One-Man Logging and Sawmilling Business

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Missouri man has built his one-man business from a startup company to a profitable and successful operation.


In just two years, Jacob Whitehead of J & M Logging and Sawmill in the southwest Missouri town of Fair Grove has built his one-man business from a startup company to a profitable and successful operation.

Jacob says he began the business for four reasons. One was to optimize the logging operation he was already successfully running, but three more important reasons are six, four, and two years old – three active children who want all the time with their father they can get. “I enjoyed logging but the jobs were getting further and further away and it was just getting difficult to spend quality time at home,” Jacob recalls. “I was a carpenter spring through fall and a logger through the winter. Two years ago I saw an opportunity to maximize my logging efforts with a portable sawmill. The log buyer we use operates Wood-Mizer mills and they love them and Wood-Mizer Missouri is only 45 minutes away so the decision was easy to make.”

Despite the recession that has impacted construction in recent years, “Building the logging business was pretty easy,” Jacob reports. The sawmill side came along more slowly but, Jacob says not getting too big too quickly has helped. “Going at a sprint into uncharted territory makes for a lot of mistakes,” said Jacob. “As a one-man show, slower has been a blessing and now we take five to ten orders a week. The sawmill is my primary income. We have a two-car detached garage that we are currently transforming into a wood shop and we will be building custom furniture to help maximize the sawmill’s production. We also have plans for a kiln in the works for next year.”

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J & M sources all of their logs locally with walnut, oak, and cedar being their most popular species. Each day, Jacob produces up to 800 board feet with his Wood-Mizer LT35 portable sawmill with nearly all the lumber sold as rough sawn dimensional. “We also keep a lot of live edge pieces that people like to dig through,” said Jacob. “Most of our lumber is used for do-it-yourself home projects, decks, furniture trailers and lots of raised garden beds.”

According to Jacob, J & M is a highly people centered business. “Our clients are everyday people who like to spend their money locally and want more than what the hardware store has to offer,” he says. “We know our clients all by name and they all really like the quality consistent lumber we offer. Fair Grove is a small town, we have a lot of local customers who used to go out of town to buy lumber. On our side, we also spend as much money locally as possible. We support each other, it is a big circle.” Assuring customers a quality product and first rate service is job #1 for a small company like Jacob’s. “Your word is all you have. Do what you said you would do, when and where you said you would do it for the price you said you’d do it for.”

In addition to providing quality service, Jacob has installed a forward looking communications plan to market his products. “We run Craigslist ads for lumber and include our Facebook page info so customers can check it out before they call,” said Jacob. “I feel like it gives them a sense of assurance that we are a legitimate business. It’s very easy to keep up with and we try to post pictures of every job we do and other random stuff in between jobs to keep people’s interest.” Perhaps the most important thing J & M Logging and Sawmill demonstrates is that old-fashioned virtues like independence, dedication to family, and the satisfaction in serving the community with a top quality product are alive and well in small business North America.