Outdoor garden rooms, pools, and kitchens have become more popular and more grand in recent years, and this trend of suburban outdoor living has now reached the playset industry. An increasing number of parents are purchasing custom playsets for their children -- and they’re paying significant sums for the playsets. For business owners, this trend represents both immediate and sustained opportunity.
Custom playset businesses are often included in the broader category of Outdoor and Sports Gear, which the Denver Post reports is a $2.9 billion industry that’s remained over the past couple years. Donald Hoffman, who owns a custom playset business, notes that his sales have slowed a little as the housing market has slowed down. The customers who are ordering swing sets from him are getting larger and pricier ones, though.
Learn how to start your own Custom Playsets Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a custom playsets business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Custom Playsets Business
- Form your Custom Playsets Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Custom Playsets Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Custom Playsets Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Custom Playsets Business
- Get Custom Playsets Business Insurance
- Define your Custom Playsets Business Brand
- Create your Custom Playsets Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your custom playsets business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
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 will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
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 Custom Playsets Business 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.
What are the costs involved in opening a custom playsets business?
Opening a custom playset business that has an online design platform like CedarWorks requires a substantial investment, for the custom web design work is expensive. Business owners don’t need such a fancy website, though.
Business owners who have limited capital can get started for very little if they already have the necessary tools and a workshop (or garage). Business owners need:
- Tools for constructing and assembling playsets
- A vehicle for transporting playsets to installation sites
- A space for building individual parts
- Marketing materials
Those who don’t have these things can keep their costs minimal by purchasing used tools, renting a pickup truck when they need one, and working outside on fair-weather days. Marketing materials can be as simple as a few business cards and flyers when first starting out.
To make sure customers don’t cancel orders, business owners can require an upfront deposit. The deposit can be used to purchase any necessary building materials and features (e.g. slides).
What are the ongoing expenses for a custom playsets business?
The ongoing expenses for a custom playset business are minimal. They include rent (if leasing a workshop), utilities, vehicle costs, and any advertising expenses.
Who is the target market?
Parents are the target market for a custom playset business. Most customers are parents who have discretionary income and live in suburbia, where backyards afford space for swing sets.
How does a custom playsets business make money?
A custom playset business makes money by selling playsets. Sometimes an installation fee is charged as a separate cost, and sometimes it’s included in the price of a playset. In a few cases, customers may choose to install a playset themselves so that there is no installation fee.
How much can you charge customers?
John Lapp, an Amish custom playset business owner, sells basic playsets for $375 and fancy ones for as much as $3,000. Other businesses sell custom models for $5,000 or more. Barrett Brown, who owns CedarWorks, sold one playset for $40,000.
Installation usually runs between $200 and $700, although it can be more for larger playsets.
How much profit can a custom playsets business make?
The profit potential for a custom playset business is substantial. John Lapp sold around 700 playsets in a single year, which would have generated a revenue between $262,500 and $2.1 million depending on how fancy those playsets were.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A custom playset business can increase revenue by offering maintenance services for playsets and/or providing moving services for larger playsets. CedarWorks also makes indoor play spaces, which may appeal to some customers.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
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 custom playsets business 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!
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.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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 custom playsets 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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A custom playsets 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 custom playsets 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 custom playsets business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Custom playsets businesses should consider requiring 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, service level expectations, and so on.
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.
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.
FInd out what types of insurance your Custom Playsets Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Custom Playsets Business.
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.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a custom playsets business
Word of mouth is the most effective way to grow a custom playset business. Other effective advertising methods include selling through a website and/or catalog. Many business owners avoid selling through traditional retailers because they mark up the price and don’t offer the same level of personable service.
How to keep customers coming back
A custom playset business can set itself apart from the competition by offering unique features that other businesses don’t have. Placing toys in towers and creating themed playsets, for example, will distinguish a business.
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.
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. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
Many business owners who start custom playset businesses enjoy woodworking and being outdoors, which makes creating swing sets in backyards a natural choice. Gabriel Millan says that the smiles kids have when they see a new swing set is another added bonus for him, and it likely is for most other business owners.
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 custom playsets business?
Custom playset business owners and employees spend a lot of their time building playsets and installing those playsets. When not actively constructing or putting together a playset, business owners pick up supplies and help customers custom-design their playsets.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful custom playsets business?
While business owners should have some basic woodworking and handyman skills, an advanced knowledge of carpentry isn’t necessary to start a custom playset business. Businesses that don’t already have these skills can gain them by either enrolling at a local vocational school or working for a playset installation business in the area.
In order to ensure that custom-designed playsets are safe, business owners should familiarize themselves with the ASTM International standard F1148. This is a voluntary standard for home playground equipment. Kids Creations makes ASTM-certified playsets and explains why this standard is so important.
For help with the actual designing of custom playsets, business owners can look at what other companies are offering and consult books like Backyards for Kids, Homesthetics.net, and Paul’s Playhouses have a number of design ideas that can be incorporated into designs.
What is the growth potential for a custom playsets business?
Most custom playset businesses have a single location where they make playsets. Some businesses offer installation only throughout the local area around their workshop or factory, while other businesses partner with playset installers so they can serve customers throughout the Continental U.S. (and occasionally Canada, Alaska and Hawaii). A few businesses grow to have their own stores throughout the U.S.
CNY Playsets in East Syracuse, NY is a typical small custom playset business that serves the surrounding community. Swingsets Lancaster offers delivery and installation throughout the Continental U.S., and Adventure World Playsets partners with dealers in several states.
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 custom playsets business?
Parents who purchase custom playsets pay a premium price for durability, customization, and service. Businesses that focus on these will find that past customers frequently recommend them to other parents. Therefore, custom playset businesses should:
- Only offer playsets made from high-quality materials that’ll last
- Offer as many customization options as is possible
- Spend as much time with customers as is needed
How and when to build a team
Most custom playset businesses start out with at least one employee, for installation goes much faster when there are two people to handle large parts. Additional employees can be added as demand grows and the need arises.