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Business Q&A: Volume 1

Morals, Social Media and finding like minded folk. Navigating a sea of dilemmas.

Woodshop Bear

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**Public Disclaimer: The views expressed in this Q&A Section are not a representation or reflection of the other authors here at The Beartaria Times, nor are they a representation or reflection of The Beartaria Times in itself. They are the individual thoughts, opinions, and suggestions of the author himself, based on his knowledge of business. Anything read in this section should not be taken as concrete business advice, but rather helpful suggestions if you find them applicable to your own business**

Welcome to our first Q&A session, my friends! For those who did not see my first article, I’ll be answering business questions to the best of my ability for all to read and learn from. This week’s set of questions comes from Ben, who wrote:


“Hi,

Im trying to set up a small business writing and publishing tabletop RPG adventures.
So many people and organizations in this area are SJW/converged, including all the market leaders. Should I hide my right leaning opinions from people? If so, at what point can I stop hiding and be myself?

I have no money to advertise, is it worth using traditional social media in the current environment?

How can I reach out to other people who like crushing and not get bogged down with soy boys?

Thanks for any advice,
Ben”

First, that sounds epic. Please include a character who looks like a Dwarf from the world of Tolkien, but 6’3″ tall and loves woodworking.

1.) Your first question regarding whether or not to hide your right leaning opinions is, for me, an easy answer. Absolutely not. I am a huge proponent of authenticity, and the world is starving for it right now. Do not ever fear being ostracized by the mob because of your morals. Many businesses these days are bending the knee to the mob and throwing artificial support behind causes which they do not truly care about. These causes are never good for people or their clients. Businesses do so to try to capitalize on rage most of the time. I find this practice abhorrent, and am much more fond of running a business quietly and only using your business platform to spread morals if asked (unless of course the spreading of your morals ties into your business). For every one person who has a problem with it, you’ll find 5 people who agree with you and would love to support whatever business endeavor you’re on simply because they want to help boost up like minded people.

I recently had a woman express interest in my products via social media before quickly informing me that she would not be supporting my business after all, citing my personal page which she snooped on and found issue with. I was given a choice in that moment to either bend for a few dollars or hold my ground. I held my ground very strongly. That particular incident spread around a bit, and opened some doors for me. I don’t know if some of those doors would have ever opened had I not stood my ground.

Sometimes God tests our resolve, and the prize we win is based on our decision in that moment. Stand your ground with feet planted firm, and keep faith that upholding morality is more important than any amount of money.

In summary, I would advise you to state your beliefs and opinions if questioned on them, but let your business speak for itself all other times. Your morality will come through in whatever you do, without the need of you being vocal. This is not something that should be feared. Those who understand will be supportive, and those who take issue will quickly fall away.

2.) Regarding your question about using social media in the current environment. I would absolutely suggest you do so. I don’t find any problem with using the tools at our disposal to help grow, as long as they’re being used responsibly and with good intent. Many wish, myself included, that we still lived in times where you simply brought your potato harvest to the market and sold them right then and there. While this is still an option with local farmers markets, it is not the same as it used to be. Try as we might to keep things simple, it is human nature to complicate. As long as you are not creating problems for your business, utilize the infrastructure while you need to. Fingers crossed that someday your business will grow to the point of no longer needing to rely on social media, as your reputation will precede you.

3.) For your last question, as it pertains to business, I would combine answers from your first two questions to answer this one. Be who you are, stand up for morality, spill Logos everywhere, and utilize social media. It may be a slow start, but that’s alright. The things that matter the most in this life are not quickly obtained. As you grow your business, you will grow as a human as well. Let it happen. Burn the dead wood, and continue on. In life, we attract what we give our energy to. Give no energy to the type of people you don’t wish to be in your life or support your business. I live just outside of Portland, OR. I am in the midst of a fallen city full of people I have nothing in common with. I’m still thriving and crushing. Put your faith in God, that He will provide whatever it is you need in this life to grow. When done so with the purest of intentions, you will find that what you need most will enter your life.

This concludes our first Q&A session. Thank you to Ben for the questions, and I hope some of this can help others who may be experiencing the same dilemmas.

