnight due to new covid regulations that shrunk the usable space by over 1/3 of its total. I had over $10,000 in finished products sitting on shelves in my shop ready to go. I took a breath, and began taking pictures of all of it to put into our online store. I started researching what tools were needed to make new products. I brainstormed new designs for cutting boards, started researching where to source new hardware, and continued on. My baby will not go hungry because I faced a challenge. That small paw holds food in its hand because this big paw is blistered, cut, bruised, and aching.

I encourage all of you who are thinking or dreaming about starting a business to find that reason why before you even take the first step. To those who have a business already, take a moment to remind yourselves. Listen to your children laugh, look at their smiling faces, or imagine what they will look like if you have yet to experience the wonder that is parenthood. Anybody can sell a cutting board. Very few can carve 60 spoons when every hand movement causes wincing pain.

Onward, my friends!

-Woodshop Bear

Business

Scale Or Fail

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When we start a business we do so with the intent of earning an income. I doubt anyone in their right mind doesn’t want that income to be as high as possible. We all have bills, dreams, and many have debt they’d like to get out from underneath of. We work harder than your typical 9-5 employee in order to earn that income. We put everything we have into doing a dozen people’s jobs by ourselves. And, if God wills it, we eventually start to see the fruit of our labor. And that is when you can potentially experience the complete opposite outcome you’d envisioned.

In business there is a term used from time to time, which is “the hug of death”. Picture being hugged by someone you love so tightly that you can’t take in a breath. That person may be so happy to see you that they squeeze you as hard as they can to show their love and excitement, but it ultimately can lead to your death if you’re unable to breathe. The same concept can be found in the business sense of this term. Sometimes businesses focus entirely too much on marketing, without first having built the proper infrastructure to be able to handle a massive influx of orders or business. This can, and often does, lead to the downfall of otherwise great business ventures. People can quite literally get so much business that they go out of business. I’ll explain how this works, with personal examples, even though it seems entirely counterintuitive.

About 1.5 years ago I wrote a letter to our favorite comedian and bard Owen Benjamin, and included some items I’d made as a thank you for all of the revelatory changes he had helped bring forth in my life. At the time I thought my business had failed before it had even gotten off the ground. I was en route to sell all season long at our local farmers market, and had been working for months to stock inventory. In March of 2020 I had that invitation revoked due to new state guidelines with everything that was unfolding. I sent my items to Owen, and said if he happened to open it on a stream and I got a couple orders that would be a blessing, but if I didn’t then God had other plans for me. 10 minutes after he opened my box/letter on stream I had over $2,000 in orders. Within 24 hours I had another $2,000 in orders. Needless to say I was elated. But, that feeling also came with a huge amount of stress. It took me nearly 3 weeks to get the orders made and shipped, and I was beginning to worry that the long shipping times would result in unhappy customers. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, so I used the profit I had earned to invest in new tools to speed up production.

Fast forward 8 months to December of 2020. Once again, the potential hug of death hit, but much larger this time. The Christmas season was upon us, and I got hit with a wave of orders like I never could have imagined. In total, over 240 orders were placed over the course of 3 weeks, with nearly 1,000 individual items ordered. Once again, I realized how unprepared I was for this rush, and I can’t put into words how hard I worked that month. 12 to 14 hour days, every single day, for a month straight. My days consisted of working in the shop all day, packaging orders, dropping orders at UPS and USPS, making 2-3 shops runs a week, not being able to breathe in my shop because there was so much sawdust in the air but I didn’t have time to deep clean, and not being able to breathe at night when the panic set in and I thought about the 30 products I had to make the next day. All of this while we had 2 teething children under the age of 2, getting no sleep, and exhausted. There were times at the end of the night when I’d finish in the shop, come inside, put my daughter to sleep, and nearly cry from exhaustion. And, as many business owners have done before me, that level of both physical and emotional exhaustion led to the one and only time I’ve ever thought about closing my business.

Those who know me might think that’s a crazy thing to think. I’m Woodshop Bear. All I do is crush. But in that moment, I crushed too hard. I was in over my head in a way I’d never experienced in my life. While it was wonderful to do $10k in business in 3 weeks, I had to make every single one of those products by hand, package and ship them, and try to be as present as possible to help my wife with the children. The thought of closing my business was not due to a lost desire to do what I love, but rather the sheer weight of doing it all by myself. Obviously I crushed those 240+ orders, got everything out in time, and continued crushing. But I also crashed afterwards, which caused a whole new set of challenges for a couple of months. After that rush, I temporarily got nervous every time I saw an order pop up on my phone. Again, this sounds ridiculous, but this is the nature of business sometimes. When you experience the hug of death, and make it through, it can take time to come back down from the constant adrenaline rush.

I don’t tell you this to deter you from starting a business whatsoever. This might sound scary, but the reason I experienced those times (especially December), is because I had not scaled accordingly. That was a mistake on my part. I got so wrapped up in the excitement of having steady business and being able to support my family that I lost track of scaling my business, my tools, my storage, my shop supplies I had on hand, etc. My lack of planning resulted in loads of unnecessary stress and worry. I was taking 4 times longer to sand things than I needed to because I had not yet invested in a proper bench top sander. I had no room to move because I had put off moving my inventory storage up into my office. This slowed down production heavily. I had not taken the steps I needed to in order to speed up production, and it came back to bite me hard.

