How Bolt Laserworks Got Started with AP Lazer’s Laser Etching Machine

We recently sat down with Jeff Nelson to talk about how he used his laser etching machine from AP Lazer to start Bolt Lazerworks from the ground up, and during a pandemic, no less! Let’s see what Jeff had to say about his experience.

How did you find out about AP Lazer? 

We found AP Lazer online while researching laser etching machines.

How did you fund your laser and how long do you expect it to take to pay off?

We paid cash for our AP Lazer from our existing (totally unrelated) business to start up Bolt Laserworks. The year of the COVID pandemic was not a particularly good year to start a new (from the ground up) business. Fortunately, we used the year to learn about our laser and develop clientele in a new market. We are focused on giving good products and services, confident the profits and payback will be there.

Engraved Drinking Glasses Using Laser Etching Machine

What was the biggest selling point of AP Lazer?

When I became interested in laser etching machines and cutting machines, I created a spreadsheet comparing the features and costs of a lot of different brands of lasers. AP Lazer was one of the more expensive brands, but this was an investment. I wanted a professional-grade machine that would not limit our options or output. The two differentiators that won for AP Lazer over all other brands were the unique open architecture and the strong company and user group support.

We have never regretted our decision to purchase our AP Lazer

– Jeff Nelson, Bolt Laserworks

How difficult is it to run an AP Lazer?

The AP Lazer is a professional-grade laser etching machine requiring some technical knowledge to get going. The training offered by AP Lazer as well as both the company and user group support is invaluable in getting productive with the machine. Experimenting and experience are also important for elevating your craft from a hobbyist to producing professional-level results. 

What have you used AP Lazer tech support for and how was your experience?

Beyond the typical kinds of support, we needed we actually encountered an obscure issue with our AP Lazer that at first stumped several AP technicians. The important takeaway here is that AP Lazer never left us hanging without a solution and they worked hard and diligently to resolve the problem. I am sure there is not another laser manufacturer that would have provided us the level of support and backing that we received from AP Lazer. Anyone can promise support, AP Lazer delivers – I can attest to that.

What do you like about the AP Lazer family?

The word ‘family’ accurately describes the AP Lazer experience. There definitely is a feeling of confidence in knowing our machine is backed by both the company and the amazing user group. We know if we encounter a problem they provide 7/24/365 telephone support as well as the support of all of the AP owners in the FB user group. We enjoy sharing our experience and knowledge with others too. 

Laser Engraved Water Bottle

Did you start your business when you purchased the AP Lazer?

Yes. We were attracted to the idea of a business where we could utilize our technical and graphics talents. My wife and I already own an unrelated business, but our laser business is a total start-up. I’m 70 years old and my wife is at least 25 (can’t reveal more than that or she’ll kill me), so I guess we are good examples that you are never too old to reinvent yourself.

What is your business and how would you describe it?

Our business is custom laser etching. We do not have a walk-in retail location and that is not the business we want to cater to (I.E. pre-made items). We do custom work for walk-in customers, but our main target is corporate business.

How would you describe the impact owning a laser etching machine has had on your business?  

Since Bolt Laserworks was created specifically for laser etching and cutting, you could say the business revolves around the machine itself. I do appreciate the AP Lazer as a professional-grade laser etching machine we will not outgrow or feel limited by.

How have you marketed your laser business and products? 

We have used print advertising in local publications. We use a Facebook page and we sell online on our own website and Etsy. We have found that word-of-mouth is very powerful. I have also made laser etched gifts for strategically selected individuals that are likely to spread the word about us.

I sponsored golf holes for three different local chambers of commerce golf outings this spring. I set up tables at each and gave out our brochure along with a branded leatherette key chain to every golfer that came by. I also had a drawing for a prize at each – a personalized drinkware set.

Do you have a website, and do you think it is necessary?

We do have a website and I will be the first to say it needs improvement. We don’t sell a lot of products online, though ours is a selling site. I think the most important reason for a website is credibility. People that contact us by e-mail or messenger are less likely to become buying customers compared to those that call us or stop in.

We also sell some of our products on Etsy. Online sales are not a big part of our business but it is another revenue stream.

How do you target your customers?

We use targeted marketing. We have a brochure that we use especially for cold calls to be sure we leave potential customers with something that displays what we do and how to get in touch with us. Cold calling can be surprisingly effective.

Laser Engraved Wine Glasses

Where do you source your blanks from?

Much of our blanks come from SuperNova, Lasersketch, JDS, and Johnson Plastics. We focus not just on price, but how reliable and consistent our suppliers are.

How do you determine the prices for your products?

We try to price products based on our material and time costs. That said, we have to consider the end value point to the customers also. Custom ordered products will usually bring higher profits as long as you compensate for graphics and set-up time.

Some items (leatherette keychains for example) are laser branded with our logo and phone number or web address and given away or sold at a loss for their marketing value for us.

What products would you recommend a new owner start?

To get going it is hard to beat products that laser easily such as slate, wood, and tumblers (the rotary table does add a level of complexity). Once you are comfortable with the basics of the software and the machine then move up to glass, granite, and etc.

What is your favorite part about using your laser etching machine?

We like the ability to be creative. We also like the personal connections we have with our customers. Doing custom projects for them lets us participate and share in their special occasions and events. 

In what ways do you see yourself using your laser etching machine in the future that you haven’t tried yet?

We’ve experimented with a lot of different things. I want to focus on more of the large personalized products such as mirrors, windows, tabletops, etc.

What is the most creative/unusual object you’ve engraved?

We etched a 3’ x 4’ bar mirror with an ornate family logo.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Anyone entering the laser business needs to decide if they are a hobbyist or if they are serious about becoming a laser professional. AP Lazer is definitely at the very top of professional-grade machines and their open architecture means we don’t worry about being limited by job size (in general, I find the larger jobs are more profitable).

With all of the hobbyists making stuff in their garages it is important to remember that they are not our competition and not in our market space. We are professionals focused on the kind of work that AP Lazer enables us to do. It allows us to differentiate our company from the herd. 

There you have it – another success story that began with passion, drive, and an AP Lazer!

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