Taking your suggestions, I built a set of light simple yet incredibly
strong and rugged rectangular & triangular wine racks in my garage out of
hardwood and anodized aluminum that you can stand on and they won't even
bend a bit!
After making all the jigs for the repetitive work, I was just wondering
what these hardwood/aluminum wine racks might sell for on the open market.
I probably only need to sell a few to make back my tooling costs.
I can probably custom build them in any reasonable geometric size
from 2x2 (4 bottles) to about 12x12 (144 bottles), either rectangular or
For a typical home, I would guess a counter top wine rack would be the 6
bottle to 12 bottle wine racks configuration. What do you think I can
sell these for if I build a web site to do that?
That's easy. It's on page one of your business plan.
The one you wrote before you designed/built/tooled the product
that meets the customer needs you defined better than the competition.
If the picture you posted is the best you can come up with, you're
competing with ladders and step stools.
If that's not your intended market, you need a different presentation.
For most of us, ability to stand on our
wine racks is not even on the list of purchase criteria.
A particularly ironic twist is that your attorney will almost certainly
demand that you put on a sticker on it that says, "don't stand on this."
Executive summary: You have a hobby you enjoy. Take pride in your hobby.
Give 'em as Xmas presents. Sell a few to people at church or at your
day job or wherever. Custom make 'em in different shapes. Life is good.
What follows is not my intention to rain on your parade.
My intention is to convince you that you need a raincoat.
There will be plenty of others raining on your parade.
If you're not up for a tirade, press "next" now. I'm feeling
I had the opportunity to take some part-time consulting work.
I critiqued his plan for free and sent him off to a friend
in the consulting business. And here's why...
I did some research and found that the first dollar I took
in payment opened the door to much misery.
I needed a business license.
I needed an accountant.
I needed a tax consultant.
I needed an attorney.
I needed a marketing department
I needed a sales department
I needed an engineering department
I needed product liability insurance.
My garage shop was in violation of zoning laws.
The county organization that operates the bus line wants to tax me.
The city, state and federal governments want to tax me.
There are more environmental and safety and and and standards
I must meet. And those often require expensive testing.
Raw material inventory.
Finished product inventory.
Cash to fund it.
Place to store it.
How did you verify that you're not violating someone's patent
or design copyright?
And that's just the stuff I can remember in 15 seconds.
There was no way I could afford all that without a LOT of consulting
business that I don't want.
You can't stick your toe in business. You're in or you're out.
The primary killer of small business is failure to plan.
Two other important issues are
Failure: insufficient sales.
Success: too many sales.
When you read the above list, I'm sure you made your "dismissal face"
and grumbled that you can do all those functions yourself.
And you can, as long as your sales are insufficient to cover overhead.
By the time the sales get to break even, you're broken.
You have to decide whether to spend time in the shop making widgets
or doing the bookwork or updating the webpage or visiting a potential
sales channel or driving widgets to UPS or sleeping. If you think
you'll never have a problem with delivery of raw material you need
to meet the output schedule and the resultant angry customers,
you've never run a business.
Notice, that there's nothing in that list that
relates to family or having fun.
At some point, you have to hire people. And if your product is priced
based on small profit at a price, you're screwed.
If you're gonna do all those functions listed above yourself, make sure
your profit margin allows you to pay yourself all those salaries.
Eventually, you'll pay rent on extra space.
And if you evolve to selling thru a local store, they want 30% or more.
And if in a different area, your markeketing arm is gonna want another
30%. Make sure that's included in your pricing model.
If you do all that, you'll be making insane margin per unit on small
volumes...but as you grow, that will drop dramatically. If your price
won't support the overhead, you've got the wrong product.
Success is one of the biggest killers of (unplanned) small business.
Asking the question demonstrates lack of business skills.
Your picture does not inspire confidence in your marketing skills.
The literature is riddled with tales of people who lost their
life savings, their spouse and their self esteem over a small business
venture they were ill-equipped to enter.
If you seriously want to devote 110% of your life to running a small
business, take some business classes and start at the business
plan end, not the finished product end. You need a business plan
for the overall business and one for each product.
One of the more enlightening sections of the business plan is the
discount cash flow analysis. Google it. Take a crack at creating one
and try to convince yourself that you'll ever break even.
For most of us, the right answer is to enjoy the hobby we do so well.
Back to your question...
Most anybody you ask will have an opinion about what a wine rack should
But the real question is, "how much will you give me for this one
right now, cash money?" That's the only answer that counts.
For online comparisons, you can't beat google.
I like this one
Your explanation was fantastic and very informative.
The only point I need to clarify is that the reason for showing me
standing on the wine rack was that I looked at all the similar wine racks
out there, and these cheaply-made-in-china racks were all flimsy and
they all used cheap materials.
They costs less - but they used thin painted steel (which rusts in a
humid environment), not extruded anodized aluminum - and they used
softwood, whereas I used hardwood, again, which will last longer in a
typical dank cellar environment.
I want the world to have what I now have - which is a wine rack to be
Here's a 'better' picture of the same wine rack, with wine bottles
instead of my feet on it! :)
Now what would you pay right now, cash, for that! :)
If you keep it as a "hobby" you might find eBay a good enough outlet.
