Every house in the country is a potential repeat customer…
Matt Rowell set himself the goal of generating an extra $5k over 5 years to fund some passion projects, and he’s well on his way.
Matt runs AmericanEdgeSharpening.com on the side from his day job as captain of a research vessel. It’s a knife sharpening business, which makes $250-500 a month when we spoke and is earning him $30-60 per hour.
He saw an ad while posted abroad with the Navy that gave him the idea for his business.
And then he took action. Matt:
- Picked up a knife sharpening kit
- Taught himself how to sharpen knives by watching YouTube videos
- Offered to sharpen knives for family and friends for the practice
- Found paying customers
The best thing about the knife sharpening business?
“If you drive down the road, every house that you pass has a bunch of knives in it,” Matt said. That means an almost limitless number of potential customers.
Tune in to hear how Matt got started with this idea while he was deployed in Djibouti, Africa, including his equipment, how he learned how to do it, and how he’s marketed and priced his service.
Why Start a Knife Sharpening Business?
Matt was recalled to active duty for the Navy and was deployed to Djibouti for a year. He was working a desk job, and being the hands-on type of person, he wanted something more to do with his hands while he was out there.
He saw an ad in a local listing, similar to a Craigslist, for a knife sharpening service. He reached out to the ad poster to get some more information, but he had already been sent home.
So, Matt found out as much as he could about knife sharpening, purchased the gear he needed, and started watching YouTube instructional videos. Then he started offering to sharpen knives for free to get some practice.
He got some paid work from referrals while in Djibouti, but it was once he got back home that he decided to turn his new skill into a true side hustle.
What Equipment Do You Need to Sharpen Knives Professionally?
Matt started out with an Edge Pro Apex sharpening system and says he’s found it to be a really versatile and reliable sharpening kit.
It will set you back around $255 for the basic kit, and Matt has added some other attachments to enable him to sharpen a wider range of blades.
How Matt Found His First Paying Customers
Matt said, “If you drive down the road, every house that you pass has a bunch of knives in it.” There is no shortage of potential customers!
He started out asking friends and family members if they needed any knives sharpened or knew of anybody who did.
He then put up a Facebook page, which started bringing in a few new customers too.
Matt said his business started steadily growing without spending any money on marketing or advertising this way.
Local Marketing that Worked
He later built a drop box on his driveway and put a sign on the side of the road which he says is now his number one marketing tool. (He lives in a small town in New Hampshire.)
Matt also set up a booth at the local farmer’s market for a cost of $25 a season.
The first year, Matt approached the market as a way to make money. The second year, he approached the market as a way to get to really know the community and other vendors, and said he got a lot more out of the experience, not just more customers.
“Building the community has become the biggest unexpected blessing in starting this side hustle for me,” Matt said.
Pricing a Knife Sharpening Service
Matt did a Google search for “Sharpening around me” to see how much competitors were charging and to get a ballpark figure for how much he should charge.
The first thing he did was simplify the pricing compared to what he was seeing.
A lot of competitors broke down pricing per types of knives, so Matt settled on a flat $1 per inch of blade with a minimum of $5 per knife.
This structure worked out to earn him between $30-60, with an average customer spending $20 per order.
Recurring and Corporate Clients
Matt doesn’t just sharpen knives for private individuals, he also has a business client base.
Business to business relationships are more likely to be recurring and have a higher value too. “I treat every client as recurring,” Matt said.
He keeps in touch with them, and sends out newsletters with knife tips and special offers.
Here is a list of some of the businesses Matt has worked with:
- Lawnmower Repair Shops
- Print Shops
- Canvas Shops
- Sewing Shops
- Wood Shops
- Sheep Shearers
- Fishing Boats
- Cheese Shops
- Machine Shops
- Hair Salons
Matt has a recurring contract with a sheep shearer and trades haircuts with a salon for keeping their shears sharp.
Handling the Knife Dropoff and Pickup
When Matt started out, people would knock on his door to drop off their knives, but this was causing a lot of disruptions.
So, he designed a drop box at the end of his driveway. There are two boxes, one to leave knives in to be sharpened, and one for the finished knives to be left for collection along with payment.
The boxes have cipher locks, so the customer can open it them securely lock their knives in, and Matt can give them the code to open the box and take their finished knives.
Links / Next Steps
- Matt’s sharpening equipment
- Edge Pro Apex Knife Sharpening System
- Listen to the full interview here:
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