If you missed part 1, click here to read our first post on this subject. I am bearing my soul (and business secrets) with our friends who might be interested in starting a business in the crafting industry).
Show me the money.
We left off with making sure that you have enough funds to start your business and how much risk you are willing to take if the business does not work out for you. Everyone has their own comfort level. Some jump in with a business loan or mortgage the house and go for it! That scared the silly out of me, so our plan was the "boot-strap" approach.
bootstrapping present participle of boot·strap (Verb)
- Get (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources.
- Start up (an enterprise), esp. one based on the Internet, with minimal resources
With just a minimal investment, could we begin to build our business slow and steady? Well, so far so good, but I will admit that the growth has been much slower than I wanted. What are some of the major expenses that you will incur when you start your business? Let's assume you'll do an online business only.
Get a domain name. You'll have a small investment to register your domain name. GoDaddy is probably the cheapest. I started with Network Solutions and being the loyal customer that I am, have stayed there for all my domains. Keeps everything neat and tidy for me.
Get a website. This is not a small investment, but it can be done pretty simply to start. I am a web designer by day (Pink Persimmon entrepreneur by night), so this part was really easy for me. If you have to pay someone to build your ecommerce site, it will cost quite a bit. Somewhere in the $1000 to $4000 range, depending on how custom you want your site to be. BUT, good news is that there are lots of ecommerce sites now where you can customize the site yourself. Shopify, Volusion, Magento, and BigCommerce are just a few. The charges per month can add up, but you can get yourself in the door for probably about $30-40 per month for under 100 items to start. They will also have people that can help you customize the site, but there will be fees for that and it can get expensive fast. Don't forget that you can set up shop at Etsy or Ebay pretty easily too, all depends on how you want to make your "introduction" to the crafting world.
Often when you want to customize a "theme" site, it involves some HTML and CSS knowledge. If that's not your forte, or something you want to learn, then pay someone to do this for you. It will save you a LOT of time and you'll have a great looking site right away.
Get a business name, business license and bank account. If you are serious about this, do it now. Don't co-mingle your personal accounts with your business. Depending on where you are, registering for a business name is pretty simple. Go to your county economic development board and find out the process for registering a "ficticious business name" in your area. Once you register, you generally have to post the application in a local newspaper. I live in an unicorporated area of the county, so we did not need a business license, but did have to file for the ficticious business name. Once that's done, head to the bank and see what you can get set up for a business account. If you have your mortgage and banking all with one bank, get your business account there too and most of the fees will be waived. Ask around, check several banks, check your credit union, keep going until you find the best deal. Free checking and overdraft protection, along with a credit card with a good (meaning high) limit is crucial.
Set up your Merchant Account. This one is easier than you think, but you need to watch for the charges that are included with your merchant account. Do some shopping around. If you are using one of the ecommerce website builders, many of them have merchant accounts included (or connected to them) so applying is very easy. You can also do everything with PayPal, using PayPal Payments Pro to process your credit cards. I would definitely recommend getting a PayPal business account set up, even if you don't use them for your merchant account. I was not sure if people would "trust" us and hand over their credit card to a small business website, so I figured that including PayPal would take that fear away and to be honest, probably about a third of our online orders use PayPal to pay for their order. There are monthly fees for everything, so figure out how much you can afford each month and then set up your accounts.
Setting up your social media. I have got to be honest with you, this is the part that I like the least. It takes soooo much time to keep all of your social media updated. I would recommend that you pick just a few social media outlets and then focus on those, or set up your social media so that when you post on the blog, it also updates facebook and twitter automatically at the same time. It's better to do just a few really well than to spread yourself too thin. (Learned that the hard way, like I said, this is not my favorite part). We are just getting started with Pinterest, but since I already spend a ton of time on that time-consuming inspirational website, I figure my customers are probably there too. I'll tell you more about my Pinterest saga later, that one falls under Trademarks...
Wow, that's definitely enough for today. I guess we'll have a Part 3 coming soon. : ) Thanks so much for hanging in there with me if you are reading all of this, but I am guessing that you might really be interested if you are taking the time. I got an email from one of you that told me about a time that she asked another business owner about how they got started and they were given the "proprietary information" speech. That is so not in the "pay it forward" type of vibe, right? Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is not rocket science, but there are a few things that take time to research and learn. If you have any specific questions, comment them here, or email me direct. I will do my best to help, or get you to the right source.