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I'm 16, and at the stage where im planning for my future....I have one passion...repairing my friends guitars and making my own...my dad says its just a hobby but i look at it as my life... i know there's so much more that i have to learn and so many possibilities that im starving... Basically my question is, how profitable selling guitars is because it is MY DREAM to open a fairly large guitar store selling my favorite brands along with my customs, and then eventually turn in into a franchise, sitting with the big guns such as guitar center and musicians friend... So if there's any insite on " if selling guitars is a fairly profitable business " and if i could make a good living doing it...

thank ya guys, this place is awsome....

( sg pics, and finished warlock rebuild pics soon to come, hopefully in a couple days)

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well obviously there is money in it you just named off a couple of corps that have proven that.

honestly my suggestion you are young so do it while its still easy plan on college. go for buisness management get some basic buisness law and accounting in there too. this will give you the building blocks to make this happen

oh yeah and your old man won't think any thing is up until you open your first store.

heheheh sneaky

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Do a search and you'll find a ton of info on this. Melvyn Hiscock says it best, the best way to make a small fortune building guitars is to start with a big fortune. It is not saying that you can not make money building guitars, there are a few guys here who do. But you have to make a name for yourself, you have to offer something that no one else does, and you have to do it at a competitive price. The big companies buy lumber at huge discounts. They buy parts at huge discounts and have the availability of CNC machines that you have to compete with. And face it, if your brand is sitting between Fender and Gibson, 99% of the time people are going to buy a Fender or Gibson. Most of the guys on here who build for a living build only customs that are made to order. Making a production line of guitars costs a lot money just in overhead and then you have to pray they sell. If you can find a way into the market you are better making made to order customs. There are plenty of non-big name guitars out there, it is just that when some one wants a new guitar there are a few names that always come to mind first and there are always a few names that the magazines push.

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It's so cool that you have a dream. Shame your father can't get behind it, but it's up to you to convince/show to him that you have what it takes to make the dream a reality. It's all on you.

If you really want to go into business, then I suggest you study up now, get yourself into a decent college, then get yourself an MBA. I write about companies all the time -- there are plenty of instances where someone starts from scratch and builds an empire, but they usually started out 50 years ago or more, when the business climate was a lot different. These days, an education is a lot more important.

And I bet if you start pulling good grades, show your father your willingness to work hard, he'll come around.

Ultimately, though, you're living for yourself, not your father or anyone else. Don't let others dream for you.

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Starting a business isn't hard, but running it successfully and growing it is. I tend to agree that you aren't likely to make a fortune building guitars, but you also talk about owning a store or chain. If you do that part well, you can make money. But there are a lot of stores already selling guitars that are well run, so if you want to compete, you'll need to understand how they do what they do. You also need to know what the market is like, can you see any opportunities, what are you entry barriers. . . Lots of stuff.

You're 16, so you probably aren't going to open your business tomorrow. Go to some local music/guitar stores, talk to the owners about their market/customers, competition, the industry. Then go look at the big guys and see what they do. Maybe get a part time job at one of the stores and talk to the customers. If you figure out what the customers want and can deliver it better than the Guitar Center, you might have a shot.

I just ordered a small gig bag from Sweetwater. Nobody had it in stock, and Sweetwater's site didn't say OOS, so I ordered one. They called to tell me it was out of stock, wouldn't be in for at least a month, and offered to cancel the order. I said no big deal, I'll wait. Got two more updates and two emails to keep me informed, and then a follow up email to make sure the item arrived. I think they had the factory drop ship it to save time.

That would never have happened with Musician's Friend. When I ordered something from them in November for my daughter, I received an email saying the item was OOS and wouldn't be shipping until January. Bit late for a christmas present . . .

You can guess who I'll order from next time if their prices are equal. So here's a question for you, did Sweetwater simply utilize free employee time for all that effort, or did it cost them more because of the extra effort? I know that the guys in the Guitar Center are just sitting around 80% of the time . . . I don't know how well Sweetwater is doing as a business, but I'll try to use them in the future.

My point, slow as it is to arrive, is that you need to study the business environment. Learn the basics about customer service and business operations . . .

And make sure you read "Why we buy.", "Influence", and a good book on running a small business.

Good luck.

Todd

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There is a lot of good advice here, and hopefully some of the more accomplished builders will chime in here. My advice (and being a newbie myself) would be to learn the forum, in the sense that the search function must become your best friend. Read as much as you can on business and on luthierie. There is a wealth of information out there, and on many fora, but always take the advce with a grain of salt.