If you would like to have your questions answered, please send an email to: Business@beartariatimes.com

Keep crushing everyone!

-Woodshop Bear

Business

Learn Before You Earn

Don’t Let Your Dreams Cloud Your Vision

Woodshop Bear

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Most of us long for the ability to make our own way in this life. I’d venture to guess that most people reading this article would much rather live a life of self accountability, self reliance, and self employment instead of being dependent on an employer to provide the necessary funds for them to feed their families, keep a roof over their head, and give their children a good life. It doesn’t matter who you work for, the act of being beholden to somebody else when it comes to your financial security is stressful. This is why most people start their own business. And this is also why a lot of small business startups fail.

When you hit that wall and can’t possibly work another day in your dead end, soul sucking job, you naturally start dreaming. And man are those dreams big. Many dream so big in that moment that they lose sight of reality, and this can be detrimental to an otherwise great game plan. Dreaming about making a change isn’t bad, but letting that dream cloud your vision when it comes to what you’re truly capable of at that moment can cause a lot of problems. In this article I’d like to share some simple advice for anyone who’s hit that wall and is ready to make a change.

People typically go into creating their own business with one of two mindsets. The first is “I’m done with this job, nothing is going to stop me from doing (insert business plan here), I’m going to be the greatest”. The second is “I know what kind of life I want to live, and thinking about doing this scares the daylight out of me, but I’m ready and willing to learn whatever I need to in order to get there”. There is a fundamental difference between these two starting points, and it is that the second mindset starts you in a position of wanting to learn, whereas the first positions you in a place that is much more prone to failure. When we assume we’re ready for anything in life, we usually aren’t even close.

When we are humble, admit that we need to learn, and open ourselves to the opportunity to gain new knowledge, we often succeed.

When I started my business 1.5 years ago, I was about 10% excited and 90% terrified. I knew that although I was decent at woodworking, I had so much to learn. And I believe that starting point is why I’ve succeeded. I couldn’t begin to guess how many hours of woodworking videos I watched, learning new things and taking mental notes the entire time. I researched every tool I purchased, I learned the ins and outs of how to maintain them properly, how to safely handle them, and how to properly store them. I spent countless hours hunting for the best way to ship orders, package orders, which carriers provide the best rates depending on size and weight of packages. I spent weeks researching different woods, which ones were good for food prep and which were better for non-food related items. I spent months learning before I constructed my first cutting board. Had I not invested this time into learning about the craft, I would have most likely seriously injured myself using a tool I wasn’t familiar with, wasted a huge amount of expensive exotic lumber, and I would not have been prepared for the logistics of running a business. Learning gave me the foundation I needed to be successful.

My advice to anybody looking to start their own business and take control of their own finances would be this: No matter how much you think you know about something, learn more first. It doesn’t matter how good of an electrician you are if you don’t know where to source the materials/supplies you need to perform your job. It doesn’t matter how good of a handyman you are if you don’t know how to schedule appointments, create an invoice, properly bid out a job, etc. The benefit of working for a large company is that the infrastructure is already in place for all of this and you never have to even think about it. You just perform your job and somebody else handles the rest. This is not the case in self employment. You have to juggle 100 things at the same time, all of the time. This is impossible to do without a proper understanding of how each piece of that puzzle fits together.

Before you earn, take the time to learn. Short term income gains can be exciting and appealing, but not at the expense of a failed business when it becomes too overwhelming and you don’t have enough time to catch up with your own dreams.

Until next time my friends, Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

Website: https://www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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Price Vs. Value

Woodshop Bear

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In these modern times, two of the largest gripes people have when they buy just about anything are the price of an item, and how terribly built it is. We’ve all cursed a Swedish piece of furniture, or raged when a spark plug change is preceded by tearing the entire top end of the engine off just to get to them. Typically in that moment, we also reflect on how much the item cost at the time of purchase, and more often than not we regret even buying it. It wasn’t always like this however, and to be successful in business it is imperative to understand what led us to this perpetual annoyance with cheaply made stuff.

