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Pennsylvania couple makes wooden toys for children

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Jim and Dorothy Burkett’s workshop in Indiana County, Pa., is packed with lumber, woodworking tools, and toys in all stages of construction, according to TribLive.

The wooden toys that Jim Burkett makes encompass a broad range of interests for children. They include toy trucks, trains, helicopters, planes, banks and games in all sizes, types and prices.

The largest trucks available are dump trucks with a bed that actually dumps, and logging trucks fitted with tiny, scaled-down logs. The couple’s most popular item at the craft shows they frequent is a miniature basketball game. The game comes with an attached spoon that is used in an attempt to throw a ball through a hoop. Each year, they sell 150 to 200 of them.

Burkett told TribLive that the prevalence of technological toys for today’s youngsters hasn’t diminished their interest in his simple wooden ones.

“They’re fascinated with the wooden toys,” he told TribLive. “They especially like the ones that move.” Burkett makes most of his creations from either oak or cherry, but he also uses poplar, maple, ash, aspen and pine. He cuts and processes most of his lumber on the couple’s farm, but occasionally, he buys timber from a local Amish sawmill. None of the children’s toys are stained, painted or varnished.

“I leave them natural so I know they’re safe,” Jim Burkett told TribLive. “Some people paint or varnish them themselves after they buy them.”

Burkett has been making wooden toys for 15 years. Before that, he spent 48 years as a carpenter before he retired from Indiana University of Pennsylvania eight years ago.

Jim Burkett used to make stained-glass objects as a hobby, and he sold them at the 18 to 20 craft shows he and his wife attended each year. He told TribLive that he was always fascinated by the wooden toys other vendors were selling, and he started making them when a man from New York gave him some patterns. When the popularity of stained glass went out, he changed his tune and began selling toys.

While Jim’s job is making the toys, Dorothy Burkett’s job is filling out applications for craft shows, taking inventory, pricing items, packing them and helping to sell them at shows.

Burkett told TribLive that he makes toys in his wood shop primarily for fun rather than profit. “I don’t really like to read, and when I sit down to watch TV I go to sleep, so I come out here in my spare time and make toys. I like anything that involves working with my hands,” he said.

Their most recent show was at Indiana County Parks and Trails’ Festival of Lights, a two-mile drive-through tour featuring more than 80 light displays, at Blue Spruce Park near Ernest, Pa.

“The Burketts are the vendors we have had the longest,” Ed Patterson, director of Indiana County Parks and Trails, told TribLive. “They’ve been with us almost from the beginning.”

Written by cabinettrends

January 6, 2014 at 7:00 am

Five tips for small businesses to create a disaster-preparedness plan

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As the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches on Oct. 29, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety is urging small business owners nationwide to learn from the lessons of Hurricane Sandy and prepare for disasters by creating a preparedness and recovery plan. Hurricane Sandy had devastating effects on anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 small businesses impacted by the storm, according to the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Business Civic Leadership Center. It was the third most-devastating hurricane in U.S. history based on estimated insured property losses, and nearly half of the privately insured losses from Businesses, the Insurance Information Institute estimates.

“Continuity planning can make all the difference in a crisis, especially considering that one in four businesses forced to close because of a disaster never re-open,” said Gail Moraton, business resiliency manager, IBHS. “Having a plan in place will enable business owners to act quickly so they can recover as soon as possible.”

Business owners can prepare for a disaster using OFB-EZ (Open For Business-EZ), IBHS’ free, online continuity planning toolkit that provides an easy process for users to create a recovery plan that will help small businesses recover and re-open quickly after a disaster.

“As a web-based program, OFB-EZ offers business owners the convenience and confidence of developing and storing their business plan in a secure, third-party location on IBHS’ Disaster Safety website,” Moraton explained. “OFB-EZ Online uses non-technical language to help business owners create an effective business continuity plan so they are able to keep their doors open and return to normal operations as quickly as possible.”

When creating a continuity plan, IBHS recommends that businesses consider the following five questions, based on IBHS’ OFB-EZ business continuity toolkit:

1. Do you have contact information for employees, suppliers, and vendors in a protected place?

Ask your employees to provide their personal contact information annually. After a disaster, this will enable you to check on their well-being and share next steps for resuming normal business operations.

