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Frank Turley

Being the Butterscotch Man

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Someone told me once that starting a business without capital is like being the butterscotch man. " You have to get warm in order to run, but you have to run in order to get warm."

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Hmm, not sure how to take that! I've always figured there was no perfect time to start a business. When the time comes you begin. Passion is what makes it happen- money just makes it easier.... or not

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When I saw the title, I thought of the song by Van Halen, "I'm Your Ice Cream Man" but that has a different meaning...nevermind. There is an old saying that more often than not, startup businesses fail within the first two years of formation. Typically, it's due to insufficient cash flow and lack of sufficient receivables to support basic overhead. All businesses have some minimum level of required overhead - even a one man shop. Reaching that critical mass quickly is key to any chance at success and is the entire raison d'etre for investment banking. If the economy is good and the company continues to invest, it will usually grow and prosper with proper management but it's a constantly changing and complex set of variables. It's difficult to bill enough time as a one man shop to make a living unless one can charge a premium rate - so as more work comes in, the owner finds he must hire people to share the work. This becomes the "beast that must be fed" because now other folks are depending on the owner for their livelihoods. You could call this paradigm "America's Story" due to the countless immigrants who have come here and done just that.

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When I started I had a semi working MIG welder a nonworking forge and a 110lb anvil. I had about $450 in the bank. I was 26 and full of ideas of how I was better than everyone in the business they were just a bunch of welders to me the old guys didn't know much in my book. Blacksmiths were the real metal workers in my book. I quit my job as a blacksmith fabricator where I was making OK money. I was living with my parents. I should have stayed with that job a year longer and saved my money and bought a new air hammer, a tig welder, and invested in a few more classes in forge work. I was a ignorant kid but I did it. There was no one really giving me good advise. It is defiantly better to start with some solid equipment and bit of a cushion in the bank.

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When I began my biz in the early 70's I had nothing but I was on fire! Beginning the biz without capital didn't phase me one bit, in fact it didn't even occure to me, I was having too much fun anyway. High end metalwork meant fancy castings and twisted pickets. Puke. On into the 80's people began to warm up to the idea of something more classy, the 90's on into mid 2000's things seemed to pay off for the long persistence......Today, be cautious, at especially in architectural field, dreams of doing the good stuff can turn out to be delusional. Dogs fighting over a bone is how I describe it. Pre forged elements are the elements factored into all too many budgets, they ain't much fun but they pay the bills.
If I had it to do over again I probly would. Scaling a peak is allot more rewarding than dealing with the decent.......

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butterscotch man, sounds like the saying "takes money to make money"

It's EASIER to make money if you have money to invest in making money... but I suspect quite a lot of blacksmith types just bootstrap and get on with it and do it any way, with not a lot in the bank to begin with.

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I'm glad I read this thread, as I'm in process of setting up a full time shop of my own. Its not going to be exclusive blacksmithing, I'll be doing manual machining as well (FWIW, I don't like CNCs, even if I had the money for them, I probably wouldn't go that route)... But ATM I'm about to get thrown off unemployment and have very little in the way of capital to really set up shop. What I do have is my forge, anvil, hammers, lathe and the funds to pick up a cheap bridgeport and rent a small shop (probably from family)... About the best thing I have going for me is that I have almost no personal bills and have become quite adept at living "simply"...

Thanks for the motivational thread, now if I can just get the people around me to stop "trying to protect me" and start helping me, maybe things will get moving :).

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