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View Full Version : How to start a Ukulele shop...importing with custom logo, etc.



flyingace
10-18-2013, 06:54 AM
I have long thought about opening a small kiosk or shop selling ukes around my area but also doing some web sales as well.

How does one get started finding the companies to import custom logo ukes set up to my specs.

I'd like to eventually become a builder but I have to find an income away from my current job first, then I can concentrate on setting up a wood shop and learning how to build them. I have some experience with building guitars and woodworking in general. I know it's a long long road to excellence and hard work too.

But I'm tired of working for people I don't like to make them money, I'm ready to retire in the next 10 years and would like to get something set up and started now while I'm young and enthusiastic.

Any links or help would be greatly appreciated!

rem50
10-18-2013, 07:06 AM
will be watching this thread! Good question.

sukie
10-18-2013, 07:14 AM
Start small. I'd guess you would have to have some type of seller's reputation before you could get lined up with spec work.
Do you know how to do set-ups? Important part of the equation.

Don't be surprised if shop owners don't jump to help on this. What worked for them may not work for you. And, it may just be me, but helping the competition? Especially if you are gonna do on-line selling. I could be wrong, though.

prooftheory
10-18-2013, 08:07 AM
Is there actually a market for ukuleles in the Central Arkansas region that isn't being served by Guitar Center/Amazon/Wallmart at the low end and Mims/HMS/etc for everyone else?

Skinny Money McGee
10-18-2013, 08:22 AM
Don't be surprised if shop owners don't jump to help on this. What worked for them may not work for you. And, it may just be me, but helping the competition? Especially if you are gonna do on-line selling. I could be wrong, though.

No you are quite right. Not just the uke business but most any other business as well. People spent a lot of time, energy and expense to develop relationships with vendors and associates, and to just willy nilly give out that info so someone can shortcut the process and compete with them is not good business practice.

Skinny Money McGee
10-18-2013, 08:29 AM
Is there actually a market for ukuleles in the Central Arkansas region that isn't being served by Guitar Center/Amazon/Wallmart at the low end and Mims/HMS/etc for everyone else?

Probably the same Guitar Center/Amazon/Walmart that services Amherst NY I would think

ukemunga
10-18-2013, 09:01 AM
http://www.alibaba.com/trade/search?fsb=y&IndexArea=product_en&CatId=&SearchText=ukulele

SailingUke
10-18-2013, 09:10 AM
No you are quite right. Not just the uke business but most any other business as well. People spent a lot of time, energy and expense to develop relationships with vendors and associates, and to just willy nilly give out that info so someone can shortcut the process and compete with them is not good business practice.

Sometimes a good competitor can help both businesses grow by creating more demand and excitement.
In the case of a ukulele shop, more players mean more sales for all.
Look at a shopping mall, multiple shoe, jewelry & clothing stores.

prooftheory
10-18-2013, 09:20 AM
Probably the same Guitar Center/Amazon/Walmart that services Amherst NY I would think

That's my point. I don't think a shop for ukes would stay in business here.

sukie
10-18-2013, 10:15 AM
Sometimes a good competitor can help both businesses grow by creating more demand and excitement.
In the case of a ukulele shop, more players mean more sales for all.
Look at a shopping mall, multiple shoe, jewelry & clothing stores.
I can only speak from experience with Meals on Wheels, because that is my job. BUT..my program has competitors. We deliver a hot meal Monday through Friday. Our competitors send weekly or bi-weekly frozen meals. Not quite the same product, but you can bet I do NOT help them out. I know about them, but I don't know way too much. This is on purpose. I am not going to help a potential client find another source. (That being said, i have been known to share info with social workers if the fit with us is not right.). If I am going to do that I might as well shut our doors.
I'm sorry, I just don't think on-line retailers will want to help. It doesn't help them at all. And what would happen if the advice was taken and it blew up in the new vendor's face? Nope..seems better to figure it out yourself.

blue_knight_usa
10-18-2013, 10:24 AM
Vietnam is a huge source for many folks doing production instruments with their own labels not to mention China. You can research those companies. China has a NAMM equivalent which if I were going to do this seriously I would attend those events. Is a business write off:-). I had a product manufactured in China that I patented And if you do not have strict quality control, you will get garbage, shortcuts and headaches. If you are not there to start it and do not have a relationship it will be tough. There are some big manufactures that make most of the ukes in China. Like VCRs in the old days. Only three companies made them for everyone. There are more than three places but you have to do your research and find what you want, price points you want to hit. It's a tough business and tons of competition now. Good luck on your endeavor.



