Start a countertop business 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 countertop business. 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 startup and ongoing 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.
What are the costs involved in opening a countertop business?
Before starting a countertop business, you’ll need to acquire a city business license. This regularly costs between $50 and $100 dollars. Next, you’ll need to acquire liability insurance—which will vary depending upon your insurance provider. As a provider who sells countertops, you’ll need to source either raw materials—crafting them in-house—or source them from another provider. Wholesale materials are significantly cheaper than their installation costs. Raw-slab granite costs between $10 and $40 per square foot, uninstalled. Marble slabs, meanwhile, cost between $50 and $250 per square foot, uninstalled.
Don’t forget about your business’s utilities, rent and employee costs, either. You'll need to calculate your rent costs by square footage. On average, a small workshop near a shopping area will cost around $23 per square foot. So, every month, such a space would carry a $3,642 expense if it were 1,900 square feet. If you're in need of starting revenue, consider working out of a garage.
As for employee costs, average payment is between $13 and $17 per hour for fabricators and installers. Your sales associates, as your company grows, will likely expect payment at the upper end.
What are the ongoing expenses for a countertop business?
As a countertop business owner, you’ll need to pay for your materials. If you’re fabricating them yourself, you’ll need to pay for specialized workers. Utilities, rent, and installation tools, of course, are part of the ongoing costs—as well as equipment depreciation.
Who is the target market?
Most of your clients will be homeowners. Preferred clients are those that are looking for someone to offer more than just installation of countertops. These people will be employing your services to help them select designs and materials in addition to installing the countertop once the desired top has been chosen. You will be able to charge these customers for design plans as well as for installation. Not only do these customers present your with a better opportunity for profit, they also have the potential to become more comfortable and satisfied with your business; therefore, they are more likely to share their experience and promote your services to others.
How does a countertop business make money?
Individual contractors and countertop business owners make money by installing, removing, and maintaining countertops. A lot of countertop businesses have ongoing client relationships. Countertops can wear down over time, and it takes professional skill to repair cracks, buffer out scratches, and install customized additions. While the initial purchase of a countertop pays well, ongoing repair and addition services are the most consistent revenue streams.
How much can you charge customers?
On average, you can charge clients between $20 and $100 dollars per square foot of high-grade material installation. This adds up, averaging to between $2,500 and $3,500 per installation. That said, materials matter. Wood, for example, costs far less to install than a quartz slab. Once a business' expenses are paid, a small countertop business manager can expect to earn about $46,000. That said, a countertop business financial controller can make approximately $69,000 per year. Ideally, a countertop business conducts a couple thousand jobs per year.
How much profit can a countertop business make?
A small countertop business owner can still make a lot of money. While annual revenue is hard to pin down—due to the sheer variety in countertop services—a typical profit margin, per installation, is about $80 to $120 dollars per square foot. Yes, this means a successful countertop business can make hundreds of thousands of dollars, yearly, if they’re providing consistent work. That said, small countertop businesses may find it difficult to obtain a consistent client flow.
How can you make your business more profitable?
At the end of the day, your business’s profitability will depend on its service quality. There are a lot of countertop businesses out there, and many offer unique styles and competitive pricing. So, to be profitable, you’ll need to both offer unique designs and assure great services. It is essential to be quick, available, and able to communicate well with your clients.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. 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.
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 countertop business 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
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!
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.
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: Find the right bank for you, read our review of the Top 5 Banks for Your Small Business
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a countertop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In business where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service.
Countertop installation businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations. Here is an example of such a service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your countertop business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
A countertop business is generally run out of a workshop. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a countertop business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your countertop business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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.
How to promote & market a countertop business
Countertop businesses face an interesting hurdle, marketing-wise. They’re better off promoting their services via print and in online landing pages. Because their biggest consumer segment is homeowners, focusing on mobile marketing, social media marketing, and small business partnerships isn’t as advantageous.
How to keep customers coming back
To attract customers, your business should create a website, focus on SEO marketing, and connect with potential customers via printed advertisements. As for retention, prioritize ongoing care, check-ups, and repairs will help your customers return to you.
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 Countertop Business 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?
Skilled craftsmen flock to countertop businesses, and for good reason: They’re expressive, they hold many opportunities, and they give contractors the freedom they seek, work-wise. Independent workers who love stone-crafting, interior design, repair work, and hands-on work are fantastic marble and granite contractors. While countertops needn’t be made of fine materials, a lot of countertop contractors love the artistic aspects of installation.
What happens during a typical day at a countertop business?
Countertop businesses operate on a service call basis. So, they’re likely to answer a variety of service needs. Countertop business owners must be familiar with granite, marble, and other popular countertop materials. Day-to-day activities include giving homeowners quotes, choosing countertop styles, formatting a countertop’s installation plans, and cutting countertop materials. As for actual installation, maintenance, and removal, countertop business workers perform basic maintenance operations. Meanwhile, the business owner strategizes services by creating effective price plans. There’s a lot of competition in the countertop industry. For this reason, a lot of business owners focus on marketing. Printed ads, internet ads, and even mobile ads are important. As with any contracting-centric business, a countertop business owner spends most of their time planning finances, sourcing materials, and targeting niche markets.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful countertop business?
First and foremost, you’ll need to understand the basics of home improvement. Kitchen renovations, utility maintenance, concrete maintenance, and general home repair are incredibly important. You’ll need to secure education which fosters these skills, too. From a business ownership standpoint, it pays off to have skills in management, financing, and marketing. As a starting entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s a good idea to develop interpersonal skills, as well.
What is the growth potential for a countertop business?
Like many contractor-focused businesses, a countertop business has incredible scale. Again, it isn’t rare to see an individual countertop contractor. Large-scale countertop businesses also have a niche in the grand scheme of home improvement. If your business grows, scales effectively and can handle mass amounts of material and human resources, it can even become a specialized provider, favored by high-quality home décor lovers.
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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 countertop business?
Be unique. While it might be cheaper to initiate a generic countertop installation business, granite, marble, and even fine wood countertops have it easier, industry-wise. This is because homeowners already have basic-material countertops. Countertops are included in a home’s base price, and a lot of homeowners turn to countertop businesses for rustic, high-style, rare, or otherwise exotic countertops. A lot of countertop businesses focus on differentiation. If you can give homeowners a reason to select your styles, your materials, or your overall “vibe,” you’ll have a higher chance of success. Installation tactics, in the countertop world, don’t matter much.
How and when to build a team
A team should be built as soon as you’ve become more than an individual contractor. If you’re intending to grow, you’ll need to secure at least five additional workers to conduct finances, marketing, and on-site work. As your business grows, it can cover as many workers as it needs.