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It's an interesting thought on the paradox many entrepreneurs face. 

I've seen quite a few entrepreneurs whose recipe for success involved a well-stoked fire fed with other people's money.  I've seen a lot of talented, hard working, and well-funded people fail .  When I compared them to dullards who  seemed to just "fall into" success, I fell back on the old "life's not fair" line.

Then one day, it dawned on me that a lot  of failed entrepreneurs benefit from hindsight.  I'm not saying that success requires failure, or struggle because that's obviously not true for everyone.

I think that business success depends on timing and opportunity more than any other factors.  Lots of small businesses are based around the craft, product, or services of the entrepreneur.  There's a tendency to assume that "build it, and they will come", is a sound strategy to get steady revenue.  This is partly due to the successful dullard who slaps up their shingle and the world clambers to buy from them.

Getting to where you can see the opportunity is only half the solution.  I live in a town where most of the restaurants aren't very good.  I can see an opportunity for a restaurateur committed to good food.  The problem is that on average, the folks in town haven't seen a pay raise in nearly a decade.  Prices for everything have gone up, and as a result, lots of restaurants are closing.  No amount of advertising, interior finishes, or incredibly good food could change the fact that people in my town can't afford to eat out.  In contrast, the first entrepreneur to launch a good restaurant in better economic times, will be way ahead of their competitors.


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I've never heard that phrase but it's funny.  I think it's especially funny if you take a cynical view of advertisements.  How often do you encounter an advertisement that just reeks of "manure"?  

Somebody's hard-earned money went into spreading fertilizer on pavement.  It's not enough to just fling manure at everyone, you've got to land it on fertile ground.  

My extremely limited experience with modern "marketing people" taught me that they're big on spending for online advertising.  When pressed for results, they'll generate charts and graphs from Google, Facebook, etc. showing you how wide they threw the fertilizer.  There is no data on "conversion" which is when an advertisement reader becomes a client by making a purchase.

Ask them how thick the fertilizer needs to be before you'll see green shoots and they'll tell you it "depends".  On what?  They'll tell you how one client spent for years before they saw a gain whereas another client's business took off after a single ad buy.  With answers like that, what proves the advertising made a difference at all?

While it's doubtlessly true that potential buyers need to know a company exists to be customers, I think there's a huge difference between marketing and advertising.  I've yet to meet a "marketing" person who actually knew how to secure customers for their fee.  Everything works on faith rather than fact.  For all the hype about Artificial Intelligence and gains in social media, there's precious little benefit to the small entrepreneur.  Facebook and Google will happily take your money to generate lots of charts and graphs about demographics and data points.  They can't and won't guarantee that your advertising dollar will make any difference to your sales whatsoever. People are spending outrageous fortunes to generate better online statistics.  

Getting back to your original idea, I think there's a lot to recommend using your capital effectively.  If the majority of your paying customers have a few social functions in common, it's a no-brainer to make sure you capitalize on the marketing opportunity.  I know a very successful business owner who sponsors an annual charity event that constitutes about 80% of their advertising budget.  Their competitors are hammering out radio ads annoying the morning commuters year round.  Speaking for myself, there are some major advertisers I consciously avoid doing business with because of how much they annoy me.

As a society I think there are too many situations where we replace difficult research with simplistic proxies.  Nobody's willing to do the work to know how to measure efficacy because we've ceded this power to mindless trust in machines and institutions.  Even a cheap toaster comes with a warranty to mitigate the buyers risk.  Why is it reasonable to believe that marketers/advertisers are "gatekeepers" if they can't offer any guarantee to deliver paying customers?

The brutal truth is that advertisers and marketers lose faith in their own process when they share the risk. 

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  • 4 months later...

