How to Start a Art Supply Store

An art supply store will sell a number of materials for art projects, installations, and exhibits. Some owners choose a specialty (e.g., sculpting, painting, etc.), while others will sell general items to all.

Learn how to start your own Art Supply Store and whether it is the right fit for you.

Start a art supply store by following these 9 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.

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:

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:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • 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:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • 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 very important. If you don’t have a name in mind already, read our detailed guide on how to name a business or get some help brainstorming a name with our Art Supply Store Business Name Generator.

Then, when registering a business name we recommend checking if the business name is available in your state, federally by doing a trademark search, searching the web, and making sure the name you choose is available as a web domain to secure it early so no one else can take it.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account ( Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your art supply store is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

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!

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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?.

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.

Read our Best Banks for Small Business guide to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

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Recommended: BlueVine is an online bank with free business checking and no hidden fees. Great for businesses who do not often deal with cash.

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.

Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Art Supply Store will cost.

Business Insurance for
Art Supply Store

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.

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: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Art Supply Store In Your State

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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.

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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

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:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

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.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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