Sponsorships – A How-To
I have been asked by quite a few people how I go about approaching sponsors. You may be surprised at the answers. Here are my two cents:
My biggest suggestion is simply to ask!
It is scarier than it should be to do that! I have found that, yes, some people think you’re crazy. BUT the others think you’re a genius! I would say 80% of people I have talked to are HUGELY supportive and excited for the opportunity to contribute.
Here are a couple suggestions I have to make it feel less obtrusive:
Ask at a job site
I work in the construction industry, I have a few ‘ins’ that have helped me. For someone who isn’t in the field – it’s helpful to think of asking a construction super on a job site 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. 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 big 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 to get it gone. Let alone the time it takes them to do that. I have found that if you ask for the scraps, even offer to pay pennies on the dollar, they are likely to jump at the opportunity. I got all of my lumber, wiring and misc things (receptacles, fasteners etc.) for $300.
Finding a job site
Drive around town and look for one, preferably nearing completion of framing. Find 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. Get their email/phone number. I prefer 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. Call them and ask if they have a ‘bone pile’. These are quality windows. They either come in the wrong color, wrong size or the client just changes 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. They can’t sell because there isn’t enough to do a full sized ‘standard’ house but there is plenty for a tiny house. In my case, I was concerned that they wouldn’t match. I figured it was worth a look though. All of my windows match. It was a really great find and I ended up getting almost $3,000 worth of windows for free. And they were happy to 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)
I’ve also learned when you are buying product, at checkout I give a blurb about my project and ask them if they can discount the price. I usually mention my website and tell them I’d be happy to mention them on it. Small local shops are far more willing in my experience than big box stores. 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 may find that someone has a cousin that does so and so. Or someone 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.