Not that long ago, the quality of most things one could purchase was substantially better than today. There is a reason old washing machines were better than new ones, why old tools were indestructible, why cars were built so solidly and would run for a million miles if properly cared for. Manufacturers of old cared much more about the quality of the product they were producing than they do today. There’s no simpler way to put it. For whatever reason, that began changing a few decades ago, and has spiraled out of control and led us to where we are today.

Where I believe it went wrong is a tale as old as time. People got greedy, and began chasing higher and higher profits. And in doing so, the quality of their products decreased. Tool companies realized if they used a slightly softer steel that was considerably cheaper to purchase, then they could increase their profit by 5% on every socket or wrench sold. So they did it. Then they realized if they shipped manufacturing overseas, they could pay 1/10th of the wages that they were paying American workers. So they did. The result of having unskilled workers using cheap steel was an inferior tool which broke easily. But the price never changed to account for this downgrade in quality. The company continued charging the same amount of money for an entirely different tool. I would classify this as not only dishonest, but also disrespectful to the customer.

People work hard for their money, and many people struggle just to keep their lights on. Far too many people go to sleep at night feeling as if they failed, because their children went to bed hungry. I witnessed my own parents go to bed without eating more times than I can remember, because there wasn’t enough food but they made sure we children ate. Were they lazy parents? Not at all. They both worked incredibly hard to provide for myself and my 3 siblings. But a blown furnace here, an unexpected car repair there, and funds become very tight faster than we can often adjust. So when the time comes and someone has a bit of extra money and they’re ready to invest in that tool, or that washing machine, or in the case of my business that butcher block, they want to know that their money is being exchanged for something of good quality. That exchange of money for either goods or a service is the most crucial calculation one can make in business.


Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Every business owner needs to objectively look at the value of what their customers are getting before they should ever set a price. If you set the price too high in relation to the value, nobody will buy your product. If you set it far too low, people will assume it’s cheap and, again, not buy your product. There is always a sweet spot where the price is reasonable, and the customer is able to justify the cost based on the value they know they’ll receive.

A quick example of this, as it relates to my own business: There are many companies who produce butcher blocks for the kitchen. Many of these companies use one type of wood (usually maple or walnut). Little, if any, care is taken into the creation of the block. There are even a couple of big name companies who market, quite literally, a single piece of wood as butcher blocks and charge absurd prices for them. For context, those styles of blocks take 2 cuts on a miter saw and 2 minutes of sanding to produce. Since they’re also a single piece of wood with no joints or wood glue used, they are capable of warping much more easily, as wood does. When doing market research prior to launching my butcher blocks, I asked many people what they thought of these blocks. Every single person said “That’s ridiculous. It’s a piece of wood. They’re asking how much for it?!”

On the contrary, the butcher blocks I produce are made using a mixture of many kinds of wood, both domestic and exotic. They are cut into 3/4″ thick strips, and glued together with alternating grain orientation so the board will not warp after years of washing. I hand pick every piece of wood for every board. In a single board, you could have Wenge wood from Africa, Purpleheart from the Amazon, Hard Maple from New England, etc. I spare no expense in the construction of each board design, because I understand that if I were to be spending $150, I’d expect something that would last for decades.

When I set a price for my butcher blocks, I looked at one thing above all else. What was the value of the board. I don’t mean the price, I mean what was the customer receiving. Was it good quality? Was it aesthetically pleasing? Could the customer find the same board somewhere else? How long would it last? What was the cost of the materials used to produce each board? All of these things went into my final set price. And that price gave me a fair profit, while still coming in $100 cheaper than the above mentioned single piece of wood butcher block.

This description of one of my products is not intended as self promotion. Those who are reading this most likely know who I am, what I do, and what my products are already. What I want you to take away from this is that there is a healthy relationship between price and value, and it’s a relationship that should be carefully considered by anybody who is selling anything. You must remove your bias as the one producing the product or providing the service, and be honest about what it is you’re offering. I know that I offer a quality product, so I charge what I think is a fair price for that product. If you know in your heart that your product or service is decent but could be better, then don’t set unrealistic prices. I know the idea of higher profit seems appealing, but a lifelong customer paying smaller prices is worth exponentially more than a one time customer who rides the roller coaster of regret when your goods and/or services don’t hold up.

