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Starting a New Business - How to for New Young People ?

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by RichMO, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    Who believes that Dan Rinehart makes a living wage because he's a great taxidermist? He makes a living wage because he is an image salesman. Some one who is an outstanding taxidermist, won't necessarily succeed if he can't be a business person who can sell themselves. When I go hunting as I drive by a vehicle that's parked at a trail head or some other hunting area, I stop and put my card under the windshield wiper. That gets me some business. Something as simple as couple of cents for a card and 2 seconds to stop and leave a card has resulted in thousands of $$$. I give out calendars that have my favorite mounts from the last year in them and never thought to have a smokin hot girl Laying on the cougar rug or holding that squirrel up. That will be included in next years for sure. Uh, I just asked my wife if she knew any hot chicks I could get for that. I'm sleeping on the couch this week. :-[ When I hear fish, I automatically think of Archie Philips. Because he is a great fish taxidermist? No. Because I see his name everywhere regarding fish. Antlerman is right.
  2. antlerman

    antlerman NTA Life Member #0118

    I'm sure many of you remember this little gal too.


    Now admit it. You would stop at my booth wouldn't you? I KNOW you would because many on here was hitting on her hard. LOL

  3. Sad fact is this.
    Many of the newbies right out of Joe Blows taxidermy school are convinced they are certified taxidermist. That school is the only one that certified those poor people, two deerhead, two birds, one or two lifesize mounts and a couple fish doe not make a person a taxidermist.

    Relate it to taking a body shop class for two weeks. its not going to be a good thing.

    Many of the schools turn out students left and right, they robbed the people. Most of those so called schools the people teaching them cannot do quality commercial work. But the owner sold the wanna be taxidermist a class.

    They however did nothing to teach that newbie one thing about business, simply told them hang out your shingle and get ready you are going to get rich and the older taxidermist are going to say you were ripped off.

    I guess $350. is a fair price for a beginner taxidermist in this day and age, but when the client sees and learns there is a difference in quality what is going to happen?

    Some will stick with the beginner because of nothing else but low price. Then next year someone else opens up and their price is even lower. So how many more hours in a day can you work for almost nothing? You going to find an extra 6 or 8 hours to add on to the 24 hour day???

    How fast to you want to become a slave to your shop? It can happen really fast, maybe your wife will allow you to stop by about 10pm for conjugal visits a couple times a week while you live in the garage or basement that has become your mistress. How long do you think the marriage is going to last doing this??

    Do you think Boyce and Conroe Taxidermy are doing this wrong?? Do you think Dennis Harris is doing this wrong? I certainly dont, if you want to be successful follow the leader. I saw Boyces display at Dallas last year it was huge and there was a ton of taxidermy work there, Wildlife Gallery etc. Do you really think these guys are doing it wrong and not being the "Working mans taxidermist"

    That working man has good money just like everyone else, but he also knows his taxidermy is a luxury, if you do better work than anyone around you the word will spread, and when you are $100.00 or more higher than the other guys, you dont have to work as hard and you dont have to hide the money you made from the IRS!!!
    You get a deposit you can pay for supplies with and tanning.Then when you get the work done and taxes paid the rest is yours.

    You want to be a poor taxidermist barely getting by, cant afford to improve your work, or you want to do less work make more money and be able to put out good quality work?

    Now if you dont think the price matters as to if you stay in business or not, and you young guns will be one of the guys to close your doors in a couple years. Look around at the old timers you are trying to take work from.

    Look how many taxidermist in your state have come and gone in the last 5 years!! This has held true for the 36 years I have been in the business and it is not changing, the business has changed but so have I!
  4. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    This thread is getting better and better with a lot of good ideas. Hopefully in a couple of days I'm going to put all the ideas together and re-post. John, your right on the cost... we all know that there are a lot of people out there that charge little to nothing and then there are the $600 dollar guy for a deer mount. Some of the issues are demographics and others just looking to edge the other guy out. Looking at the whole industry is just like a lot of people have put out "What are you willing to Do".
  5. double barrel

    double barrel New Member

    Good points A. You sure told me. Didn't mean to ruffle your feathers, well, maybe I did. Truth is, I DON'T take much of this chit serious . If I was going to go after a degree, I sure wouldn't waste it on this mess. It would be much easier to just marry an ugly woman with a good job. Golden parachute!

