I want to open a frame business

Littleframer

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Joined
Feb 28, 2004
Posts
26
From
Roswell, GA
Please excuse if this just posted, but I am not sure. I am a home framer. I already have all my equipment. I checked out retail space here and almost fainted. There is not alot available but it is going for 18-23.00 per sq. ft. At least that is what they are quoting. There is no way I can charge prices to justify that rent. The median income here is approx 45-50k per household. It is a growing area (very growing!) with new homes costing 120-200k. There are lots of them! There is no framing business close with exception of big box M. Here is my dilema. What if I opened in a small office complex. I realize I would have to advertise heavily, but in this area, I believe I would have to do that anyway. It would not be a so called retail location, but I could advertise in our towne monthly mag. a special offer per month. I could also develop a website, so customers could essentially "visit" me before they called and came in. The office space is less than half the cost of retail space. I would not move my equipment to the office, just my corner samples and mats. I realize I would not have the walk in business that a retail location would offer. BUT, I would prefer to remain a one man shop anyway! Can you wonderful fellow framers offer any advise on my idea? Thank you so much!!!!

Little framer
 

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Dec 8, 2003
Posts
9,908
From
KY
Two words. Planning and zoning. I dont think you will be able to put that type of business in that type of area. But the price per sq./f seems very very high! Keep looking. Don't forget if you find something that you think might work but is just a little expencive, then shoot them a price anyway. Might just work. GL and Welcome to the grumble.
 

HannaFate

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Joined
Apr 29, 2002
Posts
10,688
From
Corrales, New Mexico
Check out retail business properties online. You may have a local broker to turn to.

I found my place that way, and it costs me less than $12 per sf per year.

It is in a slightly shabby part of town, but several galleries and antique shops are thriving in a little cluster there.

You may be able to find something like that, that isn't "classy" but is inexpensive and convenient to your customers.

Of course, I wouldn't advise anyone to open a frame shop in the first place. It's something for masochists.
 

Bob Carter

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Way too often, someone like yourself posts a desire to join the ranks of our trade (read:competitor) and asks for our help.

There always seems to be a common thread: They are way undercapitalized and seem to have very limited business acumen.
They seem to want to do it on the cheap and want to do it without any real base of knowledge on what is involved.

Does our trade really look that simplistic that anyone with an idea feels they can make a living doing what many of us toil at?

Little framer shares absolutely nothing with us in terms of who she is, but wants to have us share all we know.

Okay, here is my advice: Why don't you become a brain surgeon, instead? The money is much better. Your experience and business sense provides you about the same level of expectation as framing might.

The single fact that you want to save money on rent so that you may have money to pay for advertising (the single most inneffective use of resources any frame ever spends)is proof enough that this person is ill-equipped to become an operator.

I get so tired of these people picking our brains so they might compete with us. Where is the committment?

On the Pat Regan thread, for example, she calls us expensive and thinks we are unworthy of comparison to photographers, and yet we have people falling all over themselves to offer advice, for free, so they might either compete with us or bypass us entirely.

When do we have the indgination that says
"What I do for a living is worthy and you may not have my knowledge for free?" When do we take enough pride on our craft to say it takes a little more than a desire to not pay our prices to get our ideas and education?

Perhaps, I'm the only one that sees this as really wrong. But, it has taken most of us years of experience (mostly at costly mistakes)to egt to where we are today.

In the last few days,we have had a Policeman that didn't want to pay us (we are too expensive), a Photographer that didn't want to pay us (we are too expensive) and now a home based framer looking to do it on the cheap so she can undercharge all of us (There is no way I can charge those prices) and we will fall all over ourselves to help them to do exactly that.

All of them wanting our advice on how to not spend money at our businesses.

Isn't our trade worthy of protecting?
 

lise

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Joined
Jun 3, 2000
Posts
359
From
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I would tend to partly agree with Bob on this one. If you can't afford to open a good retail location, you may as well stay at home because nobody will come to your office location any easier than to your home location. If you can't afford to invest in your business, don't do it.

We worked out of our garage for 4 years before we went retail because we needed the capital to do it right. We invested almost 40 grand in leasehold improvements and inventory. We realized after 2 years in our retail space, that we needed a better (higher rent, better visibility) location so we sunk another bunch into our new space and next month we will be doubling our retail space to accomadate our rapid growth.

So you see why there is some negativity directed towards you inquiry. You have every right to ask, since this is a free speech forum, but we have every right to state our opinions as well, no matter how harsh
 

Framerguy

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Joined
Apr 12, 2001
Posts
7,261
From
Destin, Florida
I have to say that Bob isn't the only one who shares this attitude about going into framing (or any business for that matter) with only a smattering of knowledge Of what it takes to properly run that business and succeed.