A hobby doesn't require a business plan.
Don't really know, just speculating.
The rack looks real good. I don't use them, but what concerns me is
the metal edges. Seem an invitation for careless or clumsy or drunk
people to cracking a bottle
You look at a place like wineenthusiast.com and see what they sell wine racks for. Custom-made is a nice feature, as I had to make shelves for my wine cellar because the ceiling was too low in one place for regular racks, and the cellar's too narrow for two racks side-by-side. But most people can make do with off-the-shelf stuff.
Keep in mind, also, that different types of wine bottles have different diameters- I forgot which is which but Burgundy and Bordeaux, for example, one is 3 and the other is 3.5, or something like that. German whites are longer and thinner, and Champagne is wider. Other random wine bottles are also wider.
That site offering is exactly WHY I decided to build my own.
Here is the WineEnthusiast catalog next to my wine rack!
Sure, they're cheap - but they're not built anywhere near as well as
what I built. For example, looking on page 52 of the "Holiday 2012"
catalog, you see a "similar" wine rack, 72 bottles, for $180.
My 36-bottle rack COST me, in materials alone, at least that much.
However, if you look closely at the similar-looking WineEnthusiast wine
rack, you'll instantly notice they use thin painted steel instead of
anodized T6061 aluminum, Their walnut stock is cut square, and not
Of course, I plan on making custom sizes and shapes - which they don't.
One bonus is that I can also make the cabinets for them - but that would
be for special jobs only (like wine stores and wineries).
I visited a couple of liquor stores, and all but the fattest ones sat
nicely as the opening is specifically designed to fit all common
wine bottle diameters. Occasionally we had some long necks stick out
about an inch - but that was it for the anomalies.
I guess my biggest problem to overcome is that my costs are roughly
what they sell the cheaply made wine rack in WineEnthusiasts for.
But mine are made better. That's why I made my own.
I 'think' I can sell them - but the price is what I have to figure out.
Doesn't matter what you think. What matters is what the customer thinks.
You have to get inside their heads.
Remember, there is no clarifying. The potential buyer's first impression
of your ad is all you get.
It's like the joke that you have to explain. It ain't funny.
I'm not your average consumer. I drink wine out of box.
But I try not to let that get between me and the customer.
My advice is worth every penny it cost you...no more.
Think about what you just said.
You made a beautiful wine rack. Would someone pay more to stick
it in the cellar? This ain't the rack to store a case of wine
in the cellar. This is the display wine rack to use to show your
friends how cool you are. You gotta appeal to something they
value...and that's often related to vanity.
In that context, the first question is, "are those metal
corners gonna scratch up the surface of my $4000 piece of furniture?"
Is the wood finished to resist staining from moisture, spills, cat drool?
I can't tell how it's put together, but I can imagine several scenarios
where manufacturing tolerances, moisture, lack of moisture, age and a
cat might result in $1000 of wine on the floor. Would be nice to know
that it's not all held together with friction.
Would also be nice to know whether the resins in the wood react with the
aluminum or the anodizing to produce some crusty corrosion at the joints.
Thinking about potential problems is cheap. Fixing them after the fact
is expensive. Let your imagination wander well outside what you might
consider normal. Somebody's gonna put this on a boat in salt water.
One thing I forgot to mention is that anything successful will be
taken away from you. Your product is easily duplicated.
You're doing well with a retail outlet.
They're gonna squeeze you for price at every opportunity.
Suddenly the orders stop. But it's still in the store.
You learn that they commissioned a Chinese copy and you're out.
Legal protections won't help you. Would be iffy at best, but legal
protection is only a license to go broke on legal fees trying to
sue the infringer.
Another issue is warranty. Depending on the sales channel and the
jurisdiction at each end, you may be required to publish a warranty.
There may be government mandated implied warranties.
If anyone ever gets hurt in the vicinity of your product, the
ambulance chasers may involve you in the lawsuit. Doesn't matter
whether you're guilty or innocent or the lawsuit is frivolous...
The lawyers get all your money.
And you gotta collect taxes depending on current govt regulations.
The internet is often interstate trade. More bad news.
You do have something to be proud of.
Put it to use.
Pop the cork on one of those bottles and sit down with the wife to
drink it. Talk about how life is good. And you have time to take
the boat out. And go to the kid's soccer game. Or just put your feet
up and relax. Do you really want to trade all that for your
fifteen minutes of fame at the local wine shop?
If you're not convinced, open another bottle and try again. ;-)
It's a great hobby. Don't spoil it.
Make a few and take 'em to Saturday Market. Try to get a writeup
in the art society newsletter or the country club or just about
anywhere style-conscious people congregate. Exclusivity sells.
See how it goes.
"Hey, look what I can do," is a poor reason to start a business.
I guess I could take the wine bladder out of the box
and slide it along one row of the rack.
Now, I'd pay $1000 for the wine-rack in the link I published
if it came as shown in the pix ;-)
20 years ago, there was a local group called "Inventor's Network".
It was a loosely knit group of local inventors and wannabees.