This is an older post but I would like to add to it. The question of money comes into play only when you don't see it as a tool like any other. For example if you had all of the equipment and metal you needed to start money would be less of an issue however you have to get customers to support your overhead. If you are limited on the tools and resources then you would need money to buy those items to get started but your overhead is much lower so you need to make less to turn a profit. In reality what you are lacking is neither money nor customers but time. We measure time in dollars no matter the job or skill you might have. When we price the items we make in our shops a popular pricing mechanism is to count the number of hours involved in the work and charge accordingly. We get faster at the work we make more in that time frame we get more money, or become more competitive with prices. We go back to what you need as a blacksmith to start making what you want to sell. A forge, a hammer, and a surface to pound on. I made a forge for $25.00 with stuff from the scrap yard and no welding involved if I add the cost of the hand grinder $18, and the hand drill $50, and the bolts from the hardware store $5, and finally the hair dryer $20 I have me a working coal forge. I would get a 3lb cross pein from harbor freight for $6 and for an anvil its back to the scrap yard for a plate or I beam or if you're lucky a block of steel for $0.15 a pound. I used to sell my stuff at the farmer's markets over the summer and saved every penny after taxes to buy more equipment. I learned how to manage a number of online stores to widen my customer base as well a use other social media to gather interested parties and create a captive audience. I began making the tools that I could wich ment later nights and earlyer mornings but is totally worth it when it comes to a power hammer or specialty jigs. This allowed me to widen my product line and improve efficiency so that I could make more product. 


This does not mean that you should just start like I did. It was a lot of work and taxing on the family a little bit, and if i had 10k to spend starting out I would have happily spent it on things I needed. However I gained a sense of what my work was and what I was capable of along the way, and that I feel was well worth the time spent over money. I have tools that I never take for granted. I know how to fix everything in my shop if anything breaks down, I know what customers want what products and how much they are willing to pay for those products. I have learned a lot about social media marketing and facebook adds, as well as etsy, instagram, twitter, redit, youtube, and imgur. These are lessons that will do you far better than any power hammer or fancy 400 lb anvil.

So how should you start off creating your business? I can't say for you but if I had to do it all over again I probably would not change a single thing. I hope this helps anyone that reads it. Just start right now and don't wait.

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Camulus,  It  sounds like you got your timing right to make an opportunity work for you. I think it's worth exploring your path to success better.  Burning through startup money with no particular business plan leaves the vast majority of entrepreneurs worse off than they started.  It's terrible advice that ruins lives.  

You mentioned a long list of social media sites that you've learned to use for business marketing.  Seriously, if you've figured out the formula to (repeatable) success with that, could make much more money as a marketing consultant than you ever could as a blacksmith.

It's been my experience that a lot of people aren't too curious about what caused their success.  The supremely capable tend to underestimate how much skill and knowledge their approach required.  The supremely lucky tend to overestimate the strength of their approach.  Anybody can hit the mark once in a while, repeatable success is what actually counts.


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Rockstar, I have not given it much thought to be honest. I'm no wizard at social media I just have a lot of experience with it. There are formulas for some things but others are organic and had to control. My youtube for instance is a pain in my rear end, but my instagram, and facebook are pretty steady and predictable. Both have grown rather quickly and take little to maintain, but youtube is harder. I totally agree though about learning to crawl before you run. It's like giving a power hammer to someone that has never used a hand hammer to move metal. Without the basics and the growing pains you miss out on all the lessons that the experience has to offer.

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Thanks for bringing this thread back to life Camulus. Even though I don't intend to start a business I'm very  interested in the subject. My Father was a business owner operator for years and I have no intention of working 6/14s and more, we almost never saw him for dinner. He didn't advertise, his business was all based on reputation, word of mouth and a highly effective bidding "formula."

Anyway of the many things he was always telling me, (I'd suggested he do a TV commercial,) was advertising wouldn't work, we made nothing for the public market, we made components. Money was a consumable like: sheet metal stock, utilities, maintenance,  lube grease, coffee, etc. and had to be budgeted like any other. He went on in detail mostly lost on a pre-teen kid but it's this thread that brought the memories to the surface. Funny thing the brain eh?.

Dad's "advertising" budget was invested in evaluation and bidding jobs. He'd take me along occasionally when he made personal inspections or had meetings and he had a demeanor of nearly total indifference to the success or failure of a bid, he used a similar technique at auctions. He was a good poker player though not a gambler. Bidding jobs was one reason he insisted I learn to read and draw blue prints. Most of the inspections were reading blueprints or looking at prototypes. 

