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10/20/2017 1:01:18 AM
9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/7/2005 6:25:55 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/7/2005 6:27:45 AM EDT by Charging_Handle]
Since graduating high school over 10 years ago, I've always dabbled with the idea of starting my own small business. I have always liked the idea of being in business for myself rather than working for someone else. I like that freedom and I like the challenge.

However, I never before really knew what it was I wanted to do or exactly how to get started. But now I at least have a good idea of what it is I want to do. I want to be involved in a business that deals with the thing I love most.....firearms and shooting.

Now, the getting started part is where I am lacking in info. I'm not exactly sure what procedures are involved as far as establishing a business and all that stuff. I'm sure there is a stack of .gov paperwork that would need to be submitted, records kept, etc. For people who have gone this route before, where would I need to start and what are some of the things I should be aware of?

Last, I am not sure just how I'd start out. But this is my basic plan. I'd like to start small and eventually build up. I would also probably rely heavily on the internet for sales, as I live in a pretty rural area where I wouldn't get a ton of customers locally. I may start out with just a few items....for example Glock and 1911 magazines and maybe a few types of ammo.....then gradually increase the products I offered as profit allows. That way I wouldn't be investing a huge sum of money into the initial startup.

Then eventually, if successful, I'd like to pretty much make it a fulltime affair and my livelyhood. I might even eventually get my FFL and open up a gunshop as well. That would be a dream come true as far as what I really want to do.

But, it's just the little matter of getting the ball rolling and making it happen. Any suggestions or words of wisdom as to how to go about that so as to make the start a smooth one would be appreciated.

Heck, with a little luck, maybe I'll be a site sponsor here someday, offering goodies for sale at a good price. Or well, at least that's the dream. Hehe.

-CH
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 6:28:37 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/7/2005 6:29:53 AM EDT by Dru]
Good luck to you............ I've always dreamed of owning my own gun store too....
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 6:37:39 AM EDT
Thanks. I suppose I'll always regret not giving this a shot if I never even attempt it. Regrets are one thing I don't want to have when I'm an old man. I think I'm gonna make this a go and see what happens.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 6:52:03 AM EDT
You're on the right track with your plan, but you need to think it through in detail. Who are your suppliers? What will your products cost? How much profit? How to ship? Where are you going to get the packing materials? Who is going to build your website? How much will that cost? Who will host it? Who are your customers and how will you find them?

The details of incorporation vs. sole propriator, collecting sales tax, getting a business name, etc. can all be easily handled by a CPA. Don't sweat them, they're the easy part. What makes or breaks small businesses is the quality of the business model or plan.

Best of luck.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:02:59 AM EDT
The supplier part is the biggest question I have at this time. Most of the other stuff I already have worked out. I have a friend who will host the website and I can build it myself. The cost is very, very low to me for this. I also happen to have a very good local source for boxes and packing material, so that too will be covered. As far as product costs, I plan to buy in very large quantities so as to offer my products at a very competitive price. That's why I will likely start out selling only a few items. so I can do this using only my capital. I will use most of the initial profit to expand the list of products offered.

I'm sure the first few years will be lean, but I am prepared to live with that in order to be successful farther down the road.

BTW, good suggestions and questions. Thanks for chiming in.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:07:39 AM EDT
If you're starting out just selling parts & supplies, (non-FFL), then a Proprietor / Sole employee offers you OK tax status, the ability to get an FEIN, and just file addendums to your personal 1040.

If you're going FFL, consider incorporation - both for liability and tax purposes.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:10:10 AM EDT
Charging handle, there is an old guy that runs "red house road guns" in richmond ky that may be a little help - the guy loves this stuff so much he sold guns at his cost way back when I lived there...good luck to you
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:11:52 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Tango7:
If you're starting out just selling parts & supplies, (non-FFL), then a Proprietor / Sole employee offers you OK tax status, the ability to get an FEIN, and just file addendums to your personal 1040.

If you're going FFL, consider incorporation - both for liability and tax purposes.



Oh, I will definately be a sole proprietor starting out. Hehe. I want to move slow and test the waters before taking a big splash. It's good to know the process for that is relatively simple.

I have not yet fully decided if I want to go the FFL route, but that would be a few years down the road at a minimum.

