FDMC magazine will launch a national gathering of woodworking collectives - a growing wood industry segment which finds small woodworking businesses sharing a single manufacturing center and sometimes jointly producing larger or more complex projects and commissions.
Will Sampson, editor of FDMC, will moderate the gathering, taking place March 23 in Pasadena, California, at the Convention Center during Cabinets & Closets Expo 2016. Laura Zahn, director of Off the Saw woodworking collective in Los Angeles, is coordinating a local planning committee.
"The most visible sign of this new movement is the growth of 'maker spaces' around the country," says Sampson. "These are typically small incubators for manufacturing startups that offer tools, equipment, and workspace that cash-strapped entrepreneurs might not otherwise be able to obtain. Such spaces cropped up first in hotbeds of technological innovation, such as Silicon Valley and emphasized 3-D printing, robotics, and CNC manufacturing. Woodworking, too, was often included because of the age-old role of woodworking in prototype work. As woodworking has become even more sophisticated and married to CNC technology, it increasingly belongs right alongside the highest of high tech."
Working together but separately at Fort Houston, a Nashville cooperative factory, are several custom woodworking businesses, all owned by younger tradesmen.
Establishment of woodworking collectives have been on the rise in the last two years, often serving as incubators for small woodworking businesses to get launched. One such operation, The Forge in Greensboro, North Carolina, with more than 160 members, has spun off 15 independent woodworking and fabricating companies employing 70. Businesses incubated there have spun off seven patents.
Facilities at The Forge include design software, 3-D printers, metal shop, lathes and woodworking tools - including tablesaws, bandsaws, routers, planers, and sanders. The Forge recently named a professional executive director to manage its business activities.
Business structures of the collectives vary. Independent operations range from cooperative workshops that simply share space; more integrated collectives, such as Dock6 may share manufacturing platforms; public workshops, similar to health club memberships, with monthly fees for access to tools and technology. At least one national chain has risen to prominence as well.
Depending on the steering committee's direction, the March 23 National Woodworking Collectives gathering is expected cover fundamentals that pertain to many small business: marketing, business management, finance. But unique issues such as business liability insurance for collective woodshops, managing individual owner-operators, and group marketing efforts, are also likely to enter the conversation.
"I've been working to help small shop professional woodworkers succeed in business for more than two decades," says FDMC editor Will Sampson. "The rise of woodworking collectives offers great opportunities to overcome significant business obstacles and to help new entrepreneurs get a head start on business. We want to do whatever we can to promote those opportunities."
Among collectives covered recently at WoodworkingNetwork.com are:
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