Start a Firewood Delivery Business
These days, not many people burn wood out of necessity. Unlike our parents and grandparents who depended on wood for heating, we are more than likely to purchase wood for recreational use and aesthetic reasons.
Some people just like the nostalgia of sitting by a crackling fireplace while the snow piles up outside. Others value the charm and character that a real wood-burning fireplace brings to a home. And, yes, there are still those among us that use wood for heating purposes.
In fact, as new products such as air-tight stoves and wood furnaces emerge, wood burning has attracted a lot of attention as a very viable alternative to rising oil prices.
For anyone in the business, things have never been brighter. There is a healthy demand for firewood that shows no sign of slowing.
Getting started in the firewood trade can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Generally, there are two ways to get into this business:
You can simply buy seasoned firewood in bulk that is ready to burn, and resell it to the consumer. This completely cuts out the processing stage. The only requirements to start up the business in this manner is a bit of land to store the bulk wood and a vehicle to deliver it. You can sell your product by the face cord, bush cord, or even by the bag.
One of the most critical aspects of doing business in this manner is to have a reliable supplier. You will need someone who can deliver the product when you need it. If you are short on space, having the ability to get your deliveries on short notice will allow you to operate with minimal inventory while still filling your orders.
If you have access to a decent plot of land (away from residential areas), you can have logs trucked in for a fraction of the price you would pay to purchase seasoned, split wood. Operating in this capacity, you will need to cut those logs into 12" lengths (approx), split them, stack them, and allow the wood to season for a year.
You will be operating chain saws and other equipment such as splitters and stacker elevators, hence the need to be away from residential areas. As a processor of firewood, you will be able to keep a much larger inventory, make more profit, and maybe even sell to smaller firewood suppliers. Obviously, it's going to require that you operate the business on a much larger scale. With this comes a large initial investment, employees, tighter municipal regulations, and more money invested in sales and marketing.
Among the advantages is the ability to sell your product to the public right from your lot, the ability to offer better quality and lower prices, and the assurance that you will be able to meet all your customer's orders by having complete control of your manufacturing process. Additionally, you'll be making much more money in the long run as you won't be losing profit to a middleman.
Anyone operating a firewood processing/delivery service in this capacity is really in it for the long run. One of the biggest problems you might run into is finding the ideal location to operate your business from. It's not going to be easy to find a location near a populated area. And because the price for firewood increases as you get closer to any major city, it's in your best interest to stay as close to the major population centers as possible. In short, you want to find a country lot a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you're too far out, you're going to waste a lot of money transporting your product to your customers. Of course, you could concentrate on customers outside of the city, but the price drops significantly outside of any major center.
If you plan to simply buy seasoned firewood in bulk and resell it, you're not going to need much in terms of equipment. However, you will need a truck that is capable of hauling at least a cord of wood at a time. This truck is going to have to be fairly heavy-duty because WOOD IS VERY HEAVY. Alternatively, you can use a heavy duty trailer (preferably with a dump feature) to offset the weight or increase your capacity. Still, you will need a truck that is capable of handling that kind of weight and/or towing the trailer. Some of the heavy duty pickup trucks available should be able to handle this requirement. You might also want to consider a 3 ton or a 5 ton dump truck.
If you plan to process and sell your own firewood, you're going to need a decent amount of startup capital. A full-fledged operation means that you'll have to invest in a woodlot, fencing, chainsaws, splitter's, stacking elevators, and maybe even a front end loader. In addition to that, you'll probably need at least one large truck with a dumping feature and a few heavy duty pickup trucks with trailers.
The large truck is necessary in order to deliver larger loads to small firewood supply companies , gas stations and garden supply outlets. The smaller trucks and trailers will deliver smaller loads to individual consumers.
Whether you decide to become a reseller of firewood or start your own firewood processing facility, you will be marketing your product directly to consumers. Traditional marketing methods work very well in the firewood trade. Take out a permanent classified ad in the local paper and/or a small yellow pages display ad, and you should have enough business to tide you over. Keep in mind that repeat and referral business will snowball over the years.
If you decide to process your own firewood, you can also sell wood right from your lot. Or you can partner up with gas stations and landscape centers to sell your wood in bags. The bags would be filled at your facility. Additionally, you can become a wholesaler to smaller companies. There are a lot of possibilities.
Operating a firewood business may not be as straightforward as you might think. Depending on where you live, you could be facing some strict zoning and licensing bylaws. As a reseller, you've got to think about how your neighbors are going to react to your little business. Even if you're not selling to people on the street, there will still be a lot of activity going on - not to mention a large pile of wood on your property. This is going to depend almost entirely on where you live. For example, most subdivisions prohibit such activity. The only way you might get away with running a business like this on your own property is if you lived on a large lot and your neighbors were a good distance away. If you don't run any chainsaws, you might get away with it.
If you plan to process and sell your own firewood, then you're in a totally different league. You're going to need a commercial/industrial location well away from any residential areas. You'll have to get everything approved by the municipality.
In short, before you decide to do anything, make sure you know exactly what is required and what you can and cannot do. Start by contacting your municipal government and make sure you understand what they require. You'll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation down the road.