Again, thanks for the replies.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:11:59 AM EDT
It sounds like you have a good handle on the details. One final suggestion would be to try to find someone in a business as similar as possible to the one you want to start. They will have experience and answers to questions you hadn't even thought to ask yet. There are always some problems lurking that you didn't think about, and the more of them you can identify and solve up front the better.

Have at it. I wouldn't go back to working for someone else under almost any circumstances. The challenges and stresses are different, but extremely rewarding.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:13:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FordGuy:
Charging handle, there is an old guy that runs "red house road guns" in richmond ky that may be a little help - the guy loves this stuff so much he sold guns at his cost way back when I lived there...good luck to you



I think I know the guy you're talking about. I only live about an hour from Richmond, so I'll make it a point to stop in there sometime, buy something from the guy and have a chat with him.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:15:40 AM EDT
Best of luck to you and I'm sure the Arfcom hive mind wouldn't mind helping you out with anything you need. My fellow Michigander Avengeusa just started his own place up and it appears to be doing well.

Lemme know if you need a logo or any kind of design work done. I've got a ton of ideas and would work for parts/accessories.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:19:21 AM EDT
Started my ouwn business last year Line-X spray on truck bedliners
went through the Small Business Administration for our loan to get started....Hard parts is Financing..

Get as much money as you can afford to pay back there is always hidden cost that pop up....and another lesson learned is that you have to pay yourself something, don't have to be much just enough to get by on....if you work with out making a little something you seem to lose your dream....it becomes like any other job...other then one that you always wanted to do...

MOST IMPORTANT THING......DO THIS YOURSELF.....NO MATTER HOW GOOD OF A FRIEND YOU THINK YOU HAVE......GO IN TO BUSINESS FOR YOURSELF WITH ONLY YOURSELF

NEVER GET A BUSINESS PARTNER....!!!!!!! TRUST ME ON THIS ONE

but you seem to be on the right track ..
Pappy
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:24:01 AM EDT
My advice, coming from someone who has BTDT:

Don't assume your possible customer base is like you. They are not..... find out what they want, now what YOU would wnat if you were in thier shoes. Way too many peopel fail because

The gun business, overall, is on a razor thin profit margin, and even worse online. Why? For one thing, anyone can pick up a SGN and see what wholesale is, and 90% of them think they deserve deal price or that a dealer should not make more than $10 on a gun. Another is that there are so many sellers that competition keeps prices down, and a big factor in that is new startups who have unrealistic expectations about how thin a profit margin one can get and stay in business..... they get sales for a while, but end up either raising prices or going under, but are soon replaced by the next fool doing the same thing, meanwhile taking sales from people who know how to stay in business.

Acessories? Maybe a little better markup, but competition is fierce. There are two ways to set yourself up for success in online sales for any market, but even more so for firearms sales. The first is to have a unique product that a lot of people want. Unless you can either invent or find a sole source for this, it is tough.

The other is customer service. Do your customers right, time after time, and your reputation will grow and you will get repeat customers. I gladly pay a few $$$ more for an item from vendors whom I know are honest about what is in stock, are easy to deal with, and go the extra mile to make problems right.

The latter is easy to do when you start out, but as you grow more difficult, and many online sellers get big faster than they can manage effectivley, and customer service ends up going in the crapper. Do a search on here for Lightfighter to see what I mean.


Hell, gun wholesalers in general make it a PITA to stay in business. Between SGN and the fact the Brownells lists dealer cost in the little "code" in its catalog everyone knows your costs and wants it at cost.

I myself am in the military surplus business. I sell your everyday items in my shop, but online and mail order via magazines and catalog I sell vintage WWII militaria. Selling normal surplus online is a PITA, because so many people sell knock off crap and misrepresent it. I have found a way to get vintage stuff, in bulk, however, that most of my competitors do not, and make customer service a priority. If you want what I have on the vintage side, there is little competition and nobody has the quantity or good prices I do.

If you do it, find yourself a specialty market or skill that has a large enough customer base and little competition. Otherwise you are just another face in a huge online crowd.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:41:27 AM EDT
Also go buy a basic book on running your own business and a book on accounting, then READ them.

Remember you goal is NOT to make money off the bat, you want to put as much profit back into your business to keep it going. You will have to pay yourself a wage, you can't around that.

