The lowly wooden pallet has long been essential equipment for businesses of all sizes. Although pallets are cheap to make, they're a hassle to handle and supply on hand doesn't always match need. This is where you can join the supply chain as a pallet broker and become a reliable source of pallets in good, usable condition. Startup capital and equipment is minimal; all you really need is a well-developed sense of hustle.
Purchase Required Tools and Equipment
Get necessary materials and assets, which for a small pallet business means a dock truck with a lift or a large pickup truck, a pallet jack or wheeled cart, secure storage space and heavy work gloves. Tools, including a power drill, hammer and nails, will come in handy to repair any damaged or broken pallets. Cleaning materials, a heavy brush and a source of water will help get dirty used pallets fresh and sparkly.
Establish a Formal Business
As you begin operations, you will need to make sure you've got any necessary permits and licenses to run a business in your community. You should get a federal tax id number or EIN, a local business license, any required state business licenses, including a sales tax number and license. You'll need to decide on a business entity type such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation and take care of the legal documentation to formally establish your company.
Gather Inventory and Get Organized
Drive to local warehouses, factories and large stores, and ask if there are any extra or damaged pallets that need to be hauled away. Any business that receives goods in bulk via truck has pallets stacked somewhere, and many of these pallets are simply taking up space. While wood pallet recycling centers are happy to step in, companies would rather not pay for the service of having them hauled away. Instead, the manager would be happy to simply unload them. In a fairly short time you should have a route and a steady supply established.
You will need to sort and stack the pallets by size; there are several standard dimensions such as 36 by 48. The first number is the length of the stringers that run between the deck boards; the second number is the length of the deck boards.
Create a Clientele
Find a company in need of a steady supply of pallets. This could be a warehouse or small factory that ships goods regularly. In addition, large pallet distributors need reliable sources, and for a distributor, buying used pallets in good condition is less expensive than manufacturing them. For example, Kamps Pallets, a national manufacturer and distributor, buys from smaller recyclers and suppliers which may help you deal with excess or damaged inventory. Contact potential customers by phone and inquire about their current needs and what they would be willing to pay for pallets.
Link Up and Learn
Check the North American Pallet Recycling Network for companies that buy wooden pallets. These listings connect distributors and buyers and are used by a wide variety of manufacturing companies, pallet brokers, stores, woodworkers, schools, vocational-technical schools and individuals. Search online for local pallet companies, then call them to inquire about their needs. Join the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association to develop new leads and learn about trends in pallet manufacturing, recycling and distribution.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.