Anyway, I think my point is. Money is a consumable like the gas in your truck, stock on the shelves, utilities, etc. and it's a decently effective method to treat it like nothing special. Vital but not special. If that makes sense.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I appreciate your candor.  I've seen how the perception of social media advertising has gone from being a novelty to almost a business necessity. The few people who are actually seeing a return on investment from social media advertisement seem to be unaware of why it's working for them.  Making things worse, very little is said about how much rampant theft there is in digital advertising.  I have first-hand experience where our content links were pirated to send people to entirely different companies. The social media platforms are perfectly aware of what's going on, but growth is the higher priority so it's better for their business to have several vendors passing off our content as their own.  Moving in lock-step with the content theft, organic reach has been throttled severely.  Perhaps a dozen firms will steal our content, and the platform won't even allow us to benefit from our own content.  When we inquired about it, we got banned.

I work as an estimator which has led me to be particularly focused on what drives outcomes. I see an awful lot of proxies being used in business decisions because real metrics aren't very optimistic.  I had X number of page views is taken to mean that number of vetted clients have carefully read and considered your marketing message.

It's inconvenient to suggest that Bots and international visitors aren't doing a small and localized business any good.  It's also inconvenient to suggest that if everyone is marketing via social media, it's highly probable that a significant proportion of "traffic" will be fellow marketers.  I suspect very little effort has been made to measure the effects of exposure to ones competitors.  Especially in digital markets where it's easy to pirate, or sabotage one another.

Speaking for myself, it's been a whole lot more profitable to pursue markets with higher barriers to entry.  That being said, it's taken a lot of time and effort to gain access.  The hardest part is figuring out where the buying clients are.


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Exactly, social media is pretty useless for serious business. Everything EVERY THING posted is public and has no protection against being high jacked. For the regular folk this means your "private"(?) info gets sold to multiple buyers and the site owners make their money on traffic, not security. Congress is wasting time on wonderful public sideshow hearings re. FB and sold data. From Congress' side of the discussion it's a good distraction from what they're deliberately not doing; their jobs.

I didn't give how this effects advertising, I avoid social media advertising if at all possible. I even go so far as to put persistent nuisance spam on my "Don't buy from THEM" list.

The general feel of social media is like a jr. high cafeteria: Loud, chaotic and full of contrived drama. Only the nerds think the cafeteria is a good lace to hag posters drumming up attendance for the next whatever meeting.  Unfortunately it seems a majority of folks like loud dramatic confusion.

I'm glad I don't have to advertise. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Even linkedin can be an insidious place. I was forger getting spammed by recruitment agents and deleted my account. 

If you haven't already, I'd recommend stacking your hosts file with known entries for all the social media, advertising, and tracking sites, all pointed to 

Plenty of github repos with lists you can copy/paste. 

Doesn't eliminate the problems, but it does dramatically reduce your potential to be tracked from site to site due to the popular of social plugins and integrations spread across everywhere 

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When my business partner and I started our machine shop back in 1987 we did it with money we saved up. We started with a dinky lathe, no milling machine, and a huge amount of Let's see if we can make a go at this.  No loans or leases, we cash flowed it the whole time we were in business - we closed up in 93 when the building we were in was sold and the new owners were moving in. Looking back we didn't have a problem with not enough capital,  but not enough drive. CNC's were hitting their stride and we should have looked into getting one.  I have been asked if I would start another machine shop, and I tell them no. It is pretty cutthroat business today. The last shop I was at had customers complaining about the price being 1/4 of one cent too high.  If you can find a niche, and can fill it you can do good. A friend's kid started with one 3D printer 5 years ago. He now has over 125 printers and 30 employees and is going to turn a seven digit profit this year..and he just turned 30. 

I will be 53 this year, still making the same wage I was back in 2004, and my retirement accounts took a huge hit during the recession, so i am slowly crawling out of the hole I am in. The only time I was happy was when I was running that shop of ours, and I desperately want to try another business. My anchor holding me back today is called a mortgage. It isn't like when I was 22 with low overhead, and had parents who could catch me if it all fell apart. It is just me today. There is a building in town that would work for what I would like to try, but getting a hold of the owner is like herding cats.  Running on a treadmill chasing a carrot.

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14 minutes ago, JustAnotherViking said:

Even linkedin can be an insidious place.

Boy howdy are you ever speaking the truth!


I used to participate on Linkedin discussion forums for professional estimators.  I got banned for two weeks because a person promoting a new unified bureaucracy to counter last minute bids got angry when I suggested that subcontractors bid at the last minute to deprive general contractors of time to bid-shop them.