Be honest. Be fair. Work hard to better whatever it is that you do, so when the time comes to raise your prices you can do so feeling justified in your decision and knowing that your reputation for quality will ensure your customers follow you.

Until next time Bears! Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

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Not Every Seed Sprouts

Woodshop Bear

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Many years ago, when I was a young kid fresh out of high school, I got my first full time job at one of the largest collision repair shops in the United States here in Lake Oswego, OR. I started as a Lot Attendant (a glorified car washer), and over the course of 1.5 years I worked my way up to Lot Manager. This new position had me being in charge of everything on the lot. I oversaw all of the other Lot Attendants. I was in charge of final inspection and polishing every car before it went out. I had my own bay in the shop, scheduled all customer rides after a drop off and delivered finished cars to customers, etc. I love mechanical stuff, I love cars, and I loved being able to work in a shop. I had endless amounts of fun learning from all of the mechanics and body techs, and every Friday before they left I’d give their cars a detail as a way of saying thank you. The guys at the shop loved having me there, and I started to build some great bonds with a lot of them. The work was grueling manual labor, but I was young, strong and loved it.

Fast forward to the end of my first run at this shop. Our manager moved on and we got assigned a floating corporate manager to oversee everything for a few months while we hunted for a suitable replacement. To put it bluntly, I was not a fan of his way of interacting with employees. As he quite literally arced his neck to look up to me and walked around with ILS (invisible lat syndrome), he quickly made a name for himself in the shop lunch room every day. I kept a professional attitude through the first couple of months, until he told me I needed to shave every single morning since I was driving customers around. I saw no rhyme or reason for it, as every single man who worked in the shop had a beard. I called the owner of the company and talked with him about how ridiculous of a request it was. I was fired the next day, and told I was nothing by this floating manager. This was, as one would imagine, a shock to me. Everybody was blindsided and couldn’t believe I was let go. I left on good terms with all of them, but harboring a strange feeling inside.

For the first time in my working life, I understood what it felt like to be expendable. Here I was, dragging half cuts of cars (literally half of a car, cut down the middle) across the concrete lot with 1 hand like a strongman. I streamlined the lot in numerous ways. Every shop was always clean so the bodymen and painters could work without any clutter. The shops ran like a well oiled machine under my oversight, and then it ended in a flash because I questioned authority.

A few months later I got called back after that manager had moved on, and was asked what it would take for me to work there again. I told them I’d happily come back for a $3 an hour raise, to which they immediately said yes to. They knew my worth, as did I. So, slightly apprehensive but excited to see the guys again, I returned. 3 months later, I was an hour late for work due to extenuating circumstances the night before. I hadn’t slept all night, and my alarm stood no chance after I had been up for nearly 40 hours. I was fired by the new manager over the phone when he called that morning, refusing to even talk to me about it. Once again, I had gone from a valued employee to disposable. It was at that very moment that I decided I wanted to work for myself in the future. I had no idea how I was going to go about doing that, but I knew I needed to make it a reality.

I didn’t immediately start a business. I was a young kid after all, with absolutely no idea how to even start or what I wanted to do. I ended up working a couple of other jobs over the next couple years, went to college for a few years, and aimlessly stumbled through life trying to find my purpose along the way. All the while, the notion of working for someone else in your typical corporate setting became harder and harder to stomach every time I thought about it. So, I started down the road to self employment. And boy was that a winding, wild journey.

I am a fine artist, specializing in photo realistic portrait drawings using both graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil. It is a skill that not many have, and definitely not something that comes easy to people as it did to me. Knowing that I had such a skill, I tried to start a “business” out of it. although I got many orders over the years, it was nowhere near enough to pay the bills, think about growing a family, or buying a piece of land in the future. I wanted so badly to be able to make my way in this world with my artwork, but finding people who were willing to pay a fair price for a one of a kind portrait was beyond difficult. So, I shelved that idea.

