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How to sell a trad bow building business
My longtime hunting partner is retiring from bow building and wants to sell out. This includes tons of materials, jigs, presses, oven, sanders and grinders, etc.
Any suggestions about how to market something like this?
I have a close family member in the same situation. He has been at it for a couple of years now and is still looking for a buyer. He makes roughly 200 ish bows a year so its a pretty substantial business. If your partner is somewhat small time and he has the time, he may be best off finding an apprentice to work with and groom to run things and eventually take over. Tough to get more than what the machinery and material is worth unless he can pass on the skill aspect with it. At least that is my take.... A rocket ship is worthless if you can't drive it kinda thing.
X2 320....I don`t know how you sell a "art". Bow building is a rare talent....it`s not like trying to sell a car wash. The apprenticeship thing is what I would think would be the best way to go.
I have a mantra....."each one must teach one". You have a unique skill....pass it on.
Thanks, and thats pretty much what I suggested too. He has retired and just wants out, so his best bet is probably to piece it out and get whatever he can.
It's too bad because he built outstanding bows, but he's ready to move on.
Maybe start a thread on Bowsite??
Yup find an apprentice, otherwise go to sites like the Leatherwall or Tradgang and post his stuff there. He is gonna take a beating but may recoup some of his money. Shawn
PSU, he's in northern CO.
You can look at old traditional hunting magazines from the 1980's and 90's and many of the bowyers are no longer in business. It's a competitive, tricky market and the actual "bow building" and artistry is often the least of your worries. I'm pretty good buddies with two bowyers here in western Montana and they're dialed in but their actual business acumen has allowed them to live the dream now for decades......along with beautiful bows.
Have Tom put a Sitka emblem on the stuff and it will skyrocket in price and sell quick
Have your friend contact RMSGear out side Denver and they may be a good resource for him since they deal in tradbows. If he has a trademark on his design it may add value to the forms he wants to sale. Been other by-gone bowyers that have either retired or pass on where others have came in and carry on the product.
"Where is he located at?"
This get your wheels spinning Aaron?
To me a trad biw business IS the bowyer. If he doesn’t come with it it’s only worth the value of the equipment.
I'd agree with Mule to a certain degree, but you can't tell me that if Black Widow was for sale right now today that someone wouldn't buy it very quickly based on being able to capitalize on the brand/reputation.
Dredging back in my trad days memory, I believe Jim Brackenbury mentored Wes Wallace and Norm Johnson of Black Tail bows out in the Pacific northwest. My first thought was the apprentice route as well, but if your friend wants out he may as well part it out for what he can get for his equipment. A longtime friend had a small trad bow operation in his polebarn back in the 1980's through the late 1990's and I learned the basics from him. It is indeed an art form and labor of love. When he closed shop he just turned off the lights on that side. I don't think he sold any of his gear and it is probably there under a tarp.
Kelley Custom Bows. He never needed a website because he built and sold all he could produce (one man operation) through word of mouth, brochures, and repeat customers. He built awesome bows. And you guys are right about the mentoring-apprenticeship. He originally learned from a friend who learned from Mike Palmer. Pretty sure he is resigned to advertising and piecing out the equipment and materials. But I offered to post something on here to tap the collective wisdom of Bowsiters.
Thanks for the feedback!
After giving this some more thought.....along the lines of Nick. If I was a bowyer and this guy had an established brand and customer base....it would not be a bad idea to slide in and take the reins. As long as he was able to step in and produce the same product.
Start a post on the leatherwall. Also, he could go to some of the team events and see if he can find an interested party.
Tell him to put a Mathews sign up next to it saying start your own Mathews Traditional bow business. It will sell like a hot cake!
You also have to be able repair damaged/returned bows and come in dead nuts on weight at the specified draw on custom orders which isn't always easy. Black widow or any business that uses computerized C&C equipment to cut out risers would be easier but more expensive to take over. Which is why I don't put those in quite the same category as risers/bows that are individually shaped by the bowyer.
Actually, I have been thinking about it for years and now laid off from my career job, (actually built a few laminated bows in the past), but unfortunately since layoff haven't the money to now invest...
