February '23

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A W A R D S & C U S T O M I Z A T I O N S o, the tree and decorations have been put away, the turkey and ham have been eaten, and you're on your eighth day of leftovers. e champagne has been drunk to celebrate the New Year, and you're working on your resolutions. e diet isn't working yet, but you've also decided that you either want to start a laser engraving business from scratch or you want to add laser engraving to your existing repertoire. How do you start? If you're already in the personalization, signage, or awards business, much of this will likely be of little or no interest to you. I'd like to pass on some advice to newcomers based on my 20 years of experience working with low-power lasers. e industry has changed exponentially in the past 20 years, and what I thought then doesn't reflect the state of play nowadays. Furthermore, if readers disagree with anything I say, that's per- fectly fine with me. I don't claim to be an expert, and I'm constantly learning new techniques and processes. Do your research My first piece of advice: don't begin your journey the way I did. As a mechanical engineer, I was working with high-powered industrial lasers — the ones that come with their own liquid nitro- gen plant. I was asked by a family member to pre- pare a report for him on a small laser to add to his thriving embroidery business, and he asked me to look at options. Well, the long and the short of it was that by the time I had finished a review of the available machines as I saw it, he had decided not to go ahead with a laser, but by then, I had caught the bug. I was so intrigued that I bought my first machine. Since I had done a lot of research already, I fol- lowed my own recommendation and dived right in. Do the math Make sure you can afford to cover the expenses incurred with the new business (includ- ing an exhaust and filtration system). You aren't going to bring in a flock of new customers right away, and you may not secure recurring business from them. Don't forget inventory and blanks. None of that comes for free, but certain suppli- ers will send you sample packs (at a lower cost) for you to experiment with. In my case, I started in my garage, but if you're going to move into a storefront right away, make sure your landlord is happy with the potential power requirements, exhaust require- ments, and noise. Don't forget insurance! WHERE TO START BUILDING YOUR Tips for newcomers to the engraving field B Y J O H N M O R M A N John Morman is the owner of Celtic Tides in Lexington, Virginia. He and his wife, Mary Jo, have been running the shop since 2005. 1 2 Engraving Company 5 8 G R A P H I C S P R O • F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 3 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M

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