They shared experience and links to related professionals.
I went to their meetings for a year.
I heard many horror stories about seemingly innovative ideas
that went horribly wrong as products.
There was only one guy making any money.
His product was an S-shaped extrusion cut in to 1/2" sections.
Was used to clip a pencil to your sun visor.
He had 'em made in China and printed with advertising material
that companies give away at trade shows. He made 3-cents each
and he sold a gillion of them.
Everybody else was still trying to figger out how theirs could have
gone so wrong.
I've given you a lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Most people never
encounter any of those issues. Are you feeling lucky?
If your life ain't broke, don't fix it.
Are we having fun yet?
Good point. You still the square-cut thin painted steel in the
cellar - while - the beautiful beveled hardwood & anodized aluminum
is highly visible at the kitchen or bar.
Plus, I'm thinking that some people will pay to have a nicely
furnished wine rack room, where they have a beautiful wine cellar
they can be proud to show others.
Nope! I designed it such that no metal actually touches the countertop!
Yep! It's completely sealed!
If the rambunctious cat weighs more than my 200 pounds (remember,
I was standing on it), then, it just might tip it over - but it
wouldn't be easy to upset!
It's screwed/glued and not going to move!
That's a good question! I do not know the answer.
I wonder how to figure that out?
I thought I had already done a lot of thinking - but you're bringing
up excellent points that I need to know good answers for!
I do like your idea of exclusivity - but I can't afford the rack
you published a link to (as my wife would divorce me if I did!).
In truth, I was thinking of trying to sell to the local wineries.
They could probably use sturdy custom racks that look nice.
US Forest Products Lab.
My guess is if it is finished first since the Al is anodized you're
probably pretty good. Problem would be w/ spills getting in there and
that beginning the process.
That's a possibility since you're apparently in the area...
I'd sorta' start on the other end and work my way backwards on the
pricing thingie, though. How much do you think you have to have to make
it worth your effort or are you just trying to have a break-even hobby?
If the idea is to really generate a revenue stream undoubtedly to sell
any quantity you'll have to really have a production process to have any
chance at all of making any money.
If it's the latter of it's just a hobby, use the one you've got and put
it on eBay w/ a reasonable delivery date if you're not willing to ship
the one you've already built and test the waters.
Then, of course, there's the thing of taking it around and trying to get
orders, the craft show trek, etc., etc., etc., ...
You should be aware that custom woodworking of any sort is a _very_
difficult business to make a profit at--people in general are just not
willing to pay the costs of handwork at a level that makes a return on
time at all profitable for one-of-a-kind work except in a very niche
market or as art. (DAMHIKT! :) or :(, probably more appropriate)
You're not done with designing yet.
Will they be picked up at your house or shipped? Before you get to
final pricing, look into what you will have to do to ship them via UPS
or whatever. You will need a sturdy carton and you can easily get into
oversized package charges. You will need some protective packaging,
perhaps some corner pads. With variable sizes you will need various
cartons to fit properly. Suddenly, you have quite an investment in
packaging materials. Of course, cartons are cheaper if you buy 2000
instead of only 500. See where I'm headed?
Mike posted some very good information. He mentioned hobby quite
often. My wife had a hobby and turned it into a successful business.
One day though, she found that while the money was good, she was very
busy and no longer had a hobby. It was not fun any more. Proceed
with caution. You may fare better selling a few to friends with a
modest markup to recoup your tooling costs.
I'd probably make a dozen and just give them away. It is more fun
than selling them. I already have a job.
That's another good point. Clearly I'd do better making the 'right'
I'm not sure yet which is the optimal size for homeowners.
I looked online to see what sizes are offered - but - I haven't chosen
the best size to make since I can make almost any size.
How many bottles would you say 'most' homeowners would want to store?
The ones that want to brag will have 6 to 12 on the countertop under
poor storage condition. Real wine enthusiasts will have a couple
hundred bottles tucked away in a temperature stable environment.
Personally, I have most of my wine in boxes laying on their side on
the shelves of an old entertainment center. Ugly, but works. Would
I buy your (or any other)system? Sure after I hit the lottery.
Very interesting read in this 2008 paper.
Thank you for finding that as I had not seen it prior.
They described 9 types of consumer by price points (for wine):
- Jug Wine
- Extreme Value
- Fighting Varietals <== most popular by far
- Popular Premium <== second most popular
- Mid Premium <== second most popular
- Ultra Premium <== third most popular
- Luxury <== third most popular
- Super Luxury
Out of those 9, they lumped together three "super segments" (for wine):
1. Everyday Super Segment ($25 to >$100)
2. Premium Super Segment ($7 to $25)
3. Luxury Super Segment (<$3 to $7)
Given the price point and popularity, and "assuming" these distinctions
transcend to the buying of wine racks, it looks like I would need to
consider aiming at the Ultra Premium and Luxury market, as they have
the price point and numerical density that I need.
It really depends on what is being sold, to whom and by whom. Many things
are marked up at least 5x cost. Especially true of high ticket stuff which
doesn't have a mass market; jewelry for example. Shoes have a big markup
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