Do we have to be poor?

Terry Scidmore CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I am located in a poor neighborhood, with a high number of immigrants mostly speaking little english. This area has had one of the highest crime rates in the city. My community was awarded a number of grants this year to turn it around, and there are a group of us "old timer" business people who are working with the immigrant business as part of the grants.

Tonight I was listening to the new business owners talking about wanting a better life here than in Vietnam, Laos, Russia, Cambodia, Mexico, Poland, Somalia, Afganistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Portugal, you name it. A better life for them is being able to have a place to live, a place for their children to go to school, a place where they are not afraid of having their hands cut off, or their wives raped, or their sons killed, or their children starve - the reasons are as varied as the dialects spoken tonight.

They are dazzled by everything here. There is so much.

They have started grocery stores, tailor shops, beauty salons, a computer store, bakery, chocolatiera, restaurants, etc. They sell what they know, typically in the way businesses are run in the country they come from. They are resourceful, and most work hard. Home Depot, Walgreens, Target, and some other big boxes have and are coming in as part of the "solution".

They don't have location.

Probably most will not make it - the bell curve.

The few who will be "successful" will probably move to better territory as quickly as possible.

Us old timers are just people who have lived and worked here for years. We are hoping that we can make things a little bit better. We have "enough" to be able to "give" back. What scares me is that we are not retailers as outlined here, and that we are leading them down the wrong path, no matter how well meaning we are.

As Jerry wrote, it hurts to see people such as Cody, Framerguy, Kathy and others try so hard and have things not work. It hurts to hear the new business people talk with such hope, and then read about other business peoples struggles.

I, too, hope that each of you receives what you need and that your hard work and dedication will be rewarded.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I believe Bob Carter proposed this topic not because one or another framer turned to be poor, but because framers’ poverty seems to be a serious condition afflicting many or perhaps most grumblers, of course, in different degrees and forms of manifestation. I guess that in his sharp mind Bob was expecting you to produce an open debate leading toward some sort of objective explanation/s, or at least some working hypothesis worth being further investigated.
If I red Bob’s intention correctly, I’d say that his challenge is going to prove be most difficult because framers struggling with huge adversities can not easily detach from their sufferance nor can others repress their compassion and, consequently, this entire thread would inevitably be going the sentimental way it has so far.
I for one don’t believe in mass spread bad-luck, specific psychological weaknesses and ignorance as a valid explanations for such a large incidence of poorly doing framers in view. Those may explain individual failures, not an endemic poverty condition associated with framers in general. The real factor/s must be searched and found elsewhere and not be confused for the specific roads one or another framer walked towards his misfortune.
When associated with pain, truth tends to be hard to spot and accept so, good luck!

Tim Hayes.

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

If you are interested in making a living and not in it simply for the love of framing. Both are fine and your choice.

Is it slow and you're sitting around with no framing to complete?
Take that time and force yourself to make a flyer telling about what you have to sell. Do it on your computer. Include all the necessary contact information.

>>>>>>>>> DO NOT MAIL THIS FLYER <<<<<<<<

Take one day a week that you are normally open for business and close in order that you can go out and make sales calls. You can only clean the shop so many times. Search in your area and force yourself to visit, in person, at least 5 places. If customers are not coming to you go out and actively find them.

COST: a few hours of your time, a little ink and some paper.

[ 09-03-2004, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: Tim Hayes ]

Tim Hayes.

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

Base your decision as to where you want to locate on what the market dictates. The market you decide to serve must be able to sustain your business. Honestly evalute this and be willing to move, even a considerable distance, to locate where there IS a market for your product.


PFG, Picture Framing God
This thread has taken a turn away from Bob's original intentions and, I fear that I have caused the detour. That was unintentional but it also has opened up an entire discussion about how businesses and individual business attitudes affect the success rate of each framer.

I have read Warren's mention that one of the most effective means of making money for him was to buy in quantity and reduce his pricing. Another wrote about lowering prices in an attempt to appear not so "expensive". Tim mentioned making flyers and personally handing them out to other businesses. He also mentioned location and the demographics of supporting a specialty business such as framing.

These are all valid and very good points to consider in evaluating one's business. I have to say that I have explored and utilized each of them to their fullest. I haven't survived for the past 16 years by being blind or naive to the everyday little things in a business that, individually, don't carry that much importance, but, collectively, can mean the difference between success and failure.

I recall a phone conversation with Kathy Wymore a few months ago where I specifically "ordered" her to make up some fliers, take some business cards, and visit at least 10 businesses on her day off! I almost demanded that she do this because I know that this works. You can question Kathy herself on whether she followed through and the results.

Location? Heck, I have talked with Bob C. about this, listened to his sage advice on this forum, and taken it to heart when I spent over 5 years travelling down to Florida and visiting virtually every town from Gulf Shores, AL to Naples, FL in search of a likely business site. Take a look at a map of Florida, that ain't just a weekend trip!