I politely suggested that demonstrating trustworthiness would be cheaper and faster than demanding additional paperwork.  

Nobody at Linkedin would explain why I was banned.  All I got was "flagged for inappropriate comment".

Meanwhile, at least once a week there's a post on my home page that would land your average person in hot water with Human Resources if it were read aloud at work.

I like Frosty's description.  It's packed with bullies, fake drama, and nerds posting about events nobody wants to attend.  The overzealous hall monitors aren't making things better either.  

It wasn't the banning that drove me to stop checking Linkedin.  It was the recurring themes.  No matter where I looked, everything claims the economy is booming in reference to the recent past.  Posts from the aforementioned recent past were making the same claims.  I got tired of the virtue-signalling buzzwords, especially from people and companies I know to be scoundrels.  In my experience, good people don't virtue-signal.

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"If you haven't already, I'd recommend stacking your hosts file with known entries for all the social media, advertising, and tracking sites, all pointed to"

My /etc/hosts file?  it only has lines for  local host and my computer; both pointed to loopback.

Or were you assuming that everyone runs windows or uses a smart phone?  I'm on KUBUNTU a Linux distro and use a pretty dumb phone...(My company's insurance carrier was wanting me to sign up for an intrusive monitoring program and told me I would get a free app to make their offer even more intrusive---well the didn't put it like that.  When I asked them if they were sending a smart phone to run it on and would cover the connectivity costs they were indignant.  So I told them I am using a flip phone and it does phone calls and texts and that's all I want for a phone. Why waste time on your phone when you can get high grade time wasting right here---and using a full size keyboard too!)


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On 11/15/2017 at 11:19 AM, rockstar.esq said:

My extremely limited experience with modern "marketing people" taught me that they're big on spending for online advertising.  When pressed for results, they'll generate charts and graphs from Google, Facebook, etc. showing you how wide they threw the fertilizer. 

The brutal truth is that advertisers and marketers lose faith in their own process when they share the risk. 

You could be me!  Wise words, friend, very wise.  

I get approached at least once a month by someone saying they can help boost my sales through the internet if I'll just follow their simple plan. 

When I ask them for data on how they can boost my business, they'll show me tons of charts displaying their past performance... but it never covers actual sales.  They talk all day long about the number of visits or views, but nothing about actually increasing my sales.  The only thing that's for certain is that these people get their $10/month or whatever the fee is.  

Honestly, I can't fault them.  Their business is about getting people to buy their product, not producing a product that produces results for the clients.  Big difference there, and a lot of unhappy customers in their wake.

I don't pay for any advertising.  I figure if I spend some time on the various social media platforms and work to spread the name around, that'll have to be good enough.  

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  • 2 weeks later...


I would first like to point out that my post here is based on personal observations and mountains of readings on the subject of marketing. As well as 12 years in the industry as a salesperson, product manages, designer, and business owner. I do have a degree in business marketing as well from National University although that is nothing compared to hands on experience. This opinion I give has some bearing  in academia but like I said is personal opinion mostly.

I see there are some here that have a bad taste in their mouth from social media outlets. I agree with you to a point, but that point stops with the notion that you can get that type of exposure from person to person interactions. Social media has been a tool for business, and a very useful one for those that know what each aspect is used for. Facebook is a great place to get your story out to people that might be interested in the same things you are interested in but it is also a fabulous place to post inexpensive advertisements that tap into a market of half a billion people. It's not as personal as a face to face but it is a good doorway to get a person to person interaction over the web. If an individual sees you page and interactions but has not joined of friended, you should friend them sincerely though your group. This makes them a frequent visitor and window shopper of your products, and when the moment arises for them to buy an item offered by yourself or a competitor you have the home field advantage over those competitors. The customer "knows" you, you have a personal, albeit digital correspondence.

Instagram is used in a similar fashion of telling a story. Your story. If you look and see all of the youtubers that blacksmith out there one stands out to be as being rather good at what he does by not following the normal youtube rules. Chandler Dickinson. He is not very frequent with video posts, but he has 170k followers with tens of thousands of views on may of his posts. His instagram does rather well too, and its all organic. This is because of his story. His personal touch to everything he does. He exposes his life, the goods and the bads, and people feel that they are with him along the way. 

