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Thread: Starting an ukulele business?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Spanaway, WA.
    Posts
    352

    Default Starting an ukulele business?

    Hey forum.
    Its been years since I got involved with the UU, but I came here with an important question. I'm a young guy. 19 years old out of Tacoma, Washington and I LOVE the ukulele. And I've been really thinking lately about what I wanna do with my life. And its really my dream to open up a shop. Start a business. I love the ukulele, I love interacting with customers and helping people. And I love the idea of it. I also think I have great customer service and people skills.

    My problem is.... I don't know where to start, I really have no money (about $700 bucks). I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who has done it before or is now doing it who could give me some tips. I have nowhere to turn and don't really know how to get into something like this.

    A few things I have considered.
    - I could start a website
    - I'd probably have to work out of my own home for a few years
    - I could make business cards
    - I could take some business classes in college (btw Im starting this year)
    - I could take some luthier classes. (however I know nothing about it)
    - I could also sell guitars too (I play a little but still know nothing about it either)
    - I REALLY want this

    If you have any tips, suggestions, ideas, supportive critisism.
    I'd SUPER appreciate it. Please.
    Reply below or email me at seanperez671@gmail.com.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lower Slower Delaware
    Posts
    600

    Default

    A successful business SHOULD have a plan, but I think you need an embryo first. That is, something you bring to the party.

    You are in Tacoma, a very artistic area so there is probably a market for a good uke store or service.

    1. Start a Uke club if you aren't in one already.
    2. See what people need. Make notes.
    3. Decide what services you can bring to the party; for example, are you good at setup? Offer to set up people's ukes for a reasonable return on your time and materials.
    4. After you find out what people need and want, make notes. They want let's say, a good mid-range uke, a good budget uke, electric, strings, service. You can offer some of these on Evilbay as well as locally. Try to stay away from renting a storefront at least at first, because the cost of this is very high; all the money you make first has to go to fill the rent and electric.
    5. Don't neglect tax considerations required by your locality. And business permits. Perhaps it's better to offer a service and an Evilbay store rather than operate a brick and mortar. Do the math. If things start to grow, hire a CPA for a few hours to go over your business plan and balance sheet. The money you pay the CPA will be returned many times over in tax savings and keeping out of trouble. (Try to hire one after tax season, they are busy right now.)
    6. Get some business cards and go to festivals. Have a booth and meet and greet.
    7. Have a good web presence. You don't need to pay for someone to do a website; there is software or sites to set one up yourself or get a friend. When you are big, you can worry about a pro website, but at first, the cost outweighs the benefit. A simple site will do.
    8. Participate! Go to shows, festivals, schools, forums, offer workshops. Get known. Make your name "THE NAME" in your speciality.
    9. If you decide to sell ukes, find a maker you like. You do not need to carry all of them at first. A mid range, an electric or pickup-equipped, a low end are enough for now. Once you have a base of customers asking to buy ukes, you can investigate becoming a dealer.
    Ukes: Mainland mahogany tenor, Eleuke Tenor Solid Cutaway Sunburst
    Guitars: Yamaha GS-90, Marcario flamenco negra, Cordoba Protege 3/4

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    54,892

    Default

    You are young, live a little first. Running a business is a 24/7 thing. Learn something about the music industry first. Work a couple years in a music store. Save some money, learn the trade. Maybe sell a few on eBay to get your toes wet regarding shipping and customer relations. Start slowly and work your way up to where you wanna get.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lower Slower Delaware
    Posts
    600

    Default

    Good advice, Salukulady. And learn a speciality--like set up. Becoming an expert makes you a hot commodity. Start slowly is also good advice--I agree with everything you wrote.
    Ukes: Mainland mahogany tenor, Eleuke Tenor Solid Cutaway Sunburst
    Guitars: Yamaha GS-90, Marcario flamenco negra, Cordoba Protege 3/4

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    NorCal
    Posts
    752

    Default

    The first place is to work at a shop that sells ukes. You will gain expertise and understanding. Much of what goes into it being successful is likely aspects you are unfamiliar with. Working will also give you ideas about what you would do the same and what different, and start you with connections that will help with success.

    Personally, I would contact "The Ukulele Site" in Hawaii and see if they would give me (you) a job.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    U.K.
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    Default

    My advice to the OP is not to follow this dream, no matter how much you want it or how good you think you are it is 90% plus likely to end in tears ... don’t think yourself to be in the lucky 0-10%.

    If you ignore my first advice then get a job in the music industry doing something that someone will give you good money to do and offer you training to do it. Go where the money is, simple enough really, if someone’s willing to pay you and train you then you know that what you’re doing has some future.