Also you might want to cater to a specific market (with in the gun world) or two or three to start off with. Its easier on you because you only have to keep track of a few sets of parts, and it gives you time to "learn" new weapons and their needs.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't really know what I'm talking about or what is common or not with my particular weapon. I'd recomend (down the road of course) that any weapon you supply parts for you should own and learn all its quirks.

Its always bene my dream to set up a gun manufacturing business (move over colt, FN and bushmaster!!) But it seems damn daunting at the moment. I figure I might do this after I make my first million I'd love to be able to manufacture weapons that I feel there is a market for. I really like Keltechs impact on the lower cost guns, just their designs are usually "ugly" and face it this is a factor in sales. I could go on, but I will not Hijack.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:48:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/7/2005 8:33:42 AM EDT by Wobblin-Goblin]
I've been in business since June of '99. Owning your own company is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

I recommend starting small so as to stay out of debt.

The number one rule in successful business ownership/management is this: Keep your overhead as low as possible.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 7:51:27 AM EDT

Originally Posted By LonePathfinder:
Also go buy a basic book on running your own business and a book on accounting, then READ them.

Remember you goal is NOT to make money off the bat, you want to put as much profit back into your business to keep it going. You will have to pay yourself a wage, you can't around that.

Also you might want to cater to a specific market (with in the gun world) or two or three to start off with. Its easier on you because you only have to keep track of a few sets of parts, and it gives you time to "learn" new weapons and their needs.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't really know what I'm talking about or what is common or not with my particular weapon. I'd recomend (down the road of course) that any weapon you supply parts for you should own and learn all its quirks.

Its always bene my dream to set up a gun manufacturing business (move over colt, FN and bushmaster!!) But it seems damn daunting at the moment. I figure I might do this after I make my first million I'd love to be able to manufacture weapons that I feel there is a market for. I really like Keltechs impact on the lower cost guns, just their designs are usually "ugly" and face it this is a factor in sales. I could go on, but I will not Hijack.



That's definately my aim. I only want to start off selling at most a few different items. I want to know the items I sell inside and out. It is also a goal to find a product that offers both high quality but at a good value. I will never, ever, under any cirmumstances sell a product with a questionable reputation.

My goal is to not be the biggest. But I do have a goal of being one of the first people to pop into the minds of people when they think of the specific product I am selling. For example, if I wanted a SureFire light, the first person I would go to is BrightFlashlights, who sells and posts here. When it comes to lights, he's the first and really the only guy that comes to mind. That's where I want to be in my business. I realize the only way to get there is to be very knowledgeable of the product and offer outstanding customer service. I'm sure there's countless businesses out there that are far bigger than BrightFlashlights that sell SureFire products. But even so, he stands out among all the others. Just as he's the authority among members here when it comes to lights, I want to be the authority when it comes to whatever specific product I sell.

-CH
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 8:32:40 AM EDT
My wife has a small business (LLC) and we are in the process of diversifying that biz. I also contemplated the gun biz as a way of diversification, but for reasons that Garand_Shooter listed, and some others, we decided to look elsewhere. Good groundwork/investigation prior to launching your biz is crucial unless you want to depend solely on luck. Even with good groundwork, luck will probably play a significant part in your success; you can do alot of mitigate that, though.

KY, if it's like Idaho, will probably have a significant online presence oriented towards people starting small businesses. Look for those resources. You might be able to get a copy of "Starting a Business in Idaho". This booklet has been invaluable for me and ALOT of the content in not Idaho-specific. I'd bet you can grab a copy by writing/asking @

Idaho Commerce & Labor
700 West State St.
POB 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0093

-or- you might be able to find an online/PDF copy at www.idahoworks.com
-or- sending an email to info@idoc.state.id.us

I wish you well; but I'd really try to be objective about the firearms/accessories biz. Despite my initial enthusiasm, further investigation really revealed that there was better ROI in other arenas. YMMV.

In any event, good luck to you!!
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 10:44:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By TimMK:
sole propriator, collecting sales tax, getting a business name, etc. can all be easily handled by a CPA. Don't sweat them, they're the easy part.



You are right that they can be handled quite easily. Filing for a fictitious name and getting a tax ID will probably cost you around $47. If you let your CPA do it for you it'll probably be around 3-4 times that. Don't waste your money for your CPA to fill out 5 lines on a form for you.

Learning not to throw money away on non services or work that can be done with little effort are a great start in not failing.

