Today’s customer demands high quality personalization. As a result, laser engraving has become a major trend across America. If you’re serious about your small business, adding a laser to your arsenal of tools is a no-brainer. However, a laser can feel intimidating at first.
Many (including this writer) have questions about some fundamental basics of starting a laser business from scratch. How should I market? How do I determine how much to charge? Can I easily run a laser machine with my skill set?
Chris Locascio, is the man with the answers. He runs an incredible small business called Legacy Lazer out of Land o’ Lakes, Florida and he knows his way around a laser machine. Check out Legacy Lazer’s Facebook page to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Locascio spoke to AP Lazer about how he started out using his laser engraving machine and answered some of our customer’s most frequently asked questions. The CEO gave insight into his business and marketing strategies and tips on how to make consistent money when first starting out.
How have you marketed your laser business?
We find the most effective marketing strategy is to contact local businesses that have a large presence in your community. Businesses who are posting a lot to Instagram and have a lot of Instagram followers are highly valuable. Hit them up with some of your material even you’re making it for free. Just getting your name out there is highly important, just so businesses know what you’re doing. Owning a laser machine in invaluable but not everyone knows exactly what it does.
How difficult is it to run an AP Lazer?
Running the laser and using the laser is a joy and absolute fun. It’s always something different and totally new. You get to release your inner creativity and it’s awesome. Things you didn’t even know you were capable of can now be possible with a laser machine.The machine itself is very easy to operate. The most laborious part is usually the design aspect. Depending on what the client wants, the logo they provide you with or even the graphics that they intend for you to use factor into the difficulty level.When starting out it might be wise to do lots of tumblers, it seems to be a staple in the market. It’s constant work and it helps pay the bills.
Signage work, on the other hand, is the icing on the cake. Custom signs from acrylic to wood to – you name it – people want signs for their businesses, they want family signs hung in their home and they want all kinds of custom artwork for their walls. This can easily become the focal point for any laser business.
Where can you find graphic art when starting out?
You can always find files with advanced Google searches by filtering out the copyright and trademark images. You can take a lot of those images and trace them or use bits and pieces and add to them to make them your own.
What should a new business charge?
When it comes to charging you can start by basing your pricing on AP Lazer CEO Tong Li’s rule of thumb: About $200 per hour of running time. Once you calculate the running time per piece you should also consider your editing and design time. Those are all separate entities to consider in the pricing. When you’re running the machine you break down the $200 an hour to however many it takes you to develop a cost and then get market-specific – the market really dictates prices. Consider the demographics of your area and how close the next local laser company is. Are you the only one within 100 miles? If so, that puts you at a premium. As far as cost look at whats available on the market you know people are doing those acrylic cups and doing them cheap you have to look at Etsy prices but some of that stuff you cannot compete with. You go to Walmart where you can buy a Tumbler for six to ten dollars and here I am selling them for 24 and up, but they’re personalized.
When you’re just starting out what products should you focus on?
That’s going to be dictated by your area. What I first started on was items specific to my area I have a lake community – four different lakes, people boat – so I started making maps with the lake cut out and different materials used to designate those areas the streets around those area local bars stuff like that so they can have stuff to hang some signage some neat little references to our community. But the easiest thing is tumblers and water bottles and any type of personalized cup while it’s not a lot of fun it’s consistent money that will pay for the machine and then the other stuff that is hitting your creative side is icing on the cake.
I design a lot of my own stuff but I’m always grabbing bits and pieces offline clip art pieces whether I’m tearing them apart or creating our own pieces. Creating on our own or it’s going to be a lot of stuff people send us. You can tailor it down to vectors and colors. Advanced search.
What type of support do you get?
When I first started out the support system was phenomenal. We knew nothing in the industry, laser machines or even the software so entering the field we relied heavily on AP’s tech support. We called quite often and they were always willing to help 24/7. They’re there to explain a lot of the intricacies of the design aspect and to this day the Facebook forum provides a lot of user support for anybody that has a question. Usually, there are five to ten people chiming in on posts and you can have your answer rectified quickly.
What are some methods of paying for the machine?
AP Lazer has a few financing options or you can go to your local bank and try to qualify for financing – unless you have the cash to buy them outright. I will say that it is very easy to create enough revenue to support the machine quickly, within the first month we were able to make our payment no issues off of revenue created by the machine. By the second month, we had tripled that, and we were in the profit range and it has been growing consistently ever since.
So almost everything I create gets put on Instagram and then pushed over to Facebook. We really don’t do a lot of paid advertising on Facebook but we use a lot of tags specific on Instagram. So depending on what we’re building, what we’re making, trying to target those audiences, which tends to increase our likes, and obviously with the social media platform the more likes you have the more people who are going to see your items on a regular basis.
We just started a YouTube channel and I haven’t really taken advantage of it. I see that as another market at least showing the processes and getting people interested.You can quickly and easily make money with the laser with creative marketing and hitting the right markets within your area. You can easily tap into enough residual income to pay for the machine itself on a monthly basis. Our first month we were able to pay for the machine plus some, which we didn’t expect, typically with a new startup business you’re looking at six months to a year before your seeing any return on the investment. The first month that we had it we were able to make enough to cover the monthly payment of the machine and in the second month, we were able to triple our payment. Ever since then we have been growing consistently.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.