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Making Children's Furniture to Sell
If you are thinking about getting into the E commerce business you might want to consider making or supplying children's furniture as a product line. This is exactly how we got started and I am going to show you the steps of how we did it with a particular product line that we manufactured. You many wonder why I am giving away this knowledge. Why would I not want to keep it to myself? There are a couple of reasons why. First is that everyone will approach a product line differently than I would. The end products will be different and the process will also be different. The real value comes in avoiding the mistakes that we made so that your experience is better. The second is that business morphs. Here is what I mean. The business of E commerce is a journey; you start in one place and usually end up in another. This process takes time and the concepts that you learn are what shape your business sense. No two approaches are the same just as no two people are the same. That is why I am willing to share this information.
Selling Children's Tables and chairs
I am going to use the item of children's table and chairs sets. You will see a lot of pictures and examples of how we made them and the processes that we used. Some are good and some are not so good. Knowing the pitfalls makes the journey a little easier and will help you be more successful.
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We choose children's tables and chairs sets for one reason, we had kids. We needed a table and decided to build one for a Christmas gift. After it was done, we thought it looked pretty good so we decided to make another one and put it on eBay. I did the woodworking and my wife did the art work.
In the beginning I realized that I was not that great of a woodworker, so I bought the items that were a challenge to make. We went to Home Depot and bought a 24" pre-cut plywood circle. (which we later learned is a tad too small, 30" is best)
Making chairs is also an art form requiring some advanced woodworking skills. So we bought ours unfinished at a naked furniture store. These were about $20 a piece which gave us a pretty high cost to start off with. The top cost around $10. When you build a table and chair set, there is a learning curve that goes with it. First you have to design the set, and then you have to create a system to build a lot of them. This is key since building the sets is a timely process.
You have to prepare your wood, then cut it and do a lot of sanding. The sharper your blades, the less sanding you will have to do. Then the sets need to be primed and sanded again. After that you will need to paint them and let them dry thoroughly. Then comes the artwork. This can take a while, and then you have to seal the whole unit when it is finished. After that I found it best to let the sets cure for a while (a least a week) so that the sealer is completely dry and not sticky at all. This time will vary with the humidity.
Here are some quick points that we have done to speed the process
- Cut many parts at one time.
- Make a painting jig to hold small parts upright so that you can paint them faster.
- Hire an artist for unique pieces
- Develop a "product line" by having a standard table that uses a template. These tables can be done faster than unique items.
- Pre order boxes so that you will be ready to ship without trying to find the perfect box.
- Buy all your paint at once and buy primer and sealers in the gallon size.
- Set up a painting station that is far away from the workshop, dust is the enemy.
One of the biggest enemies of this product is shipping. I could go on for chapters about shipping damage and the perils of the temporary worker at the big shipping firms. The top needs to be boxed separately from the chairs. If you can develop a way to ship your chairs as flat stock, with some assembly required, you will be better off. Our chairs shipped fully assembled so we had to develop a box system that would keep the chairs from being crushed. Nonetheless, shipping companies will find ways to crush the best laid plans, so it is something you have to get used too.
Order a box for the top that allows you to protect the edges of the table. If you can encase the entire thing in Styrofoam, you will be better off. This raises the cost of the unit but will give you more peace of mind.
We tested the market on Ebay, there is never a shortage of qualified traffic their and you can take advantage of EBay's advanced marketing techniques. Take lots of pictures and be prepared to answer a lot of questions. I made very thorough templates that gave as much information as possible. I ran fixed price items in a store concurrently with auctions. The auctions drove traffic to the store and once in a while you would have to eat a low price. Most of the time we would get around $150 to $180 per set. After a while we lowered our costs considerably by making the chairs ourselves. This was a huge money saver; however it increased the time factor. Be prepared to attach a dollar amount to your time. You absolutely need to know how much time you have into these sets since they are handmade items. You may enjoy making them, but you are in business.
I hope this has helped you if you are considering going into business.
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