I am a moderate giant, standing nearly 6’4″ tall, and have had a full beard for many years. So my next business endeavor was to start a beard care product business. Beard balms, beard butters, beard oils, mustache waxes, handmade wooden beard combs, etc. I jumped head first into this, and actually had a fair bit of success for the first couple of months. I marketed my business like crazy on social media, designed awesome looking packaging for each product, experimented with different manly/woodsy scents that people loved, and created a whipped beard butter that hadn’t been done before. I thought this might be something that would work, but alas, competition presented itself immediately in the form of everybody around the country stealing my coveted beard butter and selling it themselves. I had not the capital or the manufacturing ability to keep up with these larger companies, and eventually the orders stopped coming in. It was an extremely fun couple of months, but I ultimately shelved that idea.

Fast forward a couple of years, and upon finding out we were expecting our first child, I decided it was time to kick it in to high gear. My next business idea was to build overlanding tow along off-road trailers. For those not familiar with these, they are all terrain camping trailers that you can tow behind your vehicle but will go many places a normal trailer would never be able to. I researched the market for months, planned out build designs, had every single piece I needed planned out and in online shopping carts ready to buy. One morning, after finalizing all parts needed online, I stood up to go use the restroom and fell into a wall. I was unable to walk for a month. After many trips to the doctor I finally landed at a chiropractor, had imaging done, and was told my spinal cord was crushed in 3 locations in my neck, I had 6 more herniated discs throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine, my vagus nerve was crushed, and I should by all accounts not be able to walk. So, I shelved that idea and spent the next 8 months learning how to walk again after that last spell of “fall into a wall”.

A year after that last adventure into wall falling, I walked out into my horribly neglected garage and just stared for what felt like hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was time to find something that stuck. As you all probably know, I worked for the next 3 months building a proper shop in my garage. I had no idea what I was going to make, but I knew if I was to succeed I needed a workable space, so that was step 1. The rest is history, and you’ve all probably seen at least part of the journey. But even in this, there are things that didn’t go as I had planned. My first idea was to make nice cutting boards and sell them to Realtors as closing gifts for their clients. I emailed over 100 Realtors in my area. Half of them didn’t respond. The half that did didn’t even acknowledge my pitch, and simply said “are you interested in buying…?” So, that plan was out of the question. Next move was to sell at our large local farmers market. 4 months of 12 hour days every single day batching products to sell ended in a rescinded invitation due to new “pandemic rules” which cut nearly half of the market space and left myself, as well as long time vendors, high and dry. Another plan gone.

You may be wondering why I just told that long story. The reason is this. Had I given up after my first business idea failed, or my second, or my third, I never would have ended up where I am today. I have a thriving business doing something that I love, I am fortunate and blessed to be able to work from the comfort of my own home which is a huge help and relief to my wife who is mothering 2 baby girls under 2 years old currently, and I answer to no corporate entity any longer. None of that would have become a reality if I would have thrown in the towel years ago and went to find a minimum wage job. It took a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and much trial and error to find the thing that worked, but it was worth it in the end.


When you plant a garden, not every seed sprouts.

Does that mean nothing will grow in your garden? Of course not. It simply means that some seeds, for whatever reason, were not meant to grow. This same idea is very real in business, and we need to be mindful of that as we start our journeys towards business creation/ownership. Just because you want to do something, does not mean that it’s the right time nor the right environment for your idea. I can take a picture and draw it perfectly. I have an incredible talent. But at the time, I couldn’t make it happen. Now I’m in a community full of crushers like Nero, HandDrawn, AJRhino, etc, who make beautiful works of art. I’m not resentful at all, because hindsight has shown me that it just wasn’t the right time. But now I get to do something else that I truly love, and it ended up working out better for me in the end.

Every single thing that happens in this life was ordained by God before any of this even existed. Above all else, we need to remember that. God’s plan will always unfold exactly as He deems it. It does not matter how much we want our plan to work. His plan is the only plan, and instead of fighting that plan at every perceived inconvenience, we must put our faith in Him and simply say “time to plant a new seed”. After all, if we gave up on the garden after the first seed failed to sprout, we would never get to sow the bountiful harvest later that came from planting more.

Until next time Bears, Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

IG: www.instagram.com/littlebearwoodshop

FB: www.facebook.com/LittleBearWoodshop

YouTube: www.youtube.com/littlebearwoodshop

www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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