Friday, March 28, 2008
Young entrepreneur keeps Carlisle in firewood
On a very cold evening in February, a couple from Carlisle and their guest were returning home from an afternoon movie and looking forward to dinner, wine, and a warming fire. But . . . they were out of firewood. Driving down Concord Street, the wife remembered a little triangular shed with firewood for sale. They stopped, picked up a bundle, put money in the lockbox, and drove home – the fire now guaranteed, thanks to a young Carlisle entrepreneur, Adeline Bakewell of Rutland Road.
Although she is a freshman at Concord-Carlisle High School, this is Adeline’s seventh year in the firewood business. It sounds improbable, but she started her enterprise as a third grader at the Carlisle School.
“We have never given Adeline or her brother an allowance,” says her father, John Bakewell, an arborist. Her older brother Clark had a profitable egg route at a young age, and Adeline wanted her own business as well. Her father had surplus firewood on hand, and Adeline hatched a business plan of stocking a small hut (a “crib”) with small bundles of firewood. John Bakewell built a triangular crib out of scrap lumber, placed it at the foot of their driveway with a lockbox for payments, and the business was born. Adeline was eight years old.
Partners share in the business
In her second and third years in business, Adeline paid her brother Clark to split wood that their father brought home from various tree jobs, and for the past four years she has been buying firewood wholesale from several suppliers. Her business has grown to include three young partners, with whom she shares the profits. Amelia Cox of Brook Street has had a crib for four years, and this year both Lucas Hickman of Concord Street and Philip Brown of Hutchins Road have cribs at their addresses.
Earlier this year a family friend gave Adeline some surplus wood which she promptly sold and donated the profits to an African charity. Otherwise, the profits are hers, “with no strings attached,” her father points out.
Adeline has expanded the business to include delivering quarter-cords of firewood neatly stacked wherever the customer specifies – for example, in the garage instead of in a pile in the driveway. According to her father, Adeline loads the wood onto the Bakewells’ utility trailer, he drives with her to the customer’s house “and reads a book sitting in the car” while she unloads and stacks the wood. Amelia Cox is a partner in this part of the business, and the girls jointly own the wood, Adeline explains. Their marketing so far consists of advertisements in the Mosquito.
Asked who splits the wood, Adeline says, “In the beginning my dad and brother did it, but basically the wood that I buy comes already split. Sometimes I have to resplit it, though, and I use my dad’s splitter.” On the day we spoke about her business, Adeline was expecting a large delivery of wood that would dry over the summer and be ready for fall delivery. “It’s more profitable to buy now,” she explains.
Now most of the cribs are out of firewood, and they won’t be replenished until fall. But like any good businesswoman, Adeline has a plan for a summer product that could be sold in the cribs – but she’s not revealing details just yet.
What has she learned from running her business for seven years? “I’ve learned to be more confident,” Adeline said. “I gained confidence in dealing with people ordering wood, and ordering wood from suppliers.” She will definitely continue the business next year – “It’s fun!” ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito