How to Start a Art Supply Store

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Our guide on starting a art supply store covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of a art supply store owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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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 step 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:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing 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 (@yourcompany.com). 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. 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.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

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.

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

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

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.

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.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

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.

Who is this business right for?

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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

Where can I 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.

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.

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Growing Your Business

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.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

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.

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.

Earning Potential

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.

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

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.

Next Steps

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