Startup Costs: $10,000 - $50,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? Yes
Ask the Expert: Kevin Leahy, Founder and CEO of The SpoutOff.
What is the first step to getting started in the home improvement industry?
My first step with was knowing that I had a very good solution to a universal problem — a problem that was ubiquitous, which meant a very large market. Being in the rain gutter industry, I knew both were true of it — the need for good solutions and large market. So, I designed The SpoutOff so that our story made sense. Its design foundation is that small gutter outlets are not good, whereas large outlets are very good, and removable downspouts even better. What was needed was a better, safe, affordable and eco-friendly alternative to generic gutters. This was proven by responses I got, such as, “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” Actually, they likely did, they just didn’t do anything about it. So the answer to “What is the first step to getting started in your entrepreneurial journey?” is simply knowing you have created something unique and valuable, then having the confidence to explain and sell that value to a large target market. Do that, and you will succeed.
Is the industry growing?
New rain gutter installations in both new homes and buildings are ever-evolving, and better and safer maintenance solutions for them continue to grow.
What are the current trends in home improvement and what type of person is a great fit for trying that type of business?
Better rain gutters and other rain gutter solutions are continually sought out by homeowners, building owners and contractors alike. The right person must be smart and tenacious… smart enough to understand the potential of creating value and tenacious enough to continue through the ups and downs of product development. They must also be willing to learn and change when necessary in order to move forward and update goals. Many people will tell a potential entrepreneur that her a product/service/dream is impossible: These are the kinds of people who could never achieve such a thing anyway, so don’t believe them. However, it is important to listen to everyone — just dump the bad information and look further into thoughts and advice that might be helpful. Good listening skills can move a project forward faster and better.
How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?
Because of initial costs and other investment, the first years will likely cost money, not generate profits, but if you offer a product or service with proper pricing and margins, revenues and profits can be excellent. You could also be presented with the opportunity of selling or licensing, which can be very profitable, and with less future work on your part.
What kind of experience/training do you need to have?
You must be (or become) extremely knowledgeable about your product or service, of course… need to be able to explain it positively and truthfully in a succinct and clear manner. A positive attitude and the ability to explain your unique value to whomever is inquiring is a must — keeping in mind that benefits to a contractor are different than benefits to a homeowner.
What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?
That you could have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, you won’t sell anything, so advertising is extremely important. Unfortunately, it’s also expensive, but should be regarded as an investment, a very necessary one. You will probably need help here from advertising companies with experience in your industry, and be sure you are sitting down when they provide pricing for their services. This cost is possibly something you simply did not think about when you were starting out, but good, targeted advertising is a must in moving a project forward. Usually, professionals in your industry are the best way to go: This is what they do.
Who are your customers and where do you find them?
First, define your potential customers, whether they’re farmers, retailers, homeowners, ontractors, etc. Once clearly defined, find a data company that can provide you with Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code numbers for each of your target markets. With SIC information you can get contact names, company names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and more for each of your target markets. Armed with this, you can get the good news about your product or service out to decision makers in target markets — email and/or postcard mail to blast the good news to them that they can increase their revenue and profits by engaging your company.
Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?
Many people try to become entrepreneurs, but most fail or give up before they should, so I recommend reading the book Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, MD. Psycho-cybernetics, as he describes the term, has nothing to do with a product or service, but everything to do with tenacity, and learning that many of the failures you encounter are not “failures” at all: They are part of the learning process you must inevitably go through to be successful. If you believe in yourself, know what you want to achieve and are willing to work toward that goal, psycho-cybernetics will be invaluable in helping you stay on track and reach goals.
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