Also update your supplier and vendor contact information, as well as other important contacts such as your bank or insurance carriers, and keep this information in a safe location on the premises and an easily accessible off-site location.

2. Do you have plans for maintaining or resuming critical business functions?

Consider which functions are necessary to keeping your business viable and in the black, such as ones that fulfill legal or regulatory obligations, or are essential for maintaining market share or reputation. Critical business functions can change from year to year, so be sure to account for any changes such as the addition of new business systems, products or employees.

Work with your employees so that they fully understand the procedures for recovering the critical business functions. Name an alternate employee to take charge should the primary employee be unavailable to perform the function.

3. How is your data protected in a disaster?

Determine which data and records are vital to perform the critical functions, and be sure they are backed up on one or more types of media. Store a backup copy onsite for use after small disasters, such as a failed hard drive, and store a second copy in a safe offsite location that can be easily accessed after large disasters.

4. How will you fulfill your financial obligations?

Identify financial obligations and expenses that must be paid. You should not assume that because your area got hit by a disaster, your suppliers, vendors and creditors are aware of the situation and are granting extensions automatically. Items such as mortgage, lease or rental payments may still need to be made even after a disaster strikes your business.

Also, have an emergency cash reserve fund or credit available. You may need cash to purchase supplies or equipment, or relocate your business temporarily.

5. Do you have sufficient insurance coverage?

Evaluate your insurance policies and meet regularly with your insurance agent/broker to be sure you understand your coverage, deductibles and limits, and how to file a claim. Most policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage, and you may need to buy separate insurance for those events. You also may need to consider a policy that will reimburse you for business disruptions, in addition to physical losses or extra expenses.

Additional Hurricane Sandy recovery resources, as well as more business and disaster preparedness information is available at

Written by cabinettrends

November 4, 2013 at 7:00 am

Webinar on ‘MRP for Small Job Shops’ to be hosted Tuesday, Oct. 8

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SigmaTek Systems will host a webinar on “MRP for Small Job Shops” on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. ET.

The webinar is aimed at owners, shop floor managers, fabrication programmers/operators and manufacturing business professionals in shops with fewer than 30 employees.

Topics will include: •   Quick & Accurate Quoting •   Nesting Integration •   Scheduling •   Remnant Tracking •   Inventory Control •   Purchasing •   Invoicing •   Tracking Shipments

To register or for more information visit

Written by cabinettrends

October 7, 2013 at 7:00 am

Job-based health insurance costs up in 2013, survey of U.S. businesses finds

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The average cost of job-based family health insurance rose faster than overall inflation and employee wages for the 14th year in a row, according to a survey of more than 2,000 businesses across the U.S.

In 2013, annual premiums for employer-sponsored coverage are averaging $16,351, up 4 percent from 2102, according the annual Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. The data also show the annual cost of individual coverage is $5,884 on average for 2013, up 5 percent from 2012.

According to the survey, these rates continue an eight-year period of 4 to 6 percent annual increases and are far from the double-digit rate hikes of 2000-04.

The slower rate of growth means employers, who typically pay the bulk of employee health costs, are less likely to try to cut worker benefits in order to contain costs. “We’re not seeing that,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of Kaiser. “It’s not an environment where they should be looking to dramatically cut workers’ health benefits.”

The survey also found that the cost of job-based coverage rose 80 percent over the past decade, nearly three times faster than wages and inflation, which are up 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively, over the same time.

“What workers are paying for health coverage still strikingly outstrips both the increase in their wages and inflation,” Altman said. “There’s still a sharp, sharp contrast.”

The share of healthcare premiums paid by covered workers has remained nearly unchanged over the last 10 years. Data show individuals have contributed an average of 18 percent, or $999 toward their coverage in 2013, while families paid an average of 29 percent of their total annual premium, or about $4,565.

About 149 million Americans have job-based health insurance coverage, and 57 percent of firms currently offer employee coverage, down 61 percent from 2012 but not considered a statistically significant decline, the survey says. The survey notes that smaller firms are less likely to offer coverage than larger firms, and workers at smaller companies typically pay more for their coverage than those at large companies.

Read more about the survey’s findings at

Written by cabinettrends

September 30, 2013 at 7:00 am

Healthcare law for small businesses delayed until 2015

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Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees — a major selling point for the health care legislation, according to the New York Times.