The above is a fact, the following is just my opinion based on dealing in other goods, so take it for what it's worth.

Not to try and crap on your parade, but price in my opinion is what potential buyers will judge you for. They'll want service too, but nobody is going to give you a chance to prove you have great service if your price isn't tempting. When it comes to markets like 1911 mags, why buy from you? What do you offer that your already established competitors (all million of them) don't. To a certain extent people will by from you just because you're there, but not enough people to make it lucrative.

As far as gun accessories go, some companies will only deal to FFL's. I doubt 1911 mags and such would be a problem and doubt optics would either. Other things will be. I recently tried to purchase a certain accessory in bulk for wholesale....to the tune of 40-50 grand on this ONE item and was told no sales to non FFL holders. (Said he'd check his boss about making an exception) I was hoping the bulk buy would earn me a slightly lower wholesale price. I figured buying below regular wholesale if possible would give me the comeptetitive edge, and that is the way you'll want to be thinking if you plan to be successful. If you can sell below everyone else and make 30% where they make 10% you want to do so. You can't compete with someone who can sell at a profit at your wholesale cost. Yeah, I know.... "duh" right? Easier said than done, believe me. Usually the great deals require a signifigant investment and some serious negotiating skills, and no small about of balls and luck too. Remember, any good business man knows you make your money when you BUY, not when you sell. A good buyer exerts 100% control over the situation, while not showing those cards. You kind of have to be in control while letting the other person believe they are. You also need to know the product you want to buy inside and out. You want to know what regular wholesale is, and have a good projection for what quantity the standard wholesale buyer might order in, so you know exactly how much "incentive" you'll need to offer to beat that price. Having a decent estimate of the manufacture cost of the item helps too, it lets you estimate how much you're going to have to buy at a MINIMUM profit to the manufacturer and still be worth his while. In my experience people in sales are at least a little egotistical and WILL sacrifice markups to go home saying "I made a 50 thousand dollar sale today." Plenty opf them will sacrifice margin to say they made a ten thousand dollar sale. Any second here there's going to be 1000 people telling you I'm full of shit, but believe me when I say wholesale is not one price for everyone. Shrewd buyers get shrewd buyer pricing and everyone else gets regular treatment because they have no idea how to motivate a seller.

Also keep an eye on closeouts. They happen, though probably to a lesser extent in the gun business. A good example I DID see, was a few years back. The ban was in full effect and Wilson Combat was selling the clear eagle 30 rounders for the AR-15, new in wrap for $5 each. My guess is an offer to buy them ALL would have gotten $4 a mag. I don't recall what a NIW eagle mag brought during the peak of the ban but I'd guess $15 wouldn't have been unreasonable.

If you can't compete price wise, you should look to carve out a niche. A great example IMO is RTG sales. ANY time I need any HK parts I'll go find an ad and browse his list. Where else are you gonna get a german issue leather hoslter for your P7M8? Nowhere that I've seen. He doesn't always have everything, but I generally know to check him first because it might just save me a LOT of looking around.

So what do you believe there is a demand for that isn't being filled? Figure that out and get busy sourcing it and your part time hobby could be a full time job before you can give two weeks notice. People say you can expect a loss your first few years in business, but done right that isn't neccesarry. I've owned a few businesses and I've yet to open a business that wasn't profitable from the first day.

Be smart, research your market and your product and be prepared to strike when the opportunity presents itself. Making good decisions early will prevent the pain that most "learning" grows from.

Again, just my opinion based on my experiences, so I hope at least some of it is helpful.

Link Posted: 8/7/2005 10:46:53 AM EDT
Good Luck, I've been self employeed most of my adult life. In fact I doubt I could truly work for another person again [we'll see]. Patty
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 10:58:07 AM EDT
There are sites on the internet that tell you how to develop a business plan. You might want to check that out.

Major reasons for business failures are insufficient start up capital, lack of advertising.
You may take a couple of years to turn a profit so be prepared to survive.
Most first businesses fail and the average number to success is 3 attemtps FWIW.

Limiting your product seems like a sure recipe for failure to me. You will have to cater to a larger market. That is the major flaw I see with your plan.

Good luck, thinking about it myself.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 10:58:50 AM EDT
Hatebreed speaks the truth of wholesale buying.