Darn I miss Betamax!

Skinny Money McGee
10-18-2013, 11:33 AM
Sometimes a good competitor can help both businesses grow by creating more demand and excitement.
In the case of a ukulele shop, more players mean more sales for all.
Look at a shopping mall, multiple shoe, jewelry & clothing stores.

Perhaps, But with more people out there selling the same thing, it's less share for everyone. Called flooding the market. Can be good for the consumer, but puts a lot of pressure on resellers and manufacturers. I personally wouldn't divulge my company trade secrets.


That's my point. I don't think a shop for ukes would stay in business here.

Sorry, I didn't get that was what your point was.. Little Rock is smack dab in the middle of Central AR. Metro population of over 700,000. I would think a Uke shop would do as well there as just about anywhere, no?

Anyway, good luck to the OP

sukie
10-18-2013, 11:54 AM
Anyway, good luck to the OP

+1.
Yep. This.

post4rational
10-18-2013, 12:05 PM
Saw this on craigslist the other day. Might be an opportunity to take over the Bill Tapia ukulele business.

http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/msg/4130579155.html

Cornfield
10-18-2013, 12:13 PM
I had a web inquiry on my non-uke related web site this morning. A guy said that he wants to start selling the same products as me but wanted to know where I bought them and how much I paid. He also wanted me to provide installation and service guides to him. I filed his email. I'll be sure to get back to him real soon.

flyingace
10-18-2013, 01:39 PM
Thanks all! Great responses and plenty of food for thought. I wish I had more free time right now but with raising two teen daughters and my full-time job, it's hard to devote the time necessary. BUT that said, i can start the leg work now.

There are two independent guitar tech/used shops here in central little rock that sell a uke or two. One of them doesn't know much but purports to. There is a very very unscrupulous place in conway called Jacks that will steal your money with a smile on their faces selling 2nds and crap. Although they do carry some kala and oscar schmidt. but usually only the cheapest ones.

As far as inventory, i'm not sure how to work it. I think operating from your home and online is the best way to start, then work up to making a big order for quality instruments (maybe, I've heard the nightmares dealing with overseas companies, Bushman is a good example of what not to do back in 2008 when they couldn't keep up with demand). Used market, buy cheap, sell for a little over market.

YES, I do set ups. Just last night I put a new saddle in my Kala Acacia Tenor, the one I installed a Belcat preamp and pickup in. I'm not afraid of hand making bone nuts and saddles. My ukes intonate perfectly every time. I know how and I've spend the time building electric guitars from scratch and parts for the past few years to learn how to do it. I hate the painting/finish stage though. Fumes are terrible! I'd rather not do that.

I'd also like to use my 20+ years as a graphic designer working for advertising and marketing agencies (and myself) to market the uke (I do websites, social media and print) in this market. I'd like to set up a Uke Orchestra. I'd like to talk to our local schools and symphony orchestra about getting involved in the community. As well as local festivals to play and sell. It might all be more work that I want to do, but at least it would be doing work I love!

I think my first step is to ramp up my buying and selling as well as finding others that want to do the local orchestra. Then I'll see where to go after that. In the meantime I'm thinking about going back to school to complete my degree and add some business courses to learn how to set up the biz side.

Thanks all again, I'll keep you posted!

pakhan
10-18-2013, 02:36 PM
Hi Patrick,

I'm acquainted with some OEM manufacturers, be glad to connect you. Just drop me a line on my personal email: tan.terence@gmail.com

Luke El U
10-19-2013, 12:05 AM
China has a NAMM equivalent which if I were going to do this seriously I would attend those events. Is a business write off:-). I had a product manufactured in China that I patented And if you do not have strict quality control, you will get garbage, shortcuts and headaches. If you are not there to start it and do not have a relationship it will be tough. There are some big manufactures that make most of the ukes in China. Only three companies made them for everyone. There are more than three places but you have to do your research and find what you want, price points you want to hit. It's a tough business and tons of competition now.

Yes, I just attended the China NAMM equivalent last week. It is held annually in Shanghai, an hour and a half flight from where I live - Xiamen, China. I posted twice about it here, but no one responded. (See "Daniel Ho and Like a Kid in a Candy Store" and "Music China Expo".) My (Chinese)wife and brother-in-law have started selling ukes at their music shops here in Xiamen, and I want to help them develop their ukulele sales.

