It seems to get harder all the time. But this is not the place for a full philosophical discussion. Let’s just start here:
What would you do with a small bag of cash that you normally wouldn’t have? I mean, something between ten and fifty thousand dollars for instance. I’ve been in that situation four times. The first time was 1985. The most recent time was 2015. Well … I always, always, always just want to create something that I think is wonderful, but does not exist … at least does not exist in the form I would like it to exist. Now, that is not even close to anything that I have ever read, imbibed, been taught or told is the basis for a business venture. Business ventures are supposed to be conceived and organized with one golden rule in mind: it’s all about making MONEY. The oligarchs and mavens of the business world these days seem to get positively aroused at the thought of a high-tech business opportunity that could legally circumvent the nano-second of time in which a transaction is accomplished through a fibre optic cable at the speed a light thereby creating bags of loot for those wealthy enough to buy into its proprietors’ hedge fund, OR a new proprietary product that is chemically addictive but still legal …OOPS, see how easy it is for me to circumvent my own little rule of sentence #2 ;)
Anyway, I didn’t start any of those four small businesses to make money. Not because I’m morally superior (full disclosure … in my weaker human moments I’m ashamed to say I feel that way) but because I can’t. However, as I said, it seems to get harder and harder to sustain a small and creative approach to business … and not just because I’m getting older. Now, besides the somewhat obvious need for high quality and excellence I think part of the trick is to constantly be trying to solve problems in unique and creative ways. This goes beyond innovative design. For me it starts with obsessing about a problem that may seem insurmountable. [It may go without saying but often lack of money is part of the problem.] Then I like to talk about the problem with other creative obsessive types ;) With those kinds of people I often find there is a kind of synergy created that much more than doubles the drive toward a solution. If that sounds pedantic I apologize and will use a musical metaphor … I like to riff off of someone else with whom I like to spontaneously jam!
I think this sort of activity is actually essential to the survival of small, creative, niche-market businesses. I always start one of these ventures spending a lot more money than is initially earned. I believe it is usually unavoidable. You have to start somewhere with a new idea and you can’t start with enough money to do things the easy way unless you have oodles of cash. I often joke with people that every boat I sell, at this point, puts us further in the red. But it’s true. It’s a race against time to solve problems one by one before investors, partners, customers and friends give up or lose interest.
It’s often nice to start a business with a fellow creative obsessive, although having a business partner who is also a like-minded friend can have it’s drawbacks too. But I do have my ‘jamming’ partners’. Some of those jamming partners are likely readers of this Blog, (which also explains why they may also be owners of one of our boats) and I’m going to tip my hat, today, to one of them - Chuck Newberg, as I get perilously close to disclosing the impetus for the foregoing digressive ramble ;)
Chuck is not an owner of one of our boats, but he helped me build the first Chironomid. I often ‘jam’ with Chuck about problems I’m obsessed with. Usually these problems start when I’m trying to build parts more efficiently, or use unusual equipment in unique ways. Chuck is an obsessive jammer too. He roots for us and we root for him. Chuck designs most of the products of Spring Creek Manufacturing in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, just south of the Canada/US border. Chuck can imagine in animated 3D. He also pines for the days when that beautiful lake-infested area on both sides of the border seemed to have no border at all… C’est la vie. Chuck’s family no longer owns Spring Creek (Chuck is still there as their designer and fabricator) but it IS owned by another small-business Minnesota family who were smart enough to come in and rescue Spring Creek shortly after Chuck’s father and and company founder passed away. We also cheer for them - the Sega family. We all have access to some superior products because Spring Creek is still around after 33 years.
Anyway, one of the changes I needed to accomplish this winter was to find out a way to avoid spending countless hours ‘finishing’ rough parts and sending them up to and back from Calgary for the final anodizing process. I realized anodizing was not the best solution for quite a number of our parts but I still needed to make up a minimum load or we would just waste as much money as we would save. I also needed to spend more time on marketing (unfortunately;) and I couldn’t do that if I couldn’t cut down on shop time. I eventually decided I could ‘tumble’ many parts leaving one small part I could anodize in our shop. So I started looking for a deburring tumbler. I starting ‘jamming’ with fellow ‘obsessives’ but couldn’t get past the problem that a decent sized deburring tumbler would cost as much, or more, than I could save in 2019 so I would not be able to ‘win the race against time’ that way. I called Chuck. He sent me this photo. $450 instead of $3000 to $5000.
Here’s my video of the first run in our shop … we solved the soap problem in the second run ;)
And here is my shameless promotion. I promise not to inflict too much of it on my Blog readers ;)
We have Spring Creek products in our e store on this website. Also, here is a link to Spring Creek: https://www.springcreek.com
Check out our new products, and Custom Shop too! https://www.cunninghamboats.com/store/