    BUT, what you say sure as hell ain't what is the norm on here. Most say It's not rocket sugery or brain science, no you don't need a degree. Alot are oldschoolers who took years to build up clients. That's wat this post is all about, I think. When so so many learn to stretch a hide over a beautifully sculpted form, becomming instant dermists, "what do they do to build a buss.?" I'll bet he wishes he never ask the question. I'd answer, but I don't think there is a clearcut answer, as someone said"each situation is different." Maybe that's why there are no DVD's on it. What's really disturbing is that it seems the day of the fulltime taxidermist is over. Most have either a real job or a spouse working or retirement benifits. I'll keep doin my little shows like EA described, pluggin along. Hopefully I'll sell something or pick up a customer once in awhile and not starve. Even a blind hog will stumble upon an acorn once in awhile. Maybe "my mounts will look good enough to sell," one thangs for damn sure, if I got to get girls doing lap dances on the table to get people to look at my work, I just won't be a taxidermist.

    Come on ya'll, let's hear some more.
  6. double barrel

    double barrel New Member

    What did you (as a taxidermist) do to build a business and get clients when you first started up as a business...?..That was the question. I think everybody does about the same thing. They TRY STUFF. They put mounts in stores. WRONG! There is a whole thread on Wallmart and Gander Mountain. Waste of time.

    Advertise??? Most say yes. MP posted that it is a waste of time to advertise. If I remember corectly. Repeate customers, word of mouth. How are you going to get repeate customers if you can't get them in your shop the first time?

    There's a thread where some say shows are good. Some say waste of time. Use tables, no tables blocking the way, use guest sign in book. Which is it?

    This is the only buss in the world where lowering price is not to be considered. Gro stores, gas stations, dept stores, all have price wars. Price IZ a factor. Drop prices and you will get called names. But, the only ones calling you names will be your compeditor, across the street. People on here will post,"Hobby Lobbt got clay on sale." Get Bondo at half price! They whine if UPS goes up on shipping. Whine if Mckenzie goes up. Everyone wants a good deal but no one understands if a hunter wants a good price. Even though most will admit the hunter don't know what he's lookin at.

    Truth is, it's a dog eat dog world. Only the strong survive! Competition is fierce! If you think somebody gives a $hit about you, think again. People complain about newbys undercutting prices , trying to take work from somebody else. That's bussness. How else are they going to get any work. Uncle Bob maybe???

    I have 3 ex world champs with in a stone throw from me, and they are only 65 higher than me on a wt deer head. Their work is way better than mine. Now, who's the dumbazz? I get almost as much as them. Never been to a competition. Yes, I've attended shows and walked through showroom, but never competed. Don't tell me location isn't a factor. At least, they think it is.

    I live so far out in the boonies with 10 turns to get to my place, if it wasn't for gps and mapquest I wouldn't get any work. A gas station can open up and get instant buss by simply turning on the "Now Open" sign. Shut down the station accross the road. Taxidermy ain't like that.

    I don't get enough buss. I get all I can do part time. But my job is killing me and I live for the day I can walk away from it. That's what motivates me. It's a piss poor reason but I got 43 years tryin to learn this chit. Most of which I thought I was going to do good at it one day. Now, It's taught for free on the net. Taxis everywhere. I guess I could up my prices by 100 bucks and charge more than the world champs. That would be ripping off the customers for sure, but maybe reverse psycollagy, Psshycolligey, p..sssss...sy.callegy, how in the hell do you spell that werd? Word? Tryin to be funny now, lighten up guys n gals! Enjoy life!
  7. EA

    EA Well-Known Member

    db, we do some consulting stuff too. Compliance inspections and so on. We were new to it, when our first call came in. Didn't really know what to charge, so we poked around a little. One of the most respected in the field told us she gets $1200 a Day + any expenses. So we quoted the client $1500/day + expenses. He bit and we had 1 person there for 7hrs and were rushed out so the owner could get to a little league game. Had we said, Well the best are charging $1200, we better only charge $1000, We would have done the same work for 33% less..I refer you back to #1- Have confidence in your ability's.
  8. When I was in Europe after finally finding a apt in the country and the apt. had a nice basement room. I was working on a couple fish. The German servicing the heaters and the main boiler int he other room saw what I was doing. He came over and ask if I did, roe deer heads. I told him best I could and neither of us were sure what the other one had said. Well a couple months later, here he came with a roe deer, he had seen the whitetail I had. I priced it very high because Jonas was the only supply company with a Roe deer forms So by the time I got the form to Germany, eyes too. Plus my time, I figured the roe deer was worth $325.00 Which was a pretty good price in 1989 in the USA for a whitetail.