Large companies use the mass spamming of huge email lists and facebook adds all the time and its rather effective because of the ability the system has to follow what you have been looking at recently and posting adds that a relative to those searches. If you are looking for mother's day gifts you will start to see more advertisements for those, if you are looking at sofa covers then you will see those on sites you go to. If this was not effective no one would be doing it.

It should not however take the place of intimate customer relationships. It should all be used to strengthen it. It like fishing with a net. You will get a lot more tuna but you have to be sure that you also look for the other things you are catching as well. This of course depends entirely on the type of business you are framing. Mass email marketing does not work well with a custom shop compared to a bargain store.

There are three types of shoppers based on their social and economic status. There are those that shop out of necessity and volume for their dollar, those that shop for the best looking and most highly rated products, and those that buy product based on brand recognition and status. You will not see a person in the last category go out and ask for a Ferrari during a huge sale at the dealership. These types of businesses tend to negotiate less, meaning fewer special price offers, and almost no bargains. The middle group would not buy an expensive product unless it was the absolute best in its class, and they would never do it for self recognition. The product has a task and it will be the most likely to perform that task in the best way. These customers have a brand favorite and tend to be the most loyal out there. If they like your product they will convince everyone to like your product because of X, Y, and Z. The customers that are looking for bargains and deals do so because they believe in mass over volume. The more of something you can get for the least amount of money. Name does not matter so much, and quality is second to quantity. 

For a blacksmith shop the best customers tend to belong to either group B, or C, or a bit of both. It can be difficult to hook customers in group A because handmade items are not nearly as interesting as a good sale. They will love your clearance bin but little else. This means that you can either focus on creating unique product that look the best or function better than your competitors or you can build a name for yourself in a niche market, charge twice what your competitors are and lure them with your brand. Both of these can be tapped into with social media and if done right you can be successful with either or both. Its best to focus on one at a time I think, but that is just me.

How you achieve luring your target customer now becomes easier but is still somewhat of a crapshoot. You may even find that you attract customers you never thought but not in the volume you would like. Or to many of one type of customer that makes managing your business difficult. Look at shoes for example. Nikie is one of the best marketing empires when it comes to footwear and athletic attire. They target customers through using famous athletes and beautiful people in their adds. Their product is going for that best product in its class market and they do it very well. Louis Vuitton on the other hand does not use famous people as their spokesperson in the same way they use the valued attention of peer influence to drive sales. Some fat cat executive wears the shoe to a board meeting and the guy next to him asks about the shoe and sells it through perceived status. Keeping up with the Rockefellers. Believe it or not you can do this through social media as long as you can connect with the right people. In this case it's less force marketing and advertising and more bribing people to use your stuff. Give free product to a well to do influencer and everyone that wants that kind of status will try to get your product. Your name and brand become synonymous with a particular lifestyle and statement. This does not have to be an expensive item either. There are many tiers to the price of items like these and many sub-markets.

I have done sales of all kinds in my life, and seen products evolve as well as companies change. It is fascinating to me how the markets change as we improve our lives. Fads influence buying, trends create whole new markets. Essential oils, videogames, food franchises, diets, these are all waves on the sea that you can take advantage of and ride to success.


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On 11/14/2017 at 2:11 AM, Frank Turley said:

Somebody told me this years ago. "Starting a business without capital is kind of like being the Butterscotch Man. You have to get warm in order to run, but you have to run in order to get warm."

I am not a maker of butterscotch, but I get a kick out of this saying, nevertheless.

Lots of good points, but what is the point in the original post?

It's a struggle to start without capital? It is wrong to start without capital? You can not start or there is no point in starting without capital? 

Starting a business without capital is a misnomer anyway. You must have something to start or you don't have a business, just an idea. 

And it all depends what business we are talking about. 

Assuming it is a blacksmithing business, you have to have a shop to start. All the tools to make something to sell and permission to make all the noise you need to all day long. 

From there onwards, no capital means limited gains and also limited risk. Could be a blessing in disguise. if you just started, it is safe to assume you know very little about most things, so take small risk, lose little and you can keep in business. Splash large with the advise from an accountant of financial expert and lose big and go bankrupt. The 'experts' don't care, they will charge you either way. 