Wholesalers want to move product, and a good buyer will motivate them to do so. The words "how many do you have", followed by "whats the bottom line if I take them all" can make a huge difference, especially when you are dealing with a wholesaler who gets different items all the time. one buyer taking it all means less overhead for them to sell it, so they can let it go cheaper.

But, you had better be able to back it up. Once you get the reputation as a serious buyer, often they will contact you as soon as a new lot coems in hoping to move it fast... if a wholesaler gets 3000 items in and can push them all to you same day and make $1 each, they are better off than pushing them 200 at a time and making $2 each over 2-3 months.

But, be prepared to handle that much product.
Link Posted: 8/7/2005 11:38:31 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Rebel_Marine:

Limiting your product seems like a sure recipe for failure to me. You will have to cater to a larger market. That is the major flaw I see with your plan.

Good luck, thinking about it myself.



That may or may not be true depending on the details. Putting all your eggs in one basket is alright as long as you know damn well your eggs are a hot mover and as long as your eggs cost you $3 and your competitors cost him $4.

It's better to sell one HOT item at a great markup and be known as THE place to buy xxxxx than to have a very diverse market of alright moving items and low margins. In my experience diversity in your inventory ONLY helps create buyers when you aren't working an already saturated market. Sometimes when a market is already saturated and you go diverse like everyone else you devalue your own products by further saturating a market and end up being just another face in the crowd. Really there is no concrete "way" to do business. As stated above you need either price or niche. Being specialized is different than just selling one item. If you sell one item and it's something everybody else sells at a fairly average price don't expect much. You need to either sell something unique or sell something common at a unique price...WITHOUT killing your margin.



One thing you CAN also count on is that if you are successful you'll be a business model for others and they WILL try to copy you, so be prepared to either be even more fiercely competitive or be ready to change the plan at a moments notice and leave the copycats high and dry with nobody to mimic.


A good example of this was my gemstone sales on ebay. For a solid year I did nothing but featured plus items starting at $1 and was among only 3-4 people listed in the top of those categories. It cost me an extra $20 a listing but the result was a selling point around 60% higher than everybody else, AFTER the $20 fee. After a year there were literally hundreds of people doing the same thing. So I switched to a no reserve auction with regular starting prices in a regular non featured auction. Guess what? I STILL got 60% higher prices than everybody else and the featured plus sellers starved. When there were only a few featured ebay listings at the top of the page people perceived them as a deal because they started at a dollar and nobody else was doing it. The high bid rate created by the extra exposure and the scarcity of featured items promoted more bids and created a frenzy. Once a hundred people in each category started with it, the consumers figured out it wasn't a deal any more. The things they perceived as rare were really common as dirt. Now they were sorting through the thousands of listings looking for the hard to find stuff. The copycats will always be there, kind of like lions always having to deal with hyenas. YOU have to be able to change with your market and always have a backup plan.

In the example I made in my first post regarding buying in bulk, there is an out. If you find people are lowering their margins to compete with you, and making business tough, you always have the option of wholesaling to THE OTHER DEALERS at a cost below their own wholesale cost. They're smart enough to realize that eliminates competition from you and also lowers their cost of business. Their margins return to normal and your low priced goods go away. Now you are dependent on bulk sales but the good news is you aren't working as hard. Where you were mailing out 100 packages a week you are now just mailing out 5 big ones.

To backtrack a little to saturating your own market, there is one other thing to touch on. Lets say you have found the niche we mentioned. Lets say for the sake of example this niche is a bulk buy you happened to find on two hundred TAO1NSN ACOGS. (feel free to change these to something else if this example is bad...I've no idea what availability is one these these days)

If you list them all at once, you may just create lazy buyers. They know you have a bunch and think "I'll just get one next month when I have the extra cash." That's going to stagnate sales to the extent that you aren't selling the volume you want or else you might have to lower your price to get them moving in the volume you want.

But if you list only a few every week or two, they are probably going to move immediately and at a premium, right? So the prudent thing to do would be to list two each week on 3 or 4 different sales forums and a couple on the different auction sites. Now everyone believes you only have a couple, the price seems more than fair and you've created a sense of URGENCY to buy them. Always remember hard to find stuff commands a premium for a reason, if you make it easy to find, that premium goes away and you just shot your own foot.


Again, just my opinions but I follow these suggestions I've just made to you like the golden rule.
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