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So you want to buy a laser system.

The big questions are “Why?” and “What for?”

If you’re already an established business wanting to replace a technology like ink-printing, you’re going to answer those questions much differently than you would if you were a stay-at-home mom who wants to be able to work out of the house so she can see her children when they get home from school.

We’re going to talk about that second scenario here. The one where a person or a couple is wanting to start a laser business from scratch (because that is what we did—we started our laser business from scratch).

In 2010 we bought our first laser, beginning a laser job-shop business with one employee working 20 hours a week, producing a gross income of $866 per month. After we paid that employee, factoring in the cost of the laser and expenses like electricity, packing tape, boxes, postage and the like, we were loosing around $500 per month, but hey, it was a start.

Today, nine years later, we own 20 lasers and all of the peripheral equipment that goes with them, and we’ve purchased a building to house it all (a building that we grew out of way to fast) and we have 16 team members working over two shifts.

It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work getting to where we are today, and it will take more work to get to where we’re going tomorrow.

Plotter style laser

You may be asking, how did they go from Point A to Point B in a 9 year period? What were the keys to their success?

First off, we must state that we have been blessed by God. We cannot lay aside that truth.

That being said, there have been a few points we’d like to offer up to anyone wanting to start a laser business.

Point 1, you need reliable equipment. You don’t need a science project as your first laser.

Even though we bought our first laser used (a Trotec Speedy 300, CO2 system), we thought that was a much better idea than buying a new low-cost Chinese laser system.

When we had only $200/week of expected gross revenue, we paid $10,000 for a used laser rather than spending $1,000 or 2,000 for one of those cheap systems you can buy online.

When you’re starting a business you don’t want to handicap your business from the get go, by buying a laser you’re going to have to continually do maintenance on, like cleaning mechanical parts, replacing belts, pulleys, motors, glass laser tubes (and the like), and you don’t want to buy a laser you’ll have to virtually dissemble, just to clean a lens or mirror.

When you’re starting a business, you don’t want to have to spend time adjusting your laser system or aligning it every week (or day as some do), and you don’t want a laser that takes 10 minutes to laser etch a piece that should only take 3.

Every minute you spend maintaining a laser is a minute spent loosing money you could be making with that laser. We decided with our first laser purchase, that we wanted our lasers to produce income for us, instead of draining income through part failures and maintenance.

So that’s Point 1 — purchase a good laser system to begin with.

“Oh that’s easy for you to do. Me, I’ve living paycheck to paycheck, so I don’t have $10K to spend on a laser like you did. That kind of money is hard to come by.” I’ll tell you a secret, we didn’t have $10,000 either. Do you want to know what we did to get that $10K? We saved our money until we had it, then when we had the money saved, we bought our used laser. Point 2 is this — don’t buy a laser until you can outright pay for a good one.

Quit buying the overpriced Dunk’s coffee or Starbucks…quit going out to eat 5 times a week…cut back on your cable bill. Do you really need a million stations of bad TV? Work an extra job…do whatever it takes to not go into debt when you start your business. Debt is stress. Debt is sleepless nights. Debt is risk. Debt is being at the mercy of a lender. Debt limits your options when it comes to growing your business in the future. Hey, we sell lasers for a living too, but when you come here, we’re not going to tell you that if you’re willing to lease a laser for some ungodly amount, that you can make a lot of money. No, we’re going to tell you what reality is, that you may lease that laser and when the first payment comes due, you may not be able to make the payment, because your business didn’t take off as you thought it would. Point 1 is purchase a good laser to begin with. Point 2 is save up and pay cash for that first laser. Avoid debt like the plague. Point 3 is make sure you’re going to be able to make money before you invest in that laser. As a business that sells lasers, there have been a number of times people have come to us and have said “I have a great business idea…I have a great product to sell…I need to buy a laser!” then after they bought that laser (after they committed to some outrageous lease payment or placed a second on their home), their business failed because #1 they didn’t know how to market their product or #2 they didn’t have a product anyone wanted to buy. After seeing a few people make that mistake, we began offering to do the lasering for them, until they started selling their product enough to justify buying a laser themselves. Then once that person actually was making money on his or her business, we sold them a laser and gave them all the jigs we produced for them (and shared all the tricks we learned about better making their product). Remember, there is always some level of risk in starting a business, but if you can eliminate most of that risk to begin with, your business will be more fun and your sleep will be better at night.