I have been asked by quite a few people how I go about approaching sponsors, you may be surprised at the answers but with suggestions from folks I have decided to post a little about that. Here are my two cents:
- I work in the construction industry, I have a few ‘ins’ that have helped me but for someone who isn’t in the field it’s helpful to think of asking a construction super on a jobsite for his scraps as actually a helpful thing for them. Dependent on where you live, it cost the job to have to ‘dispose’ or return the products to the place they got them. They try to order only what the job needs but it’s pretty standard to order up to 10% excess in case some of it is not as high quality or anything happens along the way (time spent waiting for product to be delivered is wasted and time is money). Typically job sites have ‘left-overs’, which in my case was almost an exact lumber list for what I needed to build my house. If this is left over at the end of the job they generally have to pay restocking fees or disposal fees… let alone the time it takes them to do that. I have found that if you ask for the scraps or even offer to pay pennies on the dollar they are likely to jump at the opportunity to save that time and money. I got all of my lumber, wiring and misc things (receptacles, nails etc) for $300. To go about finding the right person I would suggest finding a jobsite around town (preferably one nearing completion of framing), finding out the construction management company on the site (generally there is a sign very visibly posted with this information on site), if the ‘Superintendent’ is not listed on that sign call that company and ask who the super is and get their email/phone number. I perfer email just because I can think out my approach without feeling like I am putting them on the spot. Then explain what you’re doing and ask if they will contact you if they have ‘scraps’ you can haul off for them!
- There are most likely big companies in your area that sell commercial (and residential) windows to general contractors and builders on a large scale. Look under the yellow pages, I’d start with the one that has the biggest ad. These places almost always have a ‘bone pile’ of windows that get ordered and either come in the wrong color, wrong size or the owners just change their mind. It is TOTALLY worth a call to see if they would be willing to part with some of these windows for your tiny house build (either free or pennies on the dollar). Windows tend to be one of the big expenses of a tiny house, this one tip can save you thousands. I spoke with a local company here and they had a pretty good sized bone pile. These are brand new, energy efficient windows that they pretty much can’t sell because there isn’t enough to do a full sized ‘standard’ house but there is plenty for a tiny house. I was concerned that they wouldn’t match but I figured it was worth a look. I was able to decide which color I wanted because there were plenty to do all white or all almond colored windows (I went with almond, now I totally wish I had picked white but you win some you lose some…). It was a really great find and I ended up getting almost $3,000 worth of windows for free because they were happy to get rid of them and support my project! This doesn’t work with just windows, try other suppliers too, you may be surprised! (note: these may not be the exact window sizes for your design if you’ve pre-purchased plans, you can either modify those plans to work or this may not fit your build, doing a custom job this was an important first step. I got the windows for my build before I finished my plans so that I could work them into the design accordingly)
- I’ve also learned when you are buying product, dependent on where it is (mom and pop shops are far more willing in my experience than big box stores), at checkout I give a blurb about my project and tell them if they can discount my price I will put them on my website. For some reason I have been too shy to do that much but each time I have asked my purchase price has been discounted at least 20%. Not bad and easy enough to do.
- The last piece of advice that has been helpful for me is to just stay engaged in the community. I tend to go to building lectures and code lectures and sustainability lectures as often as I can. Through those events I have had the opportunity to talk to others. Come to find out a lot of those folks are re-sellers or product reps and have straight up offered to donate their product to my project… no asking needed, they WANTED to be involved. You don’t have to go to building lectures but when you do go places don’t be shy about talking about your project, you never know what may come from it. Tell people what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, you never know who has a cousin that does so and so or who’s dad needs to get rid of that ‘oh so perfect thing’.
Again, the best piece of advice I can give is just to ask. The worst that will come of it will be a ‘no’. You will also be helping the tiny house community out by getting the word out about the lifestyle if you stay open about things. I can’t tell you how many people in my day-to-day life come to me and tell me how fascinating the tiny house concept is and how much they have noticed since I started building. As far as I’m concerned it’s never a bad thing to tell people about your tiny house, it does nothing but help you out and the greater community.
Hope you’re all well!