I won't go into your framing background and what you actually know about custom framing above knowing what a miter looks like and how to join a frame or cut a rectangular opening in a matboard. That is all relative to your years of experience, how much you have retained of what you have been shown already, and your dedication to learning all there may be to learn about the "other" types of framing that we are called on to do each day.

I will simply respond to your post with a few questions/comments of my own.

Originally posted by Littleframer:
Please excuse if this just posted, but I am not sure. I am a home framer.
With how many years experience? Where did you first learn framing? Have you been exposed to the costs of running an independant frame shop or are you basing your desires on the "fun and creative outlet" that you find in framing?

from Littleframer:
already have all my equipment.
OK, you have a mat cutter, maybe a saw, hopefully an underpinner, and a few hand tools, do you know what other materials you will need to operate a frame shop? You didn't mention what tools you have so I am guessing that you either are very well equipped for frame shop operation or you have no concept of just what is required for proper frame shop operation. I have noticed that most new interests in my life require so much more than I initially imagined to do the job correctly. For example framing, it requires so much more than the ability to cut a mat, build a frame, cut a piece of glass to proper size, and put everything together.

Since I don't know if I am addressing a man, woman, boy, or girl, I don't know your name, (mine is Tom, thank you), I have no idea what your interests are ("art" covers a large gamut of interests if you are truly into "art"), I cannot comment, nor do I wish to, on further requirements for your "business".


from Littleframer:
I checked out retail space here and almost fainted. There is not alot available but it is going for 18-23.00 per sq. ft. At least that is what they are quoting. There is no way I can charge prices to justify that rent.
Costs of commercial space most anywhere is geared by supply and demand. You say that there isn't alot available, well that may be the reason for the rent costs that you have encountered. You are looking at less than $2000/month for 1000 sq. ft. of commercial space. What did you expect to pay for that sized storefront?? That is a very reasonable rent where I am located. The prices you charge for framing isn't necessarily dependant on how much rent you have to pay although it does enter into the overall picture of what you have to retail in a given period to stay open.

from Littleframer:
The median income here is approx 45-50k per household. It is a growing area (very growing!) with new homes costing 120-200k.[
By today's standards that is low medium income in many areas. And I would check with some of the home builders to see just what it costs to build a 3 or 4 bedroom home in your area. That sounds like the going rate for an average home today with not many niceties included.

from Littleframer:
There are lots of them! There is no framing business close with exception of big box M. Here is my dilema. What if I opened in a small office complex. I realize I would have to advertise heavily, but in this area, I believe I would have to do that anyway. It would not be a so called retail location, but I could advertise in our towne monthly mag. a special offer per month.
It seems that your "delemna" isn't one of where to open but the fact that you don't have much of a business plan drawn up or really know what it will cost to operate a business on your own. Why don't you look for a store front that is off the beaten path of the customers that you want to attract to your frame shop, maybe next to a bar or a tattoo parlor and then pour all your spare cash into fruitless advertising in an attempt to attract those who could afford your services into that area where they wouldn't ordinarily go to shop. That isn't unlike opening in an office complex if you think about it. Would you drive out of your normal daily travels to take your framing to an office complex to have it done? Someplace where there isn't one other store or shop that you have even a vague interest in shopping? You wouldn't and I wouldn't so let's start thinking about the reality of your situation and stop daydreaming about "if I build it, they will come to me"!

from Littleframer:
I could also develop a website, so customers could essentially "visit" me before they called and came in.
We ran some threads on how effective websites are for the custom framer. Check the archives and read some of the replies there on that subject. Sure, a website is fine to establish a presence on the internet, but, how many people do you think would go to the internet first to find a framer? And how much work do you think it takes to build a website from scratch that is functional and would draw enough hits consistently to do your business any good? Do you realize how much time it takes to maintain a website? Do you know what it takes in the website code to get your website up in the top 10 or even the top 50 listings on any search engine? Do you have any idea how many framing websites there are already on the web, what you would be competing against to have people come to YOUR website over someone else's?

from Littleframer:
The office space is less than half the cost of retail space. I would not move my equipment to the office, just my corner samples and mats. I realize I would not have the walk in business that a retail location would offer. BUT, I would prefer to remain a one man shop anyway! Can you wonderful fellow framers offer any advise on my idea? Thank you so much!!!!
Your last statement about how you would set up your frame shop and what you already expect from it speaks for itself.

Advice? Take Bob Carter's advice and check out brain surgery. There's a helluva lot more money in it and you get the satisfaction of helping others to a better way of living. From what I have read of your initial post, you will only face the strong possibility of putting yourself into a depressing state of affairs that will eventually cause you more hearache and misery than you could ever hope for. That may sound brutal but it is a fact of life when you don't have a solid foundation for starting a business and don't plan out your moves from day one.