Learn to use the tools, but especially learn the process and what you want to achieve. I´m not speaking just about guitars on that one... Daniel Sorbera is a young guy who is still learning, but has accomplished so much in a few years. I think you should look into his threads. Also, Perry Ormsby (rhoads56) is an accomplished builder from Australia, and I´ve seen him sign on from time to time. As you spend time in the forum you will get to know through their posts some great builders and the advice they give. There are many people here whom I´ve read their build threads and read their helpful comments on other people´s topics.

Last bit, as your goal is a very ambitious one (I don´t mean anything negative by that) I would also advise on learning every process thoroughly. Do a lot of set ups, on many guitars. Do fret jobs, refinishing, etc. always planning and understanding what each thing is for. Be careful around the work shop, and take care! It´s an incredible journey to follow one´s dream, travel it safe.

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Josh,

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, put it like this. Just about anybody can make a better hamburger than McDonald's. What makes them successful isn't their product, but their business plan. They've developed a model that can be transplanted anyplace in the world, and can be run by teenagers! That's impressive. So you could be an incredible luthier and it wouldn't matter a bit if you don't have a good business plan. I think you're getting some good advice here. Go to school and study business management. Consider an MBA afterward. In the meantime, why not get a part time job at a music store?

Here's hoping all your dreams come true.

-Dave

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Go speak to Neal Moser about running a small shop. He makes pointy guitars in a market that is not big on pointy guitars. How does he do it? He is a good luthier and has a reputation. It takes one famous person holding your guitar on stage to give you a waiting list two years long. If you have that reputation a good business plan will take you a long way.

Learn how to save money and still build!

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My advice to you is more general.

I say this first part very cautiously. You are only 16. When I was 16, my "dreams" for my life were a lot different than they are now. (I'm 21.) I'm glad I changed, because I was a much different person five years ago. When I was 16 I had never touched a guitar and thought I might major in a foreign language or creative writing. I am now a music composition major, I'm proficient at guitar and bass (self-taught), have built a few guitars, and write and play a lot of piano music. I never saw any of this coming when I was 16.

So, start your research now, but also keep thinking about it. Some people go through "interest fads" (I did for a while). You don't want to invest tons of time and money and then discover that your passion has lost its glow.

THAT SAID... you know better than any of us what you want to do. So start right now learning the skills you'll need. It's great that you sense this much "direction" at such a young age. I'm 21 and still don't know what I want to "be when I grow up". (Yikes.) My guess is that since you are so sure of it already, you won't change, and you'll end up making a good career out of it. You seem like someone with initiative who takes risks. I think that and the knowledge you'll learn both first-hand and in school are all you'll need.

Lastly... DON'T let anyone tell you that you should be a doctor or a lawyer or something. You know what you want to be. Go for it, work hard and go the extra mile for your teachers/employers/whatever, and you'll make a name for yourself. :D

Edited by Geo
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For the record, even Guitar Center isn't making that much money at it. They were "acquired" by Bain Capital (Mitt Romney's company!) about a year ago, and at the time, they were over 200 million dollars in debt.

Did I say their employees sat around 80% of the time :D

Maybe it's more. Either way they have HUGE overhead and slim margins. You need a model more like amazon's for MOST of what they sell.

Todd

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and then eventually turn in into a franchise, sitting with the big guns such as guitar center and musicians friend...

GC and MF are not run by guys who have a passion for working on/ building custom guitars. Two totally different worlds. You will find out it's VERY hard to find enough hours in the day to be good at both.

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and then eventually turn in into a franchise, sitting with the big guns such as guitar center and musicians friend...

GC and MF are not run by guys who have a passion for working on/ building custom guitars. Two totally different worlds. You will find out it's VERY hard to find enough hours in the day to be good at both.

Great point. And remember, as a budding business and probably being the only employee to start with, it is going to have very demanding hours. When you start out, even one employee is at least and extra $15,000 you have to pay and you'll have a very minor customer base to support that while still trying to make enough money to live of off. I am not trying to sound negative here by any means. It's great that you have a dream and a passion, I am just trying to warn you of some of the pitfalls of owning your own business. My aunt and uncle have there own business. They work very long hours, 6 days a week, and every holiday except Christmas and July 4. So it will be tough to find time to still build guitars. Starting off, you might be able to set up a work bench that you can build at while waiting for customers. But as you gain more clients and have more repairs, you'll have less time to build.

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I'm 16, and at the stage where im planning for my future....I have one passion...repairing my friends guitars and making my own...my dad says its just a hobby but i look at it as my life... i know there's so much more that i have to learn and so many possibilities that im starving... Basically my question is, how profitable selling guitars is because it is MY DREAM to open a fairly large guitar store selling my favorite brands along with my customs, and then eventually turn in into a franchise, sitting with the big guns such as guitar center and musicians friend... So if there's any insite on " if selling guitars is a fairly profitable business " and if i could make a good living doing it...

thank ya guys, this place is awsome....

