Start a headstone business by following these 10 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 headstone 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 headstone business?
Headstone owners should account for the rent/mortgage of their workshop, headstone materials, and marketing costs. They’ll also need to prepare for standard expenses of any new business, such as registration fees, permits, and commercial insurance.
What are the ongoing expenses for a headstone business?
A headstone business will need to account for the rent/mortgage of their space, the cost of replacing equipment, and the premium for commercial insurance. Stone cutting can be a dangerous business and owners are highly encouraged to have the liability insurance to cover themselves against an injury or workers’ compensation claim.
Who is the target market?
Any loved one who is planning to give the deceased a physical tribute. Traditionally, headstones are used for marked graves, but some people will order a headstone for the urn that holds a person’s ashes. These headstones are built from a solid block of stone, but have a back that can be opened where the urn can go. Owners should also strongly consider marketing their business to pet owners as well. This is a growing market that can vastly boost your numbers.
How does a headstone business make money?
Headstone companies charge per headstone based on labor, the raw cost of materials, and general business expenses. They will also typically budget a profit margin based on the size and scope of their operation.
How much can you charge customers?
Average costs for a headstone are around $2,000. A flat headstone may cost $1,000 or less, while a more elaborate upright headstone can cost up to $10,000 or more.
How much profit can a headstone business make?
Headstone businesses can make a substantial profit on their creations, especially for top talent. The funeral industry makes more than a 60% margin on all services, including tombstones.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider offering additional engraving services for vaults or crypts. These elaborate resting places can be made more beautiful with your etchings, especially if they're meant to house several generations of a single family.
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 Headstone 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 headstone 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.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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.
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 headstone business
Marketing in the funeral industry can be difficult. This is not a business that people feel comfortable with, so personal recommendations and referrals will always be more effective than traditional advertisements. However, you can also create tactful ads that appear either online or on television. The ads should give gravity to the situation and explain how the right headstone can aid the grieving process, both before and after the funeral. Resist targeted ads that track people who search for general funeral services. Grieving families may interpret this as a money-grab that takes advantage of their loss.
How to keep customers coming back
Your website should be easy to find and navigate. Consider showing a video of how a design comes together. No matter what kind of advertising you do, place positive testimonials front and center. Or share a personal story that reflects how a headstone helped you cope with the loss of a loved one. You can retain customers by providing excellent customer service and creating a headstone that any family would be proud to display.
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.
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.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Headstone 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?
People who want to give the dead a headstone that is worthy of the time a person spent on Earth. Owners should want to work with grieving friends and family who wish to commemorate their loved ones.
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 headstone business?
Headstone companies will spend most of their time working on orders. Staff will spend time gathering information from customers about their exact parameters and expectations. They’ll also need to order materials, restock supplies, and build an attractive and compassionate website.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful headstone business?
Headstone business owners are typically those familiar with the world of stone working. However, you’ll also need some degree of salesmanship, financial savvy, and compassion to successfully run this business. You should feel comfortable discussing the business of death while being mindful of those who aren’t.
What is the growth potential for a headstone business?
The world is quickly running out of burial space, so there is some risk here. It is the tradition of certain religious groups such as Muslims and Christians to bury their dead, but other people are beginning to turn to cremation. Owners should consider the demographics of their community