I find it difficult to stay away from defending what I have done to make my business succeed but it is one thing to state what a framer should do to make their business better by someone else's experiences in their business and in some other area of the country and quite another to be so sure that you have covered all the bases, have the background to be comfortable in knowing that you can operate a business properly, and done such extensive background work that you just know that all the elements are there to make it work. And then find out that you are so close that you can smell it and your funding has run plumb out!

I have to say that, if y'all don't know by now that I am fairly knowledgeable in what I do and have enough background to at least operate an average framing business based on that background and knowledge, then you have slept through the past 4100+ posts that I have made on this forum. It isn't the knowledge or the background that I feel has defeated me. I only wish that I could pinpoint a combination of events/coincidences/cosmic occurrances that have brought about this situation for me. Then I could find a solution for it or at least deal with it on some kind of logical basis. But I am so close to becoming established here, the money and the interest is here, I am getting new customers in each week, only a few make any mention of pricing or the expense of framing, and I just don't have the cash to continue.

Folks, I said that you should have enough money laid back to support yourself for a minimum of 2 years with no additional income coming into your pockets and I meant just that. You can be the best in the area and you can have all the good intentions in the world and still fail if you aren't prepared to endure that "getting the word out" period that is essential with any new business. It isn't a situation of people staying away from your shop, it's more a situation that those same people think about YOUR shop when the time comes that they need your services. Right now, I am in that mode of getting known around the area in a slow economic time where land development is at an alltime high but individual spending isn't as lavish as it was just a few years ago. I am still trying to get into the condo group and take a chunk of that interior framing that is being done in these hundreds of condos that are in each one of the hundreds of high rise complexes that are being built as we speak.

I think that this thread will ultimately be very educational for many of the new framers here on the Grumble if they take the time to read and listen.


Terry Hart cpf

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I think we start off in a deep hole since we also have to make what we sell. Its very labor intensive especially on a small scale (as I sit here working alone in my shop)
I want to make 250k a year.
I am willing to work 45 weeks a year @ 40hrs. a week.
I will have to charge $150 an hour labor + materials + overhead, etc.
My average order will be $800 and take 2 1/2 hrs.from the time the customer begins to look at samples till I make my bank deposit.
I will hire 80 people, keep them busy and make $2 an hr. each off their labor.
Suppliment my framing income by selling 200,000 greeting cards annually.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
Like Kathy, he is a guardian of the craft.

Unfortunately, that simply isn't enough anymore.
Does that mean you think I am still operating as a framer Bob? I did when I got here, but I thought I was getting beyond that. One of the things Jay Goltz commented on when he visited my store was that he thought I was making emotional decisions and thinking like a framer just based on what he saw in my store. I guess it is something I must still cling to since it is the only thing I seem to have any control over.

Originally posted by Bob Carter:

You Go Girl is not a marketing plan
Yeah, as well meaning as they all are, I quit listening to "Atta Girls" a couple years ago......I need hard cold facts....

Originally posted by Bob Carter:
I don't know the Denver area, but I am quite certain that Kathy would flourish in a location that would allow her to flourish. Clearly, her location is a big negative factor. It wasn't much for the prior owner and it hasn't changed much with all of Kathy's best efforts.
I hope you really meant that Bob. I think that is the ultimate frustration of this whole thing. I don't think I have the mentality of a poor framer. I think I have the potential to be a good retailer, I just can't break free of my horrible beginning. I know I'm not the first person in the world to buy a business unadvisedly, underfunded and uneducated on how to run a business. But, I think I have stepped up to the challenge and done everything within my means to turn it around. There are plenty of business owners out there that don't even know they are doing anything wrong, who don't have a clue why they are there. I completely "get it". I know what I need to do. I'd probably be better off not having a clue a freight train is headed in my direction and not knowing what hit me.

You guys all give great advice on finding the right location but what about those of us who have crummy locations that we can't get out of? I am stuck in mine, is there even any point in continuing in a dying location? Believe me, the one thing I have learned in my three years is how valuable the right location is. I don't even go into a shopping center without sizing it up and wondering what kind of potential it would have. If wishes were fishes....

As far as mentoring goes, I feel like I have gotten a wealth of advise from many sources over the past couple of years. I've listened to all of it and committed it to memory. I've acted on what I could. Bob, you were the first who offered to help. You have no idea what an important step that was for me. I know for a fact I would not still be here if it weren't for the mentoring from you. I had no direction up to that point. Having the likes of someone like you offering me advice gave me the backbone I needed to try. That has been the most amazing part for me as a novice business owner, so many people in this industry so generous with their time and knowledge. That is priceless. I've used what I can and committed the rest to memory for when I have more resources at my disposal.

I wish I had a thread like this to read before I made my move into the business world. there is no explanation for my lack of planning, it defies logic. It would have been nice to defy the odds and come out on top though. That would have been something. The longer I am here the more I realize I never will recover from my one fatal error in the very beginning.