( sg pics, and finished warlock rebuild pics soon to come, hopefully in a couple days)

I used to have dreams :D

Education is pretty essential so some good advice there if your dreams should change. My only advice having worked in retail (books, not music) in the past was to really get to know customers. Get inside their dreams, not just your own ideals. Learn to play the guitar pretty well as this is always impressive, and not just one style. Learn to play solo (no band) convincingly as this is a typical demonstration situation either of your playing skills or to sell a guitar. Learn to teach guitar, a lot of sales come through lessons and is another way to learn to connect and develop the social skills to work with customers one on one. Really learn to care and understand what people want and go even further if you can. You will need a thick skin as well.

As for retail outlets. Consider completely innovative and different ideas for retail. Perhaps try and get a job in a store and pay attention to what is done wrong. A lot of retail guys in retail live the hype, avoid that as it is a turn off off everyone. Teaching and guitar repairs can get you into some retail experience and will tremendously help your playing and your confidence. Be aware though, that it can take time to be able to do this. know your limitations.

Being able to hold and play and instrument is important, but the overheads of a music store and staff and all the hassle is becoming more and more difficult to sustain. Perhaps you could develop skills and contacts to start a jam session kind of thing in a local hall or through your school. In Australia there is a program called weekend warriors, typically 40 somethings (although any age is welcome) who would like to play in a band but don't want to the commitment or hassle, they rehearse for a few weeks a small set and once a month a collection of these "bands" play somewhere (mostly to friends and family). Sometimes they will continue with another line up, or they may continue to play with people they have met in this way. These programs are hosted by stores who usually provide equipment like amps and so they make a lot of sales directly from this experience. They are usually hosted by a coach who teams people up from an audition.

My brother went through this and still plays with some guys he met through it and by the end had bought a new stratocaster off the store and considering a high end amp as well...so obviously it works in that way. Something like this could be used as a front of house for an online store in time and cut overheads usually associated with store front businesses.

But go slow, you can ruin a dream and get into a lot of trouble if you don't have the skills and experience to pull something like this off. Start small, learn as much as you can and study things that have a wider application while you develop and grow, this will please your parents too.

On pursuing such dreams from my life. I have never achieved the dreams I perhaps hoped for when I was your age and playing the guitar. My parents were not very supportive and I did paper rounds and secretly bought an electric guitar (even though I had no amplifier). I practiced a lot, played in various bands for a bit to no particular success. Through most of my life the guitar has been a companion...

However, the guitar has helped me in many ways over the years in dramatic and unexpected ways. For instance, I had left school (and home) very early to follow my dream, but ended up working pretty crappy jobs as a result till I was twenty. This though, allowed me to return to school and I was able to go back in on audition, finish high school, went to university (music) and eventually a post graduate degree. Without the guitar I would not have been able to do this and I'd still be washing dishes!

1983 was a landmark year for me, the year I went back to school at 20. I still played with a rock band occasionally, was living with the other guitarist's sister and working kitchens to pay the rent. I was part of a bunch of musicians playing in a school run jazz band with people of all ages and learned to read music and theory and play classical guitar doing 5 exams within the year. It seems incredible that I was able to do this but most surprising was the hidden talents I had in other areas like english and social theory.

It just goes to show what can be done if you are doing something you love in a supportive environment. However, it is a lot of work and the road will not lead anywhere like what you may wish, dream or hope for. Sometimes you may discover that your dreams are not all they are cracked up to be...imagine owning a store with high rent with staff sitting about BSing for 80% of the day at your expense! Any enterprise like this will need a massive amount of capital...so get a job and save a lot!

Life has many twists and turns...you are only young once...enjoy it while you can.

pete

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I was told around 1990 that it would take 100K for me to open a guitar shop (yeah, see, I had a very similar dream when I was in my late teens/early 20's). The guy who gave me that number was running a music store. He got his 100k startup money by winning the lottery. His shop was in a busy suburban strip mall. I think his shop lasted about 10 years at the most (might have been closer to only 5 years)

There was another guy who was the greatest music store owner I ever knew (Real honest guy who liked to talk my ear off and always gave me a better deal). He did electronic repairs in the shop basement while an employee usually took care of retail upstairs. They really knew how to get guitar players to come in there, by only marking up their unlabled GHS made strings one dollar over their cost.

Well, as it often happens, if you're a nice honest guy, low-life scum will take advantage every chance they get.