    Well I got the roe deer done and then came more deer and chamois, then badgers, spring brought a bunch of fish and the TUV inspector, and the Bundes Government people. I was not suppose to be doing taxidermy for the general public because of the taxidermist falling under some type of morticians union bull. I managed to get them to let me take their test of sort. Past it and because the second American to be a licensed Tierpräparator. That upset a fellow in Nurmberg and one in Bamberg, they filed a complaint and we went around. But when I showed the German Judge a photo of live roe deer face and the one I had recently mounted and showed and explained the details. I was relieved of cause as being a superior taxidermist to the two complainers.

    Plus the fact I was still at that time almost twice the price of the Germans, I did nothing to advertise, nothing all word of mouth and in 1990 did 35 deerheads plus a ton of other stuff, then we got the word we were going on a desert vacation. Desert Shield etc.

    Came back state side in late 1993, did a bunch of wholesale work, finally found a place in a small town did some newpaper adds and took in 75 deerheads the first season. I was still higher then another guy in our little town. But in this case newspaper ads worked great.

    Well they have not worked since in central Arkansas or back in my home town.

    Now funny thing is one of my North American game clients hunts Africa a lot and does his son. I get the local North America stuff while Ray Hatfield gets the African animals. Its just the way it goes.

    Being the highest will not guaranty you can make money and being the worst lowest will not either, some people well never pay for a quality mount while others will drive 8 hours round trip to bring you something. Tomorrow I have a fellow driving 4 hours to bring in a brown trout. and then there is another next week driving five hours one way to bring a caribou. UH am I too cheap on the work? No I have a good bit higher than several others, but they people know I will do their work like I was doing it for myself to take to a show. (not masters cat like Rick Carter!)

    Its up to the person tryng to become a taxidermist what kind of taxidermist they want to be good and cheap, good and expensive. bad and cheap what ever it dont matter there is enough work for most of us. But remember you cant pay your wages with the deposit that what pays the materials!!
  9. michael p.

    michael p. Getting better with age :)

    Damn, I agree 100%!
  10. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    I've done several trade shows, and everyone is correct. If you work the crowd, you will attract tons on business fast. My wife and daughter-in-law assist by handing out the freebies...usually a pen with our name on it clipped to a business card. My wife doesn't let a soul pass without handing them one! Despite my best efforts, I find myself surrounded by hunters and listening to their stories. Have something totally unique at your booth. A mounted skunk, a rattlesnake, or a black squirrel will attract more attention than the deer mounts...everyone has deer heads.

    One other thing is to know where you are fiscally. We have an Excel spreadsheet that is updated at the end of each business day. Each row contains:

    Name of Customer
    Telephone number
    Description of Specimen
    Total cost
    Balance due at completion
    Estimated supply cost of the job
    Estimated hours required to complete the job
    Total sales (Year-to-date)

    There is an area that shows total fixed cost...Electricity, Telephone, Annual Use Taxes, Quarterly Income Tax Installments, Vehicle Expenses, Depreciation, Advertising, and Credit Card Processing. It takes a few months each year to knock a dent in fixed costs....cruel but true!
  11. That statement covers it. If you want to do as a hobby then thats fine, If you are going to do it as a business then treat it as a business.
  12. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    While I have tried to put somethings together I know there are many more things that can be said for the Newbie on the Trade. Yes.... Antlerman I did not say Lots of Hot Women but I have to agree that a nice looking women behind the table, short skirt, and great smile attract MEN.

    The Below may a little hard to follow as I started this out typing on a spread sheet and them moved it to Word before here.

    Not only does "One Need to Sell Himself (Herself) but you need to establish cost and realize that this is
    Not a cheap business or hobby and without the proper foundation you could fail. Things
    Listed below are only the start and you will understand to some regard why we all charge
    What we do. Some have great Studio's and Shops that require more fixed cost than others
    but the cost is there even for the hobbyist that starts out in their home or garage.

    Develop a good "Record Keeping System"
    Not only for your customers but your state and Federal Agencies require it.
    Up date your records on a dally or weekly basis (for some it will be by customer at first)
    Establish your fixed cost.
    Accounting cost
    Trade Shows
    Sporting Good events
    Meat Processors
    New Paper Articles and Ads
    Supplies (This one can sneak up on you depending on what you mount).
    Pins and Needles
    Sewing thread
    Clays and Epoxies
    Cleaning material
    Species and keeping your area clean (i.e. Dawn, trash bags)
    Etc. depending on the species.
    Storage shelves
    Hand tools
    Mounting stands
    Air brushes
    Bench Grinders
    Wire wheels
    Etc. in that the list could go on.

