Start a art supply store by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your art supply store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a art supply store?
An art supply store will need to spend money on the following:
- Cost of materials
- Staff salaries
- Commercial insurance
- Registration/business permits
- Office equipment
- Marketing costs
What are the ongoing expenses for a art supply store?
An art supply store will need to account for the following expenses:
- Store maintenance/cleaning
- Staff salaries
- Marketing/website upkeep
- Restocking supplies
- Commercial insurance
Who is the target market?
The target market can be anyone from professional artists to the general public. Most people will have some need for art supplies at some point during the year, whether they’re starting a project of their own or helping someone they love. Art supply stores may primarily market to one specific group, while reserving a smaller space of the store for different types of artists.
How does a art supply store make money?
Art supply store owners will charge a mark-up on their products based on customer demand and item availability. They may also charge people a fee to attend parties, activities, or networking meetings.
How much can you charge customers?
Art supplies can range in price from a few pennies to hundreds of dollars (or more) for a single item. Look up standard rates both online and in your area before you determine your profit margin for each item.
How much profit can a art supply store make?
Profits will largely depend on the types of items you sell. Common items, such as paints, pencils, and sketchbooks, may only net a small profit margin. However, more expensive items may sell at a 30% or higher margin. Owners may need to source their products from a variety of wholesalers to maximize their profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider offering classes or events that would be of interest to your customers. They can be professional events where new artists can show their work and meet more influential people in the art world. Or they can be fun nights where attendees drink wine and paint their own masterpiece.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Art Supply Store Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your art supply store is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a art supply store
Online promotion can be a good way for people to find you if you’re marketing to the everyday consumer. New advancements in marketing make it easy to tailor ads to customers, depending on what they search for. So, if a parent searches for school supplies, they'll see a different ad than someone searching for sculpture materials.
If you’re planning to market to professionals, you can also befriend gallery owners and informal community leaders in the area. Post flyers in public areas or hold Q&A sessions to understand how your store can better meet their needs.
How to keep customers coming back
Attracting customers starts with having the right products at the right prices. You can also attract customers by staffing your store with experts. It’s easy to find advice online about practically any art project, but a video is not the same as in-person guidance. Having the right staff can really encourage retention, as customers will come to rely on staff for everything from motivation to project insight.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Art Supply Store In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is best for those who want to inspire artists of all kinds by offering quality products and professional guidance. Owners should have a strong appreciation for fine art, but they should also be open to helping newcomers find their feet.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a art supply store?
The majority of the day will be spent dealing with customers, restocking supplies, and researching new inventory. If the store holds events, staff will need to devote time to negotiating contracts, setting up the store, and dismantling the materials. Owners will also need to budget time for marketing, financial planning, and staff scheduling.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful art supply store?
Owners will ideally have experience with both art and business. They should have enough of a presence in the art world to predict the types of supplies customers want, as well as a background in financial planning, marketing, and store display. Even if you choose to outsource these positions to different members of your staff, you’ll need to know enough to hire the right people and oversee their progress.
What is the growth potential for a art supply store?
The total global revenue for art supplies was close to $64 billion in 2017. However, brick-and-mortar art supply sales have suffered from the introduction of online operators and big-box stores. Owners may choose to offer online sales to grow their customer base, but they shouldn't give up on the promise of traditional retail. Physical locations give customers a chance to get answers to their questions, which can instantly increase their utility and popularity.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a art supply store?
Art supply stores can be a pillar for a community, especially if owners can forge a connection with residents. Consider the neighborhood in which you want to open. Are people serious artists who want a place to buy professional supplies? Are they amateurs with a limited budget but a passion for creation? Or are they affluent professionals who purchase supplies for their children and not themselves?
Once you know who you’re going to cater to, you can start finding ways to reach out to them. For example, maybe you gear the store towards professionals and hold monthly meetings for regular customers to come together and share ideas. Or maybe you confer with local schools to better understand the types of art projects they assign to students. If you can find a local university with a thriving art program, consider opening as close to the university as possible.
Before having a grand retail opening, consider offering stock online beforehand. Global art sales have climbed exponentially in recent years, suggesting you can find buyers in the farthest corners of the Earth. Experiment with what you offer and how you market it online. Gather feedback early on and adjust your stock (and goals) as you go.
How and when to build a team
Owners who plan to keep limited or by-appointment hours may be able to skip hiring a team until their customer base grows. However, if you’re planning to keep more conventional hours, you’ll need to hire a team immediately. If you're selling online, you may need to hire someone to keep track of orders, reviews, and questions. Make sure that those who work directly with customers are friendly and knowledgeable about a variety of art subjects.