Kevin B
10-19-2013, 12:19 AM
I have stumbled onto Pac rim web sites in the past of manufacturers willing to make ukes and other instruments with whatever name you desire.

AndrewKuker
10-19-2013, 01:46 AM
I don't know dude, the internet is already glutted with ukulele "experts" two steps ahead of you. Nevertheless, I will give you the key and wish you the best. Ready? Here it is-

Success in this business is based on your ability to benefit the customer with your expertise and hard work.

Look inside at what you have to offer. Marketing isn't a benefit. You can't buy it from a Chinese factory.The right way isn't lucrative, but good luck anyway.

NewKid
10-19-2013, 04:55 AM
I think there's a great need for someone who really loves the ukulele to help build the community and provide great service in every market. The ukulele is an afterthought to Guitar Center and most music stores - and perhaps rightly so because its not a huge profit center for them.

The challenge: will you have enough of a customer base in your community to help support your business? Competition on the internet is fierce because even great online stores have to compete with the used market for ukuleles - where great deals abound. Start with your customer first and that will dictate what product or service you provide. I have to travel 45 minutes to the only excellent guitar store in the region (Mass Street Music) for ukulele set-ups and service. They mainly carry the Kala brand but once in a while a Collings ukulele will show up and last for a very short period. Guitar Center is 5 minutes away but that is the last place I will go for service and they only carry beginner instruments.

I think there's lots of holes in the ukulele market. For example, there's no full-service ukulele center where uke clubs can jam on a regular basis. We waste a lot of paper copying songs that we play once or twice. It would be great to have a song projected on a screen for everyone to see. We have to order strings online because most stores only carry one or two brands and as you know, a lot of us have to try at least 10 different string brands just for fun. Maybe that could be a package - five different tenor string sets in one bundle!

Anyway, there's lots of room for leadership and solutions to help making music more fun. I hope you follow through on your dream.

Cornfield
10-19-2013, 05:38 AM
Many ukuleles are commodity products. Nothing special abouvt them. Internet marketers are primarily commodity companies. If I wanted to start up right now I would focus on service. Do setups and repairs on ukes bought elsewhere. Start a uke club. Give lessons or hire someone else to give them.
dont bad moth your competitors but do fill in where they are weak.

ricdoug
10-19-2013, 04:10 PM
Bill Tapia was involved in the entire process of the Bill Tapia Ukulele Company and approved all the steps, to include inspecting and approving the finished product. Bill Tapia personally signed the first 11 tenor prototypes in late 2011, before a turn in health and passing away on December 1, 2011. Exactly one month before his 104th birthday. At tomorrow night's kanikapila at Ukulele Sundays at Molly Bloom's in San Clemente, California I'll see if I can get someone to take a group photo of the happy owners of a Bill Tapia Ukulele Company ukulele. In addition the current owner of the Bill Tapia Ukulele Company, Pat "Palika" Enos and his lovely wife, were the caretakers of Bill for his Golden Years up until Bill took over the entertainment section on higher ground. Bad mouthing the Bill Tapia Ukulele Company is bad mouthing Bill Tapia himself, not the current owner of the Bill Tapia Ukulele Company. Here's a photo I just took of my white Bill Tapia Ukulele Company Concert Ukulele. This solid top ukulele is just starting to open up and sound vibrant:

http://www.hunt101.com/data/500/BillTapiaConcert.jpg

ricdoug
10-19-2013, 04:24 PM
By the way, Pat "Palika" Enos is quite an accomplished musician and an outstanding advocate for the Mighty Ukulele world wide. He was the alaka'i and one of the initial members and leaders of the the California Unincorporated Nonprofit Society Ukulele Society of America. He's still considered as alaka'i of the nonprofit, even though he's taken on other tasks. Pat's Salt of the Earth in my book. Ric

SailingUke
10-19-2013, 07:59 PM
By the way, Pat "Palika" Enos is quite an accomplished musician and an outstanding advocate for the Mighty Ukulele world wide. He was the alaka'i and one of the initial members and leaders of the the California Unincorporated Nonprofit Society Ukulele Society of America. He's still considered as alaka'i of the nonprofit, even though he's taken on other tasks. Pat's Salt of the Earth in my book. Ric

I don't know Pat as well as Rick, but the times I have spent with him he has always been a stand-up guy.

mm stan
10-20-2013, 08:22 AM
Oh my that is some trash talking about Bill and his ukes...please cut that out man....

hawaii 50
10-20-2013, 08:39 AM
Oh my that is some trash talking about Bill and his ukes...please cut that out man....