    Now we get to the part of selling your self (these are some of my ideas and others on this site).
    Lets face it some people are extroverts and can talk to the wall and get an answer and then you have the
    Introvert that is like pulling teeth to get them to talk. For most you need to be a little of both. People want to
    hear that you think they are important and that the specimen that they bring you is a great trophy. But they
    usually don't want to hear everything you plan on doing to accomplish a finished mount (to much can lead to
    a conversation of "Bla Bla Bla Bla"). We need to Listen and then comment on the mount and or on a good story.
    I know of taxidermist around me that has good line of B.S. that I think he could sell snow to an Eskimo, does a
    fair amount of work out of his garage but is only a fair taxidermist (B.S. is his selling point). You may ask how
    does he get business? Well he has patience and started about 10 years ago because of me. He is basically a
    home body working out of his garage and therefore is usually there when the customer calls. Because of his
    B.S. he has managed to sell himself to an outfitter in northern MO (Again Selling Yourself). While I do believe
    that showing your work stores is a good start especially in some areas there are other things to do as well.
    Attending shows and showing your work
    Giving a discount to a "Youth Hunter" on his trophy
    Giving a discount certificate at a sporting event as a prize
    Setting up a table with some of your stuff talking about "Field Care and Capping (we all know that every sportsman
    does a great job on capping). As one would say this is the place to "Bring it ON". Talk to Everyone
    even if to just say Hello.
    Think about what your customer might want a (i.e. A T-shirt with your name on it is a good way to
    advertise all over. A pen or even just simple as a business card).
    In your B.S. with the customer point out little things that You think makes your work worthwhile (DO NOT cut
    another taxidermist down. Let your work speak for itself).
    Have Confidence in your ability and don't be afraid to turn down work. I know of people that do not do mammals
    and some will tell the client this while other wholesale it out to some one that does taking a small
    percentage for their work and profit.
    Don't think that you can do everything Good as most every taxidermist I know say to themselves "What could I
    have done better".
    Never say "That's Good Enough" to a customer.
    Never stop "Learning"
    Sell Yourself by displaying, advertising, posting or whatever means, your Name.

    While I have not really gotten into the pricing realm of a mount or even one with habitat you can see how cost
    can add up fast and you may be working for only $0.25 an hour. I have people that charge $275 for a whitetail and
    some that charge $600. The point here is don't underestimate your cost, and profit margins and Yourself.

    While I may not have everything in the right order here this is just the start.
    I started this because I thought there was easy money to be made 30 years ago. What a joke…. Now that I'm retired
    I have time to devote and learn if nothing else by my own mistakes. Not to say wait till you’re an old fart like me but
    those that have succeeded have done so with "Hard Work", "Willingness to Learn", "Patience" and "Lots, Lots, of
    Hard Work".
    Odomstaxidermy likes this.
  13. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    That's a good list Rich. Might I add a couple of things. Your indirects need to be in there as well. Things like IRA/retirement funds, PTO time, Disability insurance (alright, that's a direct - but you get the point!), etc. Also, on top of a very important thing you mentioned - selling yourself, one also has to stay on top of their work once they get it in. I'm a very good salesman, but sometimes burnout rears it's ugly head and at times (especially when the phone isn't ringing) it can be difficult to motivate yourself to work. A good work ethic is another piece of the puzzle that needs to be stressed as extremely important...
  14. EA

    EA Well-Known Member

    Couple Questions: When you guys have a show, during the public viewing time, are you allowed to work the crowd, or is it more like a museum situation ?

    Do they know who actually mounted each piece?

