This week. we’re talking to four professional course alumni who have gone on to create woodworking success and to listen to their advice for aspiring woodworkers.
Yesterday we had Ewan Ogilvie from Scotland, and today we have Sam Rouse from the United States who graduated in 2016.
Sam’s long-term plan was always to start his own business, but to gain more experience he decided to work for another furniture maker in Florida for a few years.
However, those plans quickly changed when he landed back in the USA to find a voicemail from an interior designer on his phone.
She had a client who had just built a $1million dollar home and who was looking for upwards of 15 pieces of furniture.
Sam cancelled his interview in Florida and instead set up a workshop in North Carolina. One month later the client disappeared and stole the Interior designer’s designs.
“That’s how my story starts,” says Sam. “New city, wife, one daughter, no work.
“That’s the bad news. The good news? Three years later I am making furniture at Sam Rouse Furniture and loving it. Although I am still new to woodworking, I have learned so much over the past three years.”
Sam’s advice is to start small to avoid taking on too much debt by buying expensive tools and machinery.
He also suggests, if you can, to get at least some payment up front, and to give yourself plenty of time to finish a project. “Nothing is worse than phoning a client to tell them you will be late. Giving yourself time also allows you to take on rush orders…and no one ever complains about getting a piece early!”
Sam also cautions about pricing. “My first project was a desk that took two months to make and I charged $800. Terrible! But don’t also fall into the trap of over-charging.
“Work out what you need to live and pay the bills, then slowly increase your prices as time goes on. That’s worked for me.”
Sam also advises that new woodworkers must be ready for the ups and downs of business.
“But I love what I do. The flexibility to take a day off when the sun is shining and play with my kids, is infinitely valuable to me.”