I agree Stan...

let Bill RIP....

hucklelele
10-20-2013, 11:52 AM
I'd start here:

alibaba.com and search "ukulele":
http://www.alibaba.com/trade/search?fsb=y&IndexArea=product_en&CatId=&SearchText=ukulele

As you can see, there's every kind of uke, and just about every kind of investment level you may want.

If I were in a beach area especially, I think a storefront there might go good- and possibly have other items of music related or wild imagination

Once connected to sources of supply, the internet could then also be a great market from anywhere

Radio Flyer
10-20-2013, 01:27 PM
Them going out of business is a good thing. Sorry if you are on UU, but your product was very sub-par. played them at NAMM and felt dirty even talking to them.

OUCH!!! i didn't know them at all, but ouch!

Captain America
10-20-2013, 03:53 PM
I can't help but think the way to have made money here is to be among the first importers of inexpensive ukes, and to find some way to reach potential uke players BEFORE they're reading UU. Even BEFORE they think of playing!

The secret's finding the market. Maybe the South is a yet untapped area of potential ukers. I suppose if you hit into the fiddle and banjo crowd it may work.

hucklelele
10-20-2013, 04:00 PM
Probably help a lot to talk of the boom of ukes, and call attention to any and all media stories and events about it

I think the size of the iinstrument, and its' relative inexpensive price tag would be key elements to emphasize

It is mostly a non-electric acoustical instrument of non-booming nature, in keeping with the growing concern over the world's eco-systems and crowded venues

plus it just seems to be a worldwide meeting place- it has not such a set and established genre to be restricting in any way

it goes great with video and multitrack/ computer audio recording

maybe make a youtube playlist of ukulele performances and display it in the window and/or shop

Radio Flyer
10-20-2013, 06:48 PM
yes, the south is full of uninformed dummies playing banjos and fiddles and have never heard of Hiwayee and them furreners.

kawikasurf
10-21-2013, 04:49 PM
Okay, so you weren’t crazy about the uke and the company’s owner rubbed you the wrong way. Felt dirty? Seriously? There’s no place for that kind of over-the-top personal insult in this forum. It is no exaggeration to say that Pat Enos is a beloved figure in the ukulele community on the West Coast and in Hawai’i. Long before Pat and Bill Tapia collaborated on the design of the ukulele which, for some reason, this individual despises so much, Pat was a moving and generous force in assisting and encouraging players of all abilities and in enhancing the popularity of ukulele.

I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that Pat’s concern with detail and with staying true to Bill’s vision led him to expend a great deal of time and money in prototypes and pre-production models. Pat sought input from individuals at all stages, instituting suggestions and applying his own high standards, as an expert ukulele player and professional performer, to make certain that the ukulele, as finally released, was all that he and Bill had envisioned. And what was the result? A highly affordable instrument - in the range of $300 - that sounds good, is fun to play, and has appearance features usually found only in custom ukuleles. The model for the instrument, after all, was Bill’s own $5,000 custom crafted ukulele - Bill’s all-time favorite.

Free speech and difference of opinion are highly-valued and should be encouraged - even among our ukulele-playing ohana. Personal attacks, such as the one appearing here, are irresponsible and should not be abided. Is there a moderator for this forum? The offending post should be removed and its author should be invited to resubmit his or her personal opinion, with encouragement that he or she cite specific criticisms of the instrument. Such factual information, presented in a civil manner, would be most welcomed and will be accorded the respect it deserves.

David Weisenthal

flyingace
10-21-2013, 05:09 PM
Back on topic, I appreciate the posts. It sounds like it might be best to stick with working towards building community, doing setups and eventually opening a shop in a small town that can help and supply all the area's needs. I'll work towards becoming an authority and trusted advisor. At least that will be my best marketing effort in an attempt to keep the "showroom shoppers/online buyers" down to the minimum. One of the shops that we have here locally is like that. Good folks and I always attempt to spend my money there first before seeking other opportunities. Unfortunately when it comes to Ukes, not much of a showroom to be found around here, so online it is :(

Maybe in the next 10 years as I retire I can change that.

ricdoug
10-23-2013, 04:49 PM
Mahalo e Kawika

ricdoug
10-25-2013, 07:24 PM
David speaks truth. Ric