Blacksmithing is not real estate, building or agriculture, it is more akin to painting a landscape and trying to sell it, and hoping that uncle buck's golf partner also needs a new balustrade for his balcony. Mass production with artistic value is a fantasy and if anyone can get that bird to fly it will fly for  as long as it takes the Chinese to copy it and make it for 1/10 of it's value.  

Start small without capital and work on building experience in recognising what can be sold, not what can be made. Ask lots of questions and trust no one. If anyone claims expertise, ask them how much money they make and how do they make it. 




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Truer words my friend. I told my original partners when I first started out that a shop like ours will not be a single product shop and it will not be a mass production part shop. There are a few items that are worth it however. Large tent stakes and quick little no heat s hooks are terrific. Your 100% right about everything you posted above. Before anyone starts this type of work they need to seriously look at what kinds of things they want to make and what kind of equipment they need to make it. A decent welder for starters I found is a must. A propane forge is by far less expensive than coal or coke as far as fuel goes and you can control the temp so much better. Has anyone made up a comprehensive list of what it costs to start their shop and posted it yet? That will give a little heads up to those interested parties. 

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Thank you for your in-depth explanation.  I can imagine it is difficult to distill so many years of work, school, and professional development into a recipe for success in your field.

As an outsider looking in, I must stay that marketing is a uniquely frustrating business and I think it's partly because of the language used.  Three-word phrases like "tell a story" simultaneously simplify the concept, without defining the process.  As a layman it's easy to read along thinking; "yes, this makes perfect sense".  Then when it's time to put words into action, the whole thing falls apart because fundamentals like story-telling (in this context) are developed skills being applied to an open-ended assignment.  

I suspect you are underestimating the depth of skill that you're bringing to bear on your marketing.  I also think that marketing techniques are getting applied to the instruction.  I can see how three word phrases distill a complex message into something easy and memorable like a commercial.  Lots of experts can make their discipline look easy to an observer.  



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True it's much easier said than done, i'm not going to lie, but some of it is as simple as flipping a switch. There is a lot that you can do though without a large startup fund. I'd say for those just starting out it's a factor of time or money. Time breads experience, but like most education it pays little at first. Money when spent wisely can multiply quickly and predictably but only when spent wiseley. Don't experiment with money unless you don't mind losing it, because chances are you will. One bad month at a shop with ill planning can set you back months, years or force you to close. I have had to do that with one shop already and learned from that costly lesson. Your most valuable asset will always be your contacts and relationships. Make friends and try hard to be honest with your competition. Don't pick fights. It costs money and causes problems down the road that just waste time.

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On 2018-04-29 at 3:32 PM, Camulus777 said:

That will give a little heads up to those interested parties. 

I read through the thread. I wanted to show up in a Ferrari but now I understand to roll up with a Tesla, double the trunk space.

You feel me?

 This cost analysis is something I am interested in working on and has been something I put thought towards but having read Intelligent Investor, and Capital, Mastery. That is what I want to do and will try to publicize it by knowing it is solid and a potential utility. 

I also saw the fancy 400 lb anvil idea, and yeah once you do that you are working for the anvil instead of what ever other reason, its good that mine was an aesthetic choice, and meant a long term goal to be realized through its use.

   Started with asset capital then took on debt capital, building on assets that also pay 'dividends' in the form of refunds in tax season. The Infrastructure built early on will in essence have no value later on and can be seen as a net loss, right away. Since I am able to use it now; it is an asset, but because when my work outgrows this forge, it also will be symbolic for massive expense, larger undertaking and a knowledge of my own success. 

 I will note more about capital specifically. I guess later on, with inflection on these bits.
Thank you all for your personal story of the machine shop and expertise.

 I guess Debt is so far the most costly capital, and unless you can make it return beyond the interest then it is a stunt in growing the business. Best example would be - buying a fly-press, and having it take half a year to get the tooling.

 The next idea would be a year from now just having saved, looking at getting skids loaded with 4 fly press' each, I believe viability of your asset capital (exaggerated) is application. 'Anvils' don't really apply to making money when you already have one anvil unless there is more than one of you.. here a tool that makes a calculated repeatable process'; when considered well enough, has no cost of maintenance, holds its value and is a physical representation of mechanical work. See what this imaginary scenario is, this is what I think matters. I care not to include any depth of these fantastic goals unless prompted. lol

I am Demiurge smithy on instagram

Edited by JamesJimiyG
Excluding excess wording
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