Certainly can be a tough sell. Tom's bows are very nice and for a guy wanting to start out, having his forms and a couple months of mentoring would be a giant head start. Since he didn't advertise much he won't have a lot of name or reputation value to add but the designs and knowledge have value for the right buyer.
It is tough to sell a bow business. Over the past few years there have been a some well known bowyers that have just quit. Some of them had a big following and built fantastic bows. One of the ones that did sell - Mike Fedora - was in the business for decades. The buyers haven't been able to build his business back to where it was when he ran it.
Jack Howard made bows that were recognized for decades as excellent performers and beautiful works of art. He tried to to sell his business for many years. He wanted $30 thousand for his supplies, tools and knowledge. He offered to work with anyone that bought his business to teach them how he did it. He died without selling the business.
I hope that this person can sell the business to someone that has the dedication and persistence to make it work. But I don't think he'll get nearly what it is worth as a price. If he does find the right person maybe selling the equipment and getting modest price for his expertise and market following along a royalty agreement may be beneficial.
spike78, Matthews has built longbows, a friend got one of the first ones for doing interior office work at their company. Big Horn recurves went through number of hands, Sierra Blanca bows is building from Rocky Mnt Recurves a fine shooters, Beck bought out Black Widow and sold it, Fedora Bows were taken over from Mike Sr several yrs ago and Sky Bows are being remade, RER was bought when Kevin retired. Just take a special person with the talent to make a business out of it, always a niche for fine stick bows. It is magical when everything comes together on a hunt with it.
Widows are all cnc machined now, not much to do with a true "custom" like a Robertsons or a Bob Lee. Basically, with Widows, you're buying machines and programs...
Sad he's getting out of the business Lou, you've told me a lot about his bows. Tommy from rmsg gave Buddy the stuff from Rampart, and when something happended to Mike from Hawk bows, no one got his equipment. When John Frazio passed away, his wife wanted a lot of money for his stuff and no one bought it. Have no idea where his forms and stuff is at, Run an ad in Traditional Bowhunter. You never know....
I disagree with Mule Power. My buddy was a long-time trad bowyer (Zipper Bows) and recently sold that business to a friend, after a short mentoring period. From what I can tell, the new owner is doing fine. As for how he did it, his buddy was a long-time customer that loved those bows and decided on a career change, and the timing was perfect.
Lou, tell him to talk to Tom at Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear, maybe he will have some connections or ideas that could help him. It is worth a shot as he has nothing to loose.
Ya know.... maybe I am wrong. Paul Shafer bows continued sfter he passed. If the name is well established it might have a value. The new owner would just have to make people aware of ghe apprenticeship and your buddy should be available to him for consulting and such. It could work. Buy it Lou! If anyone could make it fly you can.
I recall a few bowyers who retired in recent years and sold the company.The only one who’s name comes to me off hand is Bob Morrison ( Morrison Bows) from Ohio. If he did a little web search on the leather wall or other trad sites I’m sure he could find the others. He then could possibly reach out to the original owners and speak to them...
Black Widow Bows has 10 to 15 employees that run the company . The operation that we are discussing is a one man operation. If you buy black widow the boys are going to keep building bows. If you buy a one man operation you better know how to build bows. There is a big difference. Any small business needs someone to take over The more technical the longer it takes to train someone how to run it. Your friend should have been thinking about this 5 years ago. I have a friend that is a carpenter that has a fantastic business but he does not want to deal with employees. When he decides he is done guess what is going to happen.
Depends on how fast he wants out, if he could find a motivated young lad or lass to come on as an apprentice and then buy it once they know what they are doing!
RMSG has a link on their site to a small bowyer who was in a situation just like this if I remember right. I recall reading that the guy took on an apprentice who took over his 'brand' and still builds one or two of his designs.
Thanks for all the feedback and I passed it on. He doesn't need the money. He's more interested just moving everything to someone who will keep building bows rather than simpky "getting rid" of everything. But as many have noted, the apprenticeship transfer would be the best option. Too late for that now. He'll figure it out. Thanks for all the ideas..