But, I really do still believe it is possible to make a good living in this business. My intention was not to be poor......................heck I bet(and lost) the whole farm on that.

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God

Here is a thought. I would bet money you have already had this thought. Move your equipment into some cheap space. Like a barn with heat, business park, warehouse space, etc. Keep pursuing the condo business. Become a small scale one man volume framer catering to those condo developers. Hire only part time help when you are in a real crunch. It could really work. If I was in that type of area, that would be the market I would try.

One day when your cruising through NC in your new Hummer, stop in and see us.

Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Stealing from Jerry's thought. . . ok, just a little frankentreading . . .

Kathy, I won't sugar coat it, the neighborhood you are in stinks. It has a crime rate and drug rate that makes Terry Skidmore's street look like the Beverly Hills. SO:

Make contact with some designers in THEIR turf. Offer free pick-up and delivery. Become their new best friend. Find one to work with, and devote to their happiness. They can literally save your but.

Down the road when you're getting tired of those 70 hour weeks, you can get an employee to grunt work and mind the store while you go look for a second designer. . . . and a Commercial spot or something in the Boulder area....

If they won't come to you.....



PFG, Picture Framing God
Originally posted by Baer Charlton:
Kathy, I won't sugar coat it, the neighborhood you are in stinks. It has a crime rate and drug rate that makes Terry Skidmore's street look like the Beverly Hills. SO:
Baer, Baer, Baer......Great advice on stepping outside of my box but honestly I hope I haven't painted such a bleak picture of my location. It isn't crime ridden and nary a junkie to be found. I'm not located in ****'s Kitchen or anything. Just in a used up uninspiring little strip center that has nothing to recommend it, except me. No junkies, I swear......the landlord is considering a check cashing store so it will be just a matter of time before the criminals and junkies settle in........


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I have a few questions to ask with respect to this topic. Hopefully they’ll move its focus toward a new perspective.
1. How many today poor grumblers became framers just because they loved/needed it, not because they knew there it was yet unmet demand for framing in their area?
2. How many today poor grumblers first opened their framing business just to later ask how many framers are too many in same neighborhood?
3. How many today poor grumblers thought they might very well learn this trade while doing it and get by with it?
4. How many today poor grumblers ventured into business with insufficient capital, in most convenient place to their pockets, as opposed to having sufficient capital (2 yrs. cushion-money according to Tom) and opening in best location possible?
5. How many feel compelled to offer “the best little money can buy”?
6. How long do you expect your frame to last, and how many frames per family do you expect to be the average into your area?
7. How log do you afford to be absent from the shop (being sick or in vacation)?
8. How many large suppliers that you know openly or secretly operate retail businesses and what market do they tend to occupy, lower or higher end? Is it possible that their move be indicative of your future?

Warren Tucker

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I'm not a poor grumbler, CR, but I think a reply from the other side might be appropriate. I don't know how many of us try to offer the best for the least amount of money but I'm one of 'em and have been for 27 years. I've done very well, indeed, with that aim foremost. There are many ways to lower prices, but for us cutting our margin isn't one of them. We just bought 2 boxes (that's all they had) of a very nice 4" leafed molding for $.55/ft; that's one way. There are many others. We can sell that molding for $3.00/ft. and come out like gangbusters. We could sell it for $10/ft and it would still be a heck of a deal for a customer.

I think one of the keys to avoiding being a poor framer that hasn't been mentioned so far in this thread is to make your business as nimble as possible, always looking for deals, possibilities. That's a huge advantage we have over the BBs.

To everyone going to Atlanta, take a look at the Artistic Molding booth and check out their prices for boxes of molding. And while on this subject, I'd bet that most customers appreciate limited choices at very good prices as opposed to thousands of samples at chop service high prices. ThatS just a guess based on my understanding of human nature, but I'd put my money on it. I fact, I have.

(Also, check out Cruse Digital; we've got one of their large format art scanners. I don't pretend to know how those guys plan to aim their business and where they think digital imaging is going, but that they'd pay to show at a Decor art and framing show is something worth noting about our industry and its possibilities. An interesting fact: it took a Cruse technician 5 12-hour days to install our scanner. He came in at 8 in the morning and left at 8 at night. Scanning art is vastly superior to film for recording and reproducing. I don't know but I'd imagine that there will be some wide format inkjet printers at the show, too. Anyone who is considering offering imaging services is welcome to talk to me about it in Atlanta. Just leave a message for me at the Embassy Suits in Buckhead.)

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Tim, I think it would be wonderful if you would start a new thread with this topic.

But, since it's here...

For me, hiring a full time framer would be the only way to increase profits at this time. Until I can (or will) give up other responsibilites I'm doing all I can.

I suspect that for a lot of folks, the "decision" is the biggest part.