    Are you allowed to put business cards or brochures beside your mounts during the public viewings?
  15. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    I was hoping to also hear from people that have become very successful as a full time business. DFJ your right to some extent. But lets face it there will always be people that charge from one extreme to the other. I just left Dunn's sporting goods in Pevely MO and while there I talked with a young man that is working for another taxidermist in the area. The conversation went to another taxidermist from Arnold MO that had a couple of pieces on the wall and their quality. I was told that he does a over 100 deer mounts a year but, as we both looked at it we could see all kinds of problems, eyes, nose, ears on the neck, finish work and overall appearance. We both ask each other how he gets all those mounts? Simple he is one of those that have been in business over 25 years, tied up butcher shops, and has a customer base that does not know what to look for in a mount. Then the most important thing he is one of those that charge $350. Don't know what to say or how to answer these areas. But a newbie needs to become educated (never quite), and know what is right and wrong. Then point out to the customer what makes his mounts good. It may just showing him something simple like installing the nictating membrane. Fish and birds are no different. Some people will paint the whole fish with an air brush while other will take their time with other media and powders. If you ask me what I think of my work I'll be more than happy to tell you "I suck" , I am never happy with my mounts or any thing I personally do. Just ask my wife. One thing I have learned is that just because you have been in the business for years does NOT make you good. If you don't stay on top of what is going on in the industry and our laws it's only a matter of time before your history or have a good line of B.S. for your customers. Yes, I still don't know crap but I can say that I have been doing this for over 30 years get the picture. It does not matter how long you have been doing it if you don't learn something new each mount, seminar, or class. Myself I like to specialize with instruction and have stayed away from large do it all schools. So, I will always be on a large learning curve. By Feb. I will have spent in excess of 200 hours of instruction from various people (5) over the last year and a half and this is only for Waterfowl, Deer, and Fish. That does not sound like a lot but I can tell you these 5 people have made all the difference in my outlook of taxidermy not only as job but how I look at others and even their work (we won't get into cost I may have to report my self to Obama LOL). Years ago we didn't have training material like we do today ... There were no VCR tape, DVD's or people opening their doors to teaching. We just can't blame the supplier as they are not much different in trying to earn a living. If the student does not know what to do with the form his or her work will show it. No matter how many times you watch A-Z if does not have all that is needed to do a quality mount. It is up to the individual to pursue the final finished product and that can only happen with a good one on one instruction with a highly competent person.
  16. EA

    EA Well-Known Member

    LOL @ Codi. Thats funny.
  17. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    Codi, my wife would agree with you 100% as she is the same. After working for the State of MO for 35 years you get brain dead. As for me sometimes I don't know when to shut up.... It drives her up the wall. I am working on all the information to get a web site up and running and have already obtained a computer geek to do it. Probably have to trade him out some work.... Your web site is great and as always I think your work is great.
  18. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    DFJ, I think you need to move your tag to the $295 deer as this thread was to help new taxidermist in may ares of business. Not to dwell on weather he or she should be charging more or less for their work. As you can see in my break down I talked about cost in the context, "[SIZE=medium]The point here is don't underestimate your cost, and profit margins and Yourself. [/SIZE] I believe you missed the whole point of the Thread subject. Demographics has nothing to do with where you live when it comes down to cost of a mount .... only what you charge and what you want to make for your services.
  19. EA

    EA Well-Known Member

    Someone Answer my questions Dang Nabbit ! LOL..

    Can the public see the contact information of the taxidermist at your shows? Can the taxidermist have a card or brochure display beside their mounts during public viewings ? As an exhibitor, am I free to engage the public during their viewings or is that frowned upon?

    The reason I ask. I hear everyone pushing the shows as a way to further your knowledge thereby building your business, but should it not also be used to introduce the traveling taxidermists to new markets? You guys that do a lot of out of state work, did that come mostly from relationships made at shows ? JMO, but if I came up with a killer mount that I drug across the country and it ended up with a big ol' ribbon on it, I would want 100 business cards right beside it when the public walked in..

    OR are all these stupid questions ?
  20. antlerman

    antlerman NTA Life Member #0118

    Mike, I'll do my best. Our conventions are not trade shows like you are thinking. Think more like a glorified county fair.Though most or all shows have a couple of hour time slot for viewing by the GP, it's not that big of a deal. A couple of bucks and a walk about is about all it amounts to. Yes, I have seen people place business cards by their mounts after the judging is done, but what I think happens more times than not...........is.......we put our best foot forward and think our ugly babies are gonna win the beauty contest only to have a judge come along and crush one down back into reality. When that happens it's almost as if no-one wants to admit that the ugly baby belongs to them. Some where that PROUD factor disappears in many/most cases. And, the numbers of GP coming to said shows wouldn't fill a coffee shop on a rainy day.

    On the other hand, the TRADE SHOWS that do have an impact are the ones that are hunting/recreational based. Those are the ones where one goes to attract business and clients. SCI being the biggest. The Eastern Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA is another good one. Then the ones that are local to ones demographics can also have a resounding effect as well. When I was in "build" mode with my business, I took my antlers to anywhere that would let me in the door. That was 8 and 9 years ago, and I still stay busy off the residuals of those efforts. Once you light the fuse real good, well..........you get the idea. I'm starting to slow down and want to slow down. I want to get down to a crawl. But, if I wanted to reignite that fuse, I think I know how to do it. I just don't want to anymore. ;)