The law is supposed to begin next year and calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.

The 2010 law stipulates that each state will have a Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange, to help employers compare health plans and enroll their employees. It was supposed to become available to many small businesses in January, but administration officials said they will delay it until 2015 in the 33 states where the government will be running insurance markets called exchanges. And they are delaying the requirement in other states as well.

One of the most important tasks of the exchange is to simplify the collection and payment of monthly premiums, the New York Times reports. An employer can pay a lump sum to the exchange, which will then distribute the money to each insurance company covering its employees.

The Obama administration told employers in 2011 that the small business exchange would “enable you to offer your employees a choice of qualified health plans from several insurers, much as large employers can.” In addition, it said, the exchange would “consolidate billing so you can offer workers a choice without the hassle of contracting with multiple insurers.”

Exchanges are scheduled to start enrolling people on Oct. 1, for coverage that begins in January. However, the administration said that the government and insurers needed “additional time to prepare for an employee choice model” of the type envisioned in the law signed three years ago by President Obama.

Insurers said that the administration was partly responsible for the delay because it did not provide detailed guidance or final rules for the small-business exchange until last month.

Businesses with up to 100 employees will be able to buy insurance in the exchanges. In 2014 and 2015, states can limit participation to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Companies with fewer than 25 workers may be able to obtain tax credits for up to two years of coverage bought through an exchange. States can open the exchanges to large employers in 2017.

A stated goal of the 2010 law was to increase “consumer choice” and stimulate competition among insurers. The law makes it easier for consumers to compare health plans by defining four standard levels of coverage, ranging from the least to the most generous. The law says an employer can pick a level of coverage and then allow employees to choose among all the health plans available at that level.

Written by cabinettrends

April 17, 2013 at 7:00 am

Lending to small businesses up for first time in two years

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For the first time in 10 quarters, lending to small business owners has increased, according to a report from

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s quarterly report indicated signs that loans to small businesses have increased for the first time in more than two years, which may be a sign that some companies are recovering from the economic recession.

Lending to small businesses increased by 0.4 percent from $584.1 billion in September 2012 to $586 billion at the end of 2012. The increase is attributed to less-restrictive standards for commercial and industrial loans. Although commercial real estate lending continued to lag, demand for both loans remains high, another sign of possible recovery from the economic recession.

The report indicated that big banks lent more to small businesses than smaller financial institutions, with Wells Fargo as the leader. According to the report: “Larger institutions of $1 billion or more helped offset the declines in lending by the smaller lending depository institutions. Small business lending by institutions with assets of $50 billion or more followed the general trend and remained unchanged.”

Written by cabinettrends

April 2, 2013 at 7:00 am

Do online ads works for small companies?

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There’s profit to be made by serving as an advertising platform for Main Street businesses, according to Business Week online. Google and Microsoft’s Bing beefed up their neighborhood-specific business listings years ago. AOL bet big on Patch, its network of hyperlocal blogs. Investors chased companies such as Groupon that offer new models for capturing local ad dollars.

One large hiccup: Small companies typically have small advertising budgets. But what’s less widely-known is that small companies have proved reluctant to shift their limited resources from print to online. How reluctant? That’s the big question posed by a Boston Consulting Group survey released by Yelp.

The survey polled 550 U.S. companies with 100 or fewer employees in many industries and found the average respondent is spending only about 3 percent of its advertising budget on Web ads. The companies in the survey spend $63 to $196 per month on Google, other search engines, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo! Local,, Twitter, LinkedIn, and

While BCG’s study didn’t estimate the amount small businesses spend on local advertising, BIA/Kelsey has estimated they’ll spend $36.7 billion annually on Web ads by 2014. More recently, BIA/Kelsey noted that small business spending on all types of ads has flattened, and that money is being used for improving companies’ websites, customer loyalty programs, and other forms of marketing.

For small businesses to want to buy online ads, co-author of the BCG study Kate Manfred told Business Week, word-of-mouth referrals are crucial. In other words, the hardware store owner needs to suggest to the dry cleaner down the street that she try online ads, or it’s unlikely to happen.

Written by cabinettrends

March 27, 2013 at 7:00 am


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