If you’re starting a business, or have a small business, may you learn from my mistakes. Getting more business is always a blessing, but be sure that your business infrastructure is at a level which can handle the increase in orders before they arrive. Have extra shipping supplies on hand, so you’re not waiting on boxes to arrive with orders that needed to go out days ago like I was. Make sure you have extra supplies on hand before potential business rushes like holidays. Make up extra inventory and have it on hand (if possible), so you’re not caught with more orders than you can process in a day. And most importantly, grow your business at a pace which allows you to comfortably acclimate to the increased pressures that come along with more orders. That time of growth may seem like a burden, as you’d like to be making as much as possible at all times, but that time is when you learn and are able to make the necessary adjustments so you can succeed.

Until next time, Onward

-Woodshop Bear

https://www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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Rebel Joe Coffee, It will give you legs…

“I think about her every day and I hope she is proud of what I’m doing.” says Max. 

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They said this coffee can really stand up for itself, that it would make your beard grow overnight, a coffee so legendary it will have you crushing in your sleep. So logically, We had to try it. We have never been crazy about where we buy our coffee from, our go to blend is the wholesale club’s own organic medium roast. Once in a while we would splurge for a more local Vermont whole bean organic coffee but it was never a priority to have “great tasting” coffee. We honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference between our past purchases. Then we bought Rebel Joe.

 

We got the 5 lb Uprising Breakfast Blend and the monthly special of Pecan or Pecan’t. You can get yours here. First of all the shipping was quick from order to delivery and the cost is comparable to the coffee we had been purchasing. We immediately took note of the roasting date, it was roasted just five days prior to the day we received it. The fresh roasted smell of the whole bean coffee tickles our nostrils as soon as we opened the bag. The flavored coffee smelled like a delicious cone of butter pecan ice cream on a hot summer’s day. We knew we were going to like this coffee. 

When we got our gravity filter, we thought our coffee game had changed but like a true legend Rebel Joe upped the game even more. The smooth rich taste of the coffee is notable with or without cream. There is no bitterness of over roasting or neglect that comes with store bought coffee. Delicious hot or iced this coffee is highly recommended. 

Max, better known as Board Game Bear, has really brought new life to the coffee world. The branding and creative genius behind Rebel Joe really makes him stand out as an entrepreneur. But he couldn’t have done it without his mother. The love a son has for his mother is never better expressed then when she needs it most. He helped his sister care for their mother who was suffering from ALS the last years of her life. In doing so brought her back to God and made sure she was baptized 3 months before her passing. He was also baptized on Mother’s Day the same year and hasn’t looked back. While the task at hand was heartbreaking and nearly unbearable at times he wouldn’t have chosen any other path. Rebel Joe wouldn’t have come to fruition with out his mother. The modest inheritance he received after her passing allowed this venture to come to life and her memory lives on through his hard work and dedication.

“I think about her every day and I hope she is proud of what I’m doing.” says Max.

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Morality Over Money

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    There are many reasons why someone takes the scary leap into starting their own business. Maybe they aren’t happy with their salary. Perhaps they think they can build a better business than where they currently are. Could it be that they feel there’s no future in their position and they’re just outright bored? Whatever the cause is, more often than not the underlying reason revolves around the acquisition of more fiat currency. People will sacrifice paid health care, paid time off, sick days, vacation days, and job stability and security for the unpromised dream of more cash in their bank account. And this is where many people make their first mistake.

    When you operate from a place of fear (in this case the fear of not having enough money), both in your personal life and the decisions you make in your business, you are led down a road which will ultimately result in the sacrificing of your own morality in the never ending pursuit of more cash. And that cash will never bring you true happiness.

    The alternative to this soul sucking pursuit of material gain is to operate your business in a way where you are spreading good into the world. While this may seem counter-intuitive to every piece of business advice you’ve ever heard, it’s the absolute truth. When you use your business power to bring others honest, selfless joy, you not only gain a customer who’s emotionally invested in the future well-being of your business, but you also get to lay your head down at night knowing that you used your power to do good. Unlike paper rectangles or 1’s and 0’s in a computer, this will actually bring you happiness, and give you purpose going forward.

    A personal example of this from my own business is as follows. Around Christmas time of 2020, I had a customer reach out to me saying her family had experienced a very brutal year and she had only a very small amount of money to buy something for her husband, but if she was going spend it anywhere she wanted to support a small family business. She wanted to purchase one of my Deer Hunter pens, as her husband was a hunter and she thought he’d really like it. I could have very easily made the pen, sent it out, and never thought about it again. What I chose to do instead was make the pen, make an additional pen valued at $40, and send them both out with a hand written note to her husband wishing him good fortune in his future hunts. I did this in the middle of working 14hr days trying to keep up with a holiday business rush the likes of which I never could have anticipated. She received the package and was both shocked and elated, and she is now a top follower on my social media and shares my posts all of the time, giving my business tons of promotion. I lost money from my own pocket to do this small act of kindness, but if we measure good deeds in dollars, we’ve already lost everything that makes us good.

    Is my ego forever inflated because I did something good? Not at all. But my heart is full knowing that I have reached a point in my business where I can do small acts like this from time to time that bring joy to others. You’d be hard pressed to find an employee at any big box store who would use money from their own pocket to bring you joy when you’re in a trying time. And this is the fundamental difference between operating a business from a position of money acquisition compared to spreading kindness. Both the big box store and the small family business are profiting, but when the dollar collapses the store will be left with nothing, while the family business will be left knowing they did good in this world. The question you must ask yourself when running a business is where do you want to be when that day comes? Do you want your legacy to be worthless paper, or changed lives?

    Until next time my friends, Onwards.

-Woodshop Bear

Website: www.littlebearwoodshop.com

 

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