One time I went in and he was bummed, because someone had managed to walk out with a mixing board. ( I once went into another mom/pop music store and someone had recently walked out with a guitar)

Then, it turned out his employee had been stealing money little by little, and it wasn't noticed by the owner until $10,000 had been stolen.

He closed the shop shortly after that. Did electronics repairs out of his house after that.

I'm glad I never opened a retail shop. Would really suck now that we're in the age of people buying online while in their pajamas.

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Thinking along those lines...

A local music shop went out of business a few years ago. They were the best store in the area, with employees who didn't hover, didn't dash over if you reached for a guitar... they sold D'Addario electric strings for $2.99/pack. At one point they had five stores in the general area I think. Eventually Sweetwater forced them out of business.

Places like Sweetwater, Music 123 etc. offer free shipping and have so much in stock... in the internet age, I don't see how a local store can compete with that.

Also... there's another local store that's still in business. The guy runs a lesson program (instructors give lessons on various instruments), and he also rents instruments to beginners. He has some Fender guitars but the rest are no-name Asian imports priced for the beginners. He usually has a good Fender reissue amp or two in the store but the rest are cheapo digital things.

So, he seems to have found a niche. Just something else for you to consider.

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Basically my question is, how profitable selling guitars is because it is MY DREAM to open a fairly large guitar store selling my favorite brands along with my customs, and then eventually turn in into a franchise, sitting with the big guns such as guitar center and musicians friend...

I find the above ultimate part of the "dream" to be the biggest worry. Presumably, you franchise it so others can run it (or loose on a dream) and you envision sitting around striking deals and otherwise mixing it with the "big guns" many of whom are frankly, A-holes!

Your dream seems to have an end game not where you are creating guitars or providing excellent service, or even working in a shop selling a product that you really believe in, but to become a "big gun" yourself.

That is a bit of a shame and generally it is true that if you are not 100% committed to what you are doing, it will not be successful. You can hang out with A-holes for free you know!

Generally, things to do with the music business are littered with broken dreams. How often have people come here with a dream to build guitars for a living. Few can do it, even some with a lot of skills and years of experience. It takes a lot more than faith and a dream to be really good at something and then comes all the business stuff. It is easy to look at the prices of guitars or anything and think there is a lot of money in these things, but the store is going to take a large chunk, all those taxes, the up front capital and even then and if you have the skills and even a viable product...you have to have the skills and cahones to carry it through.

I found this with a commercial kit version of some of my sustainer stuff, the reality is that there is a reason why sustainiac and fernandes charge what they do. At one stage I asked someone what they would pay for such a thing, and they suggested $25! Potentially you could make a DIY version for $25 but don't expect me to make it for that much!

In so many things you have to be realistic and at 16 you are too young to know. I did run a (non-music) business for a while but I always undercharged and in the end even though I was great at what I did (won a lot of awards) and I was doing something I loved and I had the "market" sown up (although not an area you could give up the day job for!) it just couldn't survive no matter how good I was at it.

The other thing is there are a lot of competitors out there and they will see you as a threat. GC and MF will not "welcome" you in the way that you might think.

Also, we are heading for hard times and I honestly fear that things like guitar will become more and more of a luxury but there will potentially be some interesting opportunities to profit and do the world some more good than building guitars. For now, doing this may well set you up with additional skills that will hold you in good stead in future endeavors...if hanging out with "big guns" is what you wish, there are more profitable industries and easier roads than guitars, that's for sure.

pete

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Once again, I am not trying to shoot down your dreams, but don't put all of your eggs in one basket either. My personal plan is to get comfortable enough with the quality of my building to be able to sell guitars to make it a self sustaining hobby. But I'll still need a day job. I currently work as a drafter/machine programmer. When I was 14ish I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the worst way and also a NHL player. When I was 17 I was looking at the Coast Gaurd to get into helicopter pilotting and search and rescue to be a diver. At 19 I found myself in community college studying mechanical engineering technology. At 19 I started refereeing ice hockey for extra money and because I love the game. Eight years later I just completed my first season working as a referee for the NCAA and worked 3 National Championship Tournaments, one of them being college. If all goes well at two camps I have to attend I will be working in the ECHL as a semi-pro referee. Even 8 years ago I would never have dreamed I would be where I am at now, and I am extatic about it. The moral is that you never know what life has in store for you. The best advice I can give is be as diverse and explorative as possible. Never pass up any opportunity to try something new and always ask questions. You are never too old to learn more. You never know where you will land. You might not find yourself owning a major chain music store in 20 years, but you very well may find yourself as editor in chief for Guitar World or some other cool job.

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