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Thread: My 'Big Idea'

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default My 'Big Idea'

    It's hard to avoid all the doom and gloom surrounding my country's exit from the EU. I don't know how this is going to effect business but I certainly know that the current all time low of the GBP against the USD is making importing from the US very expensive. I think with the right set-up and investment I can equal the K brand wholesale prices here in the UK.

    So I have had this Big Idea that I have started to prepare for. In November I am converting my workshop with its make room, finishing room and machine shop into a 'factory simulation' where 10 - 16 of my baby baritone ukulele are made by a small team of interns. I really want to see if it is possible to run a small workshop based business, batch building affordable hand assembled/made ukulele here in the UK. That is, building at a wholesale cost. Work is under way prepping materials and having friends help me get to grips with 3D carving using my CNC machine. I am serious about this so any input, positive advice would be welcome. I have health and safety covered and know all about workflows. I'd like to hear from forum members who have been part off small production teams or have experience in this type of production.

    Thanks much.
    I am documenting this on FaceBook for those who are interested. I'm also looking for funding for the materials but that is for another forum!

  2. #2
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    Apr 2017
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    Let me be the first to wish you well in your project.

    I guess that you’ve spoken to lots of sales outlets for your proposed products and have a good idea of the volumes that they would expect to sell and the product(s) that they would expect to sell. If Bruko and APC can run successful Uke manufacturing companies in Continental Europe then why not believe that you can do as well in Wales? The Pound is low against the Dollar and the Euro, parts will be dearer but your overhead and labour costs might make up for that.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
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    Head down, looking ahead and plowing my own furrow as usual I was unaware of APC. Thanks for the link.. very helpful being able to see what they do, their costs and how this will dovetail into my plans.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    Head down, looking ahead and plowing my own furrow as usual I was unaware of APC. Thanks for the link.. very helpful being able to see what they do, their costs and how this will dovetail into my plans.
    I’m glad that my comment was of some assistance to you. Another ‘European’ manufacturer is Hora : http://hora-factory.com/index.html . Being based in Romania it’s not possible to beat their labour rates but, of course, there are other factors and your customers will be looking for different features. They used to sell more models but I think that a small range of Hora’s products are still sold by Hobgoblin Music, under the Blue Moon Brand. I’m not quite sure who your competitors would be but wonder whether you’re looking to sit above or alongside the likes of Noah (https://www.noahukuleles.com/product...rano-ukuleles/) and Brüko.

    As a Uke buying member of the public I buy on several factors including affordability, value and quality. If you mass produce then I wonder how much automation you will need (much I suspect) to allow mass affordability.

    As before good luck. It’s quite a challenge that you’re considering.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 02-10-2019 at 02:35 AM.

  5. #5
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    Interesting move, best of luck with this endeavor. It will be interesting to see how many ukes the domestic market can swallow in this price range. I'm assuming that all other European countries will tax the goods from the UK in the same way as from the US, so your product will be considerably more expensive outside the UK.

  6. #6
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    Not looking to export. This is purely for the domestic market where foreign goods are suddenly going to become more expensive....

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    Not looking to export. This is purely for the domestic market where foreign goods are suddenly going to become more expensive....
    But if the GBP stays down against the USD, wouldn't that make it more attractive for US buyers?
    Ukelele:
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - Bb, SC SMU
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    KPK pineapple SLN-GCEA
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG-C Lava
    Guitars:
    Jupiter #47, TI CF127, G
    Kala KA-GL-Koa, G EFS O Warm/Worth B

    Jim's Blog

  8. #8
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    "Intern - a student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification."

    This should make the labour rates competitive.

    John Colter.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hanks View Post
    But if the GBP stays down against the USD, wouldn't that make it more attractive for US buyers?
    I’d have thought so as well, but wonder about the shipping factors and who would sell for Pete too.

    In the original post Pete only mentions Baritones and above says he intends his Ukes to be for U.K. sales only (hope I haven’t misread something). I wonder how many Baritones are sold each year here in the U.K. and what the mix of prices is. The other European manufacturers have a range of Ukes and even add other stringed instruments into what they make. Bruko’s earlier basic model range had a lot right about it, they were/are simple, affordable and high build quality instruments for everyone that just stay working year after year. To me theirs seems a logical business model to copy, but that’s not to say that there aren’t other good ways of doing things too.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 02-10-2019 at 06:00 AM.

  10. #10
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    I am giving over my workshop in November to a factory simulation and have chosen my baby baritone design as the 'test piece'.

    Baby Baritone Upright.jpg

    I think people have done sopranos, discovered but not paid much attention to concerts, are doing tenors and according to the owner of SUS here in the UK, there is a thirst for the baritone. My 'model', the Big Idea as I have called it, which I can only afford to run on a volunteer basis is just that John. If I go for the real thing I will be EMPLOYING people and as I have done before, pay them above the living wage. I do not believe in slave labour as method of running a business. If I do go into small batch production it will be on the basis of proper contracts of employment, pension and other benefits. I will and have treated anyone I have ever employed generously - how I would have liked to have been treated when I had skin in that game.

    This is not a done deal even if I 'prove' my model and it works. This is future planning against a bad decision made by an ill informed electorate who were told lies by everyone and because they couldn't know any better, voted for those who shouted the loudest and appealed to their basest instincts. Yes folks, the problem of accountability and thought for others is everywhere. ~But I am in a club, I play vey the rules. It's gonna url and I am exploring possibilities.

    What I haven't mentioned to the fore is my reason for exploring this idea. I have a partner called Parkinson. I cannot separate myself from him and he keeps stealing from me hard won skills and abilities. One day I am going tom involuntarily put there last set of strings on the last commercial instrument I make. This looks like sooner rather than later. Do you think I am going to sit on my backside and do nothing simply because e a progressive illness has limited my hand skills? This was the plan: https://vimeo.com/249411554 Now things have changed....

    BTW Hank. Exporting is the biggest headache for anyone with physical goods. That's why many product exporters have shipping departments who deal only with this particular skill set - patience and long suffering! I began my career exporting ukulele to Hawaii and you know what? The US internal market is so big it can quite happily and does effectively ignore any fretted musical instrument with a label that carries "Made in the UK". After all, only Americans can build fretted instruments right? And before you flame me for this brazenly aggressive comment, remember I have been there (literally - could have made instruments day in day out and sold everyone of them the sleepy town of Akron Ohio) and worn the T Shirt. My first sponsor was desperate to set me up in a workshop on the Big Island so I could have "made in the USA" on the label. If that had been the case and my wife had agreed to relocate I would be writing a totally different story...I've been doing this for 25 years and have learnt many, many lessons about how our two great countries, united by a common language are so far apart in understanding each others' cultures. I have total respect for my fellow makers in the US. I only wish I could be part of your community but I am not. And I have to swim against the tide of opinion, acceptance and belief all the time, despite paying my dues over and over again! Believe me, it took me 20 years to break that glass ceiling of prejudice. I am very grateful for all of you here and my clients who do not live in the UK for taking a greta leap of faith and believing my schtick and roving it by buying and keeping my instruments. You are welcome to visit my workshop here in Wales UK anytime: I'll even take you out to lunch to experience the joys of 'Welsh Rarebit'. Oh the joy....
    Last edited by Pete Howlett; 02-10-2019 at 10:45 AM.

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