Start a furniture upcycling 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 furniture upcycling business. 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 furniture upcycling business?
Perhaps the most attractive thing about a furniture upcycling business is that you can open it very cheap. For instance, it is very possible to open such a business for $2,000 or less. This assumes that you are starting from home, so $500 goes towards hiring someone to create a professional website. You may spend another $500 (possibly more) on some in-town advertisement, such as newspaper or radio ads when your business first opens. The remaining $1,000 is spent buying old furniture and refurbishing it. This gives you a decent amount of items to start with that you can still reasonably work on and store at your home. Afterwards, the business is very self-sustaining—you can buy new furniture and materials as your stock sells, keeping you from over investing.
What are the ongoing expenses for a furniture upcycling business?
Functionally, there are very few ongoing expenses for your business. You will pay varying amounts of money for furniture each month, but you should price your work to reflect those costs. You may pay varying amounts of gasoline to drive around town to the aforementioned thrift shops, yard sales, auctions, and so on. Your annual website hosting costs should be less than $100. If you use eBay and Paypal to sell furniture or receive payments, you must pay the appropriate surcharge for those services.
Who is the target market?
Your best clients will typically be those in their mid-20's to early 30's. This is a demographic that typically needs to decorate a new space (such as a first house) but also desires the more sleek and modern aesthetic that your business provides. Additionally, being able to provide that furniture for a much lower price than brand new chic furniture will appeal to a demographic that is early in their careers.
How does a furniture upcycling business make money?
For furniture upcycling, the business model is straightforward: you buy old furniture, refurbish, and restyle it, and then sell the “new” product to clients for a fixed cost.
How much can you charge customers?
The exact amount you charge will vary based on the size of the furniture and the complexity and cost of the refurbishing process. One upcycler reported that she bought a table and chairs for $50 and the spent $75 restoring and restyling it. She then turned around and sold it for $290, which recouped her investment and netted her $165 in profit. Considering that it only took her three hours to refurbish, this meant she made $55 per hour spent, which is part of what makes this an exciting job even as a side business.
How much profit can a furniture upcycling business make?
The exact profitability of your business depends on how many pieces of furniture you sell and what the profit margin is on your items. Some successful companies make a little over $100,000 per year doing this kind of work. While it is unlikely that you will make this much in your first year (or first few years), it is very easy to start this kind of work as a side business and turn it into your main income stream after you have established a reputation and built enough experience.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Try to sell your work across multiple venues, such as Etsy, eBay, and specialty sites like Furnishly. Doing this as well as selling furniture in your own town can really help boost sales. Make sure you have ample photography to show off your work from the best angles, and write up helpful descriptions that include exact measurements (this really helps those buying furniture for their new homes). Finally, make sure you have an eye-catching and distinctive logo that will help you stand out from the competition!
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 Furniture Upcycling 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.
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 furniture upcycling 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!
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.
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.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a furniture upcycling business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a furniture upcycling business business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Labor safety requirements
It is important to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Relevant requirements include:
- Employee injury report
- Safety signage
Certificate of Occupancy
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 furniture upcycling 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 furniture upcycling 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.
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 furniture upcycling business
As mentioned earlier, some traditional marketing via newspapers and radio may be suitable for your area when you first open your business. However, this business focuses very much on appearance and style, so most of your marketing will be online. You can use your website as well as social media presence on sites such as Instagram to feature your work (throwing in “before” and “after” shots of furniture is a great way to showcase your talent). Also, many upcyclers now sell online, through their own website, sites such as Etsy, or sites such as eBay.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to the methods above, try to find ways to publicly show off and sell your work. This might include booths at city fairs or gallery nights, or maybe even selling some of your work as part of local charity fundraising. Such events build goodwill while establishing your reputation for quality and style. For retention, try to get your customers on an email mailing list so you can let them know about new stock and new styles that you're now selling. This way, they are eager to come in and see what is new rather than assuming they know what you are selling.
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.
Start A Furniture Upcycling 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?
This business is great for veterans of yard sales and thrift shops—basically, anyone with a good eye for finding surprising items at low prices. It's also good for those with an eye for style and design, so you are able to see not just what the worn down furniture is but what it could be after some modifications. Finally, it's good for those with sales experience, as the job may involve a lot of individual interaction with a variety of customers.
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 furniture upcycling business?
There are many day-to-day activities of such a business. Part of your days will be spent going to thrift shops, yard sales, and online auction sites in order to acquire old furniture at low prices. Afterward, you will spend time refurbishing and re-styling the furniture you have acquired. When you are not doing these primary activities, you may be communicating with current clients and prospective clients, updating your website and/or social media presence, and actually selling the furniture you have upcycled.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful furniture upcycling business?
Any previous experience refurbishing furniture yourself can be a big help. Similarly, work experience in something like a furniture store can give you valuable insight into how furniture is sold and how custom psychology works. Also, as alluded to earlier, your previous experience navigating thrift shops, yard sales, and auctions within your town will be a big help.
What is the growth potential for a furniture upcycling business?
The growth potential for this business is modest. As an industry, luxury furniture is expected to grow by four percent between 2015 and 2019, and upcycled furniture benefits from appealing to different markets: some turn to it as a kind of luxury unique item (which goes hand-in-hand with the modern mania for antiques), while others see upcycled furniture as a more affordable alternative to modern designer furniture. Through this appeal to multiple demographics, your business has great room to grow.
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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 furniture upcycling business?
One great tip is to do ample research before starting your business. Figuring out just how regularly different thrift shops and auctions and yard sales in your town (or neighboring towns) sell old furniture will give you an idea of how much business you can actually conduct if and when things get busy. Also, start small: try refurbishing a few things for fun before diving into a full-on business. The nature of this business is that it is very easy to do it as a part-time gig while getting the hang of it before you devote your full time and resources to it.
How and when to build a team
Unlike many businesses, this one has a visual cue for when you need to build a team. If you are selling stock faster than you can store it, then it's time to rev your game up. That means acquiring and refurbishing on a larger scale, so it's time to recruit a team. The best part is that you can do this and still keep overhead low: you may want to invest in monthly storage for your furniture rather than everyone keeping it at their homes, but this is a good intermediary step before opening a small store.