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 greeting card 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 greeting card business?
Startup costs are low, sitting at between $2,000 and $10,000. A greeting card business can be operated part-time, and it can also be operated online.
Startup costs include business insurance, product sourcing, talent sourcing, initial rent costs and advertisement. You’ll need a computer, a scanner, a high-quality color printer and desktop publishing software. You may also need database software to maintain mailing lists. You’ll also need a resale license to buy cards at wholesale prices.
What are the ongoing expenses for a greeting card business?
Ongoing prices include raw paper materials, which amount to roughly $0.25 per card. You will, however, need to source artist prints. Depending on a card’s artistic complexity, a print commission can cost between $5 and $200. Designs, diversified as they are, widely vary in price.
Who is the target market?
Your target market will be expansive. Because greeting cards can be sold to many people, your main target markets will be shopkeepers, hair stylists, insurance agents, dentists, doctors, apartment managers, car salespeople and event operators. You can sell cards for individual occasions—like birthdays—but you’ll sell more if you’re targeting professional groups. Often, these groups buy greeting cards in bulk.
How does a greeting card business make money?
A greeting card business makes money by selling greeting cards. Cards can be sold via a shop, in mall kiosks, online or through partnered retailers. Often, greeting card businesses sell specialized envelopes. Some may sell pens, ink and similar writing accessories.
A lot of greeting card businesses make money by selling cards in bulk to different retail centers. Some, however, decide to provide high-quality artwork cards. These cards, due to either being hand-painted or written, are normally sold in fewer numbers.
How much can you charge customers?
Greeting cards can be sold at about $2.50 each. You can sell a pack of six cards for about $7.50, so as to be cost effective and offer competitive bulk prices.
How much profit can a greeting card business make?
A small greeting card business can make about $45,000 per year. Larger companies, like Hallmark, make as much as $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day alone.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Your designs matter. Make sure your card designs are of high quality. Also, make sure you’re well-connected with specialist printing companies. These companies should offer more than simple printing services. Ideally, they should be a one-stop-shop for card finishing materials—like glitter and foiling. They should also offer cello wrap and envelopes.
What will you name your business?
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.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your greeting card business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
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.
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 greeting card 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.
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.
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.
How to promote & market a greeting card business
Promote yourself through different retail outlets. The country has over 1,800 small greeting card companies, and most market through different retail chains. Keep an eye on local events, and offer custom services to businesses which need large-scale projects.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
You’ll attract customers by offering unique, funny or memorable cards. You’ll retain them, however, by having a solid network of buyers. Again, connect with businesses. Use good time-management skills, organizational skills and marketing skills to profit on retail design businesses. Take advantage of Mother’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and similar holidays.
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 Greeting Card Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
The greeting card business is great for those with a taste for design, poetry, celebratory occasions and creative expression. It’s also a fantastic business choice for those who want to become printing specialists.
Ideally, a greeting card business owner will be good at marketing different cards. From “everyday” cards to special occasion cards, each will need to be trendy, relevant and memorable. For this reason, a greeting card business owner needs to be culturally aware, have a knack for humor and be a decent marketer.
What happens during a typical day at a greeting card business?
Every day, a greeting card business sells various cards. This means it caters either directly to customers or to retail outlets. During the selling period, a greeting card business will stock, restock and sell products.
During its “off” hours, retail-wise, a greeting card business works on finding out what sells. A greeting card business’s line is an ever-expanding thing, and it needs a lot of consistent work. A greeting card business focuses on hiring production artists, visiting trade shows, researching trends and sourcing new art. While these processes aren’t necessarily daily processes, they’re important enough to be considered constantly.
Other daily tasks include financing, marketing, promotion, management, store cleaning, general maintenance and customer assistance.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful greeting card business?
Advertisement skills help a lot. Join Progressive Greetings Worldwide—which is today’s leading greeting card trade magazine. Also, go to trade shows. Connect with specialist greeting companies, and become incredibly knowledgeable about barcodes, identifying goods and handling products across distributors.
Market research is similarly important. A successful greeting card business operator will immerse themselves in the industry, find good suppliers and market their products effectively.
What is the growth potential for a greeting card business?
A greeting card business has a lot of growth potential. It can operate as a kiosk, as a small shop, as part of a larger shop or as a national distributor.
If a greeting card business is incredibly profitable, like Hallmark, it may extend its product line to cover other novelty items. In these cases, having an online selling outlet is advised. While incremental product costs are low—paper, ink, art sourcing—shipping costs are also low. For this reason, greeting cards mesh well with the ecommerce world.
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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 greeting card business?
Connect with distributors as soon as possible. Even if you’re creating your own cards, you should have a healthy supply network. Then, focus on advertisement. Keep overhead costs low, and use online seller portals to save on initial costs.
How and when to build a team
It’s possible to run a greeting card business alone. You can, however, hire two or three additional hands immediately to boost your output. Your team, as a greeting card business operator, will be more nebulous than most professional teams. Focus on building a loose network of artists, designers and print specialists.