There may be many who will give you positive advice and encourage you to jump in there and get your business going and that is all good advice in my book. Just toss out the rose colored glasses you seem to be wearing now and take a long hard look at what you want to get yourself into before you spend all of your hard earned money to learn by mistakes. That is so costly that I cannot emphasize too strongly how much you will be hurt by it.

I wish you all the luck in the world with your dream. I hope that you are intelligent enough to face some harsh realities before you make some moves that could cost you your happiness and your livlihood.

Framerguy

Edit: FG's itallics were taken out of the LittleFramer quote.

[ 03-01-2004, 01:57 AM: Message edited by: Marc Lizer ]
 

JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Aug 12, 2000
Posts
7,106
From
San Diego, CA
Bob, I think the problem is that most of us are salespeople. We have been conditioned to want to help people make the right decisions, that is why we willingly offer help to anyone who asks.

That is also one of the reasons The Grumble is becoming so darned popular, we help people.

The lady who asked the question is an established home based framer, she wants to make the jump over to retail. I think that is a worthy goal for her and is also worthy of our help.

Little Framer. Bob brings up a very valid point. You are used to charging as little as you can in order to cover your non existent overhead. That is the first thing you have to understand about having a retail space, your overhead will become an actual concern for you.

I agree, the rent you quoted seems very high for a first time retail framing shop. Bob Carter will pay those kinds of rents willingly if he feels the location is right for his market. He also knows what he is doing and has the capital to do it successfully, where as you don't.

If you are planning to make the jump to retail, you should also plan on a significant surge in your volume and the possibility of having employees.

If you honestly don't think you can charge the prices that we retail framers HAVE to charge to survive, I would suggest you re-think the entire idea.

I would also suggest that you look for a small, free standing building that has a rent of no more than a thousand dollars a month, if you don't have the money to open in a good location.

Move your entire operation to this new location. You will not survive long if you try to be both a home based framer and a retail framer without hiring help. You have to make a decision between home based and retail, then go for it, one way or the other.

You also may want to consider taking a class or two on running a business at your local college, this may help you with the jump.

Good luck and welcome to The Grumble.

John
 

jframe

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
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Posts
4,251
From
Fort Worth, Texas
You might want to keep your business at home if the average income is 45 to 50k per year per household. Those salaries simply can't suport a frame shop while paying for a house and probably a spouse and children. You need to find an area with incomes 75 to 100k to keep your head above water. Better than that would be homes/townhomes/exclusive appartments with two incomes of 75 to 100k.

It is imperative that you charge enough to make a good living, not one that you just get by on. If you can't do that in your home based business, then opening a shop isn't an option.
 

Emibub

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Nov 2, 2001
Posts
9,246
From
Centennial, CO, USA
Yeah, Little Framer, every point you bring up just screams "red flag".

The biggest red flag is questioning whether you can charge the prices to justify the rent. You've already set yourself up for failure there because if you are already lowballing your prices your existing customers won't be happy with the increase. You should have been charging a retail price all along.

The one thing I have learned since owning my shop is the importance of location. I don't think the answer is to go cheap, you may as well stay home and work out of your basement. If you are already undercharging your customers and then you have to throw in all the advertising money you'll spend to attract new customers to cover the rent I'd just stay put until you learn how business works. Why set yourself up for failure?

I promise you owning a frameshop has very little to do with being a good framer or loving the business. It would be the very rare exception where people will flock to you just because you are a good framer. And even if they did if you don't know how to run a business you could just as easily be a victim of your success. But you are setting up roadblocks right away if you are going into some hard to find place.

Plus, you say there is no other competition near you. There may be a very good reason for that. Maybe demographics suggest your area won't support a frameshop. Cost of living is different around the country but here in Denver the average price for a house is $170,000. That is the average. My shop is very near $500,000 homes and the median income in my area is $75-$96,000. I'd be thrilled to find good rental space for even $25 a sq. foot. I'm only paying $15 now but in order to climb out of the hole I'm in I'm probably looking at $30 sq foot, in order to be where all the rich people who live in the $500,000 homes shop. I'd pay it in a second. But once you are struggling you will be spending all your time robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I speak from experience.
 

Littleframer

Grumbler
Thread starter
Joined
Feb 28, 2004
Posts
26
From
Roswell, GA
Thank you so much for all your responses to my question about starting a frame shop. Some were a little harsh, but I know that it is reality. I have alot to think about and ponder, but I appreciate the board and the time that people took to answer my thread. I still need to investigate the demographics of this area. Kathy, you may be right. Hubby and I drove around this afternoon to look at the hundreds and I mean hundreds of new homes, but most of them start in the price range of 130k and are not upper end. Most are young couples in starter homes. There are some 500k homes here but that just is not the norm. I guess what I dont understand from commercial real-estate is why would a very upper end strip center locate across from lower end, although new starter homes. Anyway, I would love to still read on here. Thank you again!

Little framer
 

jframe

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
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Jan 1, 1997
Posts
4,251
From
Fort Worth, Texas
The problem, Littleframer, is that picture framing is a luxury item. Nobody really needs it, it is a reward that comes after jewelry, cars, and prom dresses for most families. That means that there are many other specialty goods that will sell before framing.

Don't feel like we have rejected you. Right now, more than ever before in our lifetimes, it is very hard to open a small frame shop and be successful. Just do your homework, get the business background and finances in order before you think about leaving the house. We Grumblers just hate to see a shop open unprepared.
 

Lance E

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
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Oct 31, 1999
Posts
3,869
From
Hamilton, New Zealand
Business
Imageland
No offence intended here, I did a quick search with Google to see what information was readily available on a few topics. There was one site which popped up a few times and has some good starting information, although it lacks a bit in a few places it may help to encourage a more structured future for you. I suggest this link to get a few thoughts flowing.
Jo, my thoughts on your comment... Framing is an affrordable, displayable luxury item that, when done well will make the owners friends envious enough to want one themselves...
 

FrameMakers

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Mar 20, 2001
Posts
7,395
From
Powell, OH
I guess what I dont understand from commercial real-estate is why would a very upper end strip center locate across from lower end, although new starter homes
Poulation density.
These mid range home owners still shop. They eat out, they buy groceries, and they buy everything else under the sun. The question is will the buy framing?

There are new developments going up near one of my stores in a simular area to what you describe. the base rent is $28-$30 a Sq. I would love to be in one of these new strips but the numbers don't work for my biz. they are being filled with the likes of Panerea bread and Starbucks.
 

jframe

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Posts
4,251
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Fort Worth, Texas
Lance,

It may just be my opinion, but I don't think so. A couple with children buying a home for 120k and 200k and bringing in 50k in income cannot afford picture framing. It's safe to assume they will have at least one car payment too. Their budget would be stretched to the max. The only way they can truly afford it is to add it to their credit card debt. Preframed art at a big box store would be a better choice for them.

A childless couple or a single person would be more likely to do framing, but they are in the minority of new home buyers.
 

Jim Miller

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Suburban Central Ohio
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
...Does our trade really look that simplistic that anyone with an idea feels they can make a living doing what many of us toil at?...
Yes, you've pretty well nailed it there, Bob.

Framing is particularly attractive because it requires almost no initial investment. Businesses that require $100k, $500k, or more to start up tend to weed out the "casual" entrepreneurs.

Many of us (including me) backed into this business because it looked like fun, easy work, painless to start up, and profitable. "Heck, that $500 frame only has $120 worth of materials. I'll make more than $300 on every frame."

Alas, such reasoning is why about 80% of small business startups fail in the first three years. And about half of the remaining 20% will fail within five years after that. (These numbers go back several years, from the US Small Busines Administration -- but I'd bet they're still accurate.) So, only about 10% of those who start up actually survive to build viable businesses.

Scary, isn't it? Numbers like that should be a wake up call, but the ones who desperately need the information aren't looking for it.

Sure, most are undercapitalized. But on the other hand, no amount of money can make up for uninformed dream-chasing. If Joe Sixpack inherits enough to blow $100k starting up his dream-business, it would probably be gone in a few years.

Conversely, a "shoestring startup" can grow into a profitable business if it is well-managed enough to beat the odds.

The unfortunate ones blindly chase their dreams; the survivors develop a detailed, informed plan.
 

John Gornall

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
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Jan 23, 2001
Posts
358
From
An Island in the Pacific
The perception of a faming business by wannabes is an interesting thing. As has often happened in my community a frameshop recently went bankrupt. When the assets are auctioned off the first item to be sold is of course the mat cutter. This is the single item and single skill that is identified with the business. I buy the mat cutter - this ends the interest of those thinking they want to be framers. After the mat cutter is gone there are few bids on the rest of the equipment and much of it doesn’t sell at all. The interest doesn’t extend to the saw, underpinner, mounting press or even the point driver and the computer with the customer list, which may be the most valuable asset, isn’t even considered. Simply, those looking at the sale are buying the toys and not the business. Just like so many framers that like the toys and even the pride of leaning some of the skills that go with the toys but never quite get the heart of the matter – the business!

The mat cutter I bought – it wasn’t great so I broke it and put it my dumpster. I don’t need it tempting someone else.
 
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