Starting Quilt Business
Bluebird Gardens tips on starting a quilt business.
How To Start A Quilt Business
So You Want To Sell Quilts...
I periodically get emails from site visitors who want to work at home and start their own quilt business. There are two parts of having a quilt business: actually making quilts, and running the business. The two together sometimes can be a challenge. Here are some basics about running a home quilt business:
How Much Does It Cost?
Too many people don't have a clue what it costs to make something - and understandably are scared to find out!? Focus on one item you like to make and break it down: cost of supplies, equipment use, your time. Can you get supplies wholesale? Can you change the price if you make several at once? How many would you have to make to bring the price down. Also consider what people are paying for when buying a similar item. You'll soon find there are a number of cost and supply issues that change when you are thinking of making many of one item.
Come Clean and Be Honest...
Sit down in a quiet spot and list your strengths and weaknesses.
Be honest. Are you a little disorganized? Great at packing but can't generate a spread sheet if your life depends on it?
You'll need to prioritize that list and figure out how to be, or get, efficient in key areas you may not necessarily want to work in.
Who Is Your Ideal Customer
There is a tendency to think you are selling to the world when, in fact, your customer is someone quite specific. Think about who your ideal customer is and keep that person in mind as you set up your business. You can add other customer categories later but you need to start with one particular kind of customer so you will know how to meet that person's interests and needs.
Get to Know What It Means to Run A Business
- Talk to a lawyer and an accountant. Get a sense for the records you need to keep.
- Ask about how best to set up the business: sole proprietorship v. S corporations v. limited partnerships. If for no other reason, if you want to buy your supplies wholesale or get a little grace period before you pay bills, you're going to need to organize into some sort of registered business.
- Take the work at home idea out for a test. Try selling on Etsy. This will give you a taste of what it's like to sell. You can also try Ebay. Both market places make the selling process easy.
- You'll need to sort out how to best take pictures, fully describe products, ship and take payments. It can be time-consuming at first but once you set up your business support systems, and understand the processes, it will go faster.
- When you're first starting, you're always selling so make a visual book of your product photos so you can show anyone who shows an interest.
- It will also help you determine whether people will be interested in buying your products.
- Visit other small business people. Ask them what they like most, least, etc. If you can, spend a day with them to see how things evolve with suppliers, customers, family members.
- If you don't know of anybody, contact your local AARP chapter, business or vocational school or chamber of commerce. Most offer either classes or have personnel who can help you talk things through for free.
- Observe and participate in local arts and crafts shows, farmers markets, Xmas bazaars. Being a part of those will give you a feeling for what it's like to plan for the event, handle customers, see what people are buying and at what price, etc. Often people find out they don't like the selling part and prefer just the making part. Find this out early before you make any sizable financial investment in your home business.
- Develop a written business plan. If you talk to professionals who have watched businesses go under, they'll tell you there are three reasons why most beginning businesses don't make it. Not thinking things through is a big one. Go online, find yourself a free business plan and walk yourself through it.
- Check with your local university extension office or chamber of commerce. They often have business assistance programs that can also walk you through a plan. Really. Those plans will identify areas you have perhaps not considered, give you some questions to help you define success and, overall, give you a good sense of what it takes to run a business.
- Be kind to your banker! This is the second reason most beginning companies don't make it. They didn't plan enough start up money to get them past the hump. We have all heard the stories of millionaires who started with $500 in savings. What they haven't told you is that somewhere along the way they sat down with a financial advisor who helped them with a financing plan based on that business plan. The usual rule of thumb is have enough money on hand for 2-5 years.
- Be careful of - oops - growing too fast. That's the third reason small businesses fail, not being able to efficiently and effectively keep up. Marketing specialists will tell you that for every positive sale, you are lucky if the customer shares a positive comment 3 to 5 times. Make one bad sale and that person will tell at least 7-10 people. Once you get behind and make errors and bad sales, it's hard to catch up so start slow. Stick with a few items, do them well, be consistent, then refer to your business plan to see what you should be doing next.
It Takes Two!
Finally, when we interviewed small business owners several years ago about their formula for success, the one key element they all mentioned was having a partner. The partner is someone you can trust, who you can bounce ideas off, who can drop that emergency shipment off at the post office. Having a partner also means you may have someone who can help with that paperwork so you can concentrate on making products.
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