    Some make good money in the music business but the vast majority either struggle to scrap a living in it or give up and do something else. A wise man is honest to himself about how others value his ability. Having music as a hobby is good but a wise young man also gets a paying job with a career path; get something behind you like work experience, money and qualifications that you can fall back on.

    I know a couple of people who have tried to run music shops, able people too. They didn’t make it, they had enthusiasm and experience and funds but they couldn’t make it pay. A smart guy learns from the struggles of others and tries not to make their mistakes ...

    Edit. I spoke to a friend today who has two sons in the music business, for various reasons there’s about fifteen years between the brothers. The younger brother (about thirty) is a venue manager and has had no business for the last twelve months and nothing planned for several months to come yet (here in the Uk such venues are all shut by law). Fortunately he’s getting part of his salary paid but otherwise things are a bit bleak. The older brother (say 45) is doing OK now and provides background type music commercially for films, TV and the like via his own recording studio - nothing spectacular but bread and butter stuff that pays the bills. It’s been a long haul for him but he’s now in an OK place financially ... only taken him the best part of thirty years in the music industry to get there.

    Thinking further I know someone who has a specialist music shop. In his twenties he held down a regular job and got some money behind him, later he started doing some teaching as a side line, and at the same time polishing and developing his playing skills too plus his teaching skills. Eventually he became a full time teacher, with financial support and back up from his wife. As a side line he traded in instruments bought from and sold to various of his students. He must be in his mid to late thirties now and has a small shop which he also does a lot of teaching from, in person (when Covid restrictions allow) and over the Internet too. Teaching complements his shop and has been the route to being able to have a shop.

    Have excellent playing skills, have good performance skills, have good teaching skills, have good interpersonal skills, have good product knowledge and some repair skills, be a skilled user of computer technology and have a solid grounding in business management. That’s a pretty tough list.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 02-28-2021 at 08:58 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Posts
    9,335

    Default

    Hello,
    I love your dream! If I were your age....well, not actually, what I would do is learn to be a sniper, then go to Africa and hunt big game killers. Really!
    The advice that Gwynedd gave you is spot on! Working in a music store, if you can find one in your area, is a good idea. It doesn't matter if they sell ukes, in fact, it's better if they don't. Who needs the competition?
    Take your time, get really good at playing ukulele, get yourself out there. Don't rent a store, a friend of our had a shop for many years. He admitted that it was his hobby, he makes his living playing music anywhere he can. His shop went belly up when he was forced to move to a new location. Save up at least double the money you have. Whatever you think it costs, it will cost more.
    Try to watch Mim of Mim's Ukes. She has made herself in demand as a show MC at ukulele festivals. If I wanted to sell ukes, I'd do exactly what she does.
    And be practical, but don't listen to any naysayers. Ever.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota
    Posts
    2,496

    Default

    Some immediate thoughts:

    1) Seek out the advice of others in the industry that you want to work in--especially those outside your area. I'd call Mim (Mim's Ukes), Mike (The Uke Republic), Andrew (The Ukulele Site) and Matt (Aloha City Ukes)...or go visit them and schedule (and pay for) lunch with them, if they are willing to meet with you. Learn all you can about what worked for them (or didn't) and heed advice. Please note: they may not be willing to visit with you, as all have an Internet presence and ship around the world.

    2) I would highly recommended taking some classes in business, as well as taking a course of study in how to become a luthier, as you'll have to deal with the legal and financial obligations of running a business (and taxes) as well as repairing ukuleles or setting them up.

    3) You're going to need substantial capital to run the business, even if it is out of your house or apartment--and even more if you need a shop. Some distributors will require you to buy a certain threshold of instruments to become a dealer--and sometimes models that you do not want to carry. And if you want to carry the "K-brand" instruments, an even higher investment will be needed, as "basic" soprano koa models are around $1000. Banks are going to be hesitant to invest in your business without collateral and without a business plan.

    It might be better, in the short run, to see if you can get a job at a music store or ukulele company and take classes on the side to prepare you--and then have a goal of opening your own store when you are 25 (or whatever date). That way, you can learn about the industry from within the industry--rather than trying to "crack" it from the outside.

    You are 19--and people have changed the world at that age; but there is something to be said for some education in the field you want to pursue as well as real world working knowledge.
    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

    My ukulele YouTube channels:

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tampa Bay, FL
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    9,335

    Default

    Please don’t quote the spam! -seeso
    This smells like SPAM, and I don't mean the food variety. How do we report this? Writer has no other apparent posts.
    Last edited by seeso; 03-06-2021 at 01:44 AM.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    U.K.
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    1,254

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickie View Post
    This smells like SPAM, and I don't mean the food variety. How do we report this? Writer has no other apparent posts.
    Well said, it smells like SPAM to me too, I’ve just reported it and you can too. There’s a small triangle icon at the bottom left hand corner of the screen for such things.

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