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A small business based around a laser engraving machine
A germ of an idea.
Having mastered how to use our new toy and figured out how to keep it in reasonable working shape (these two subjects can be the topic of another Hub), we put our minds to how we could use it in some useful way.
Looking around I noticed a number of businesses that use this type of machine to do personalized engraving. It is very likely that your local shopping center has one. I expect that it would be quite possible to make a living doing engraving and making boxes and toys from a store front location. Though to do this in a viable way I think it would be better to have a machine of at least 60W. The 12 W laser engraves and cuts plastic etc, but it is a little slow.
The Krispy Kreme business model
Having previously manufactured electrical control panels, I realized that there is a demand for labels for all kinds of boxes and machinery. The little laser can churn this kind of industrial label out by the sheet, slowly engraving away while you do something else. So it came to me that the route to viability could be by taking a leaf out of Krispy Kreme's book. Open a store front and do the one off personal engraving, but sell labels to the local industrial market. Most companies will need more than 1 or 2 labels and it is likely that they would bring repeat business. The high volumes would be satisfied by much bigger companies than me, but the quantities required by small to medium sized business are well within my capability. (Krispy Kreme open a donut factory/coffee shop and then churn out way more donuts than their coffee shop can sell. They then sell them to all the local outlets they can think of, petrol stations, corner stores even supermarkets.).
A video from The Headstone Guys laser etching stone
Well now we are making labels and doing some engraving. Only time will tell. The key of course is finding the regular work and with a bit of initiative this isn't so very hard. There is a good margin in both personalized engraving and industrial engraving. Putting the two together seems to make a lot of sense. If you think you might be interested in trying something like this I highly recommend visiting the web site for Smith & Huang Ltd in Sheffield They have a good range of inexpensive lasers that would certainly fit the bill. A basic 600 x 400 laser with an 80W tube would cost around £3,500 - £4000 then you would need a store front which could be anywhere from around £400/month depending on location a couple of thousand for leasehold improvements and display counters. I think you could start a business like this for between £10,000 and £20,000.Based on the kind of sales I have made it is not unreasonable to expect upwards of £50 per hour after you have become established. The 12W machine will engrave a full 600 x 400 sheet in about an hour and this can be sold between £60 and £80 depending on what it is.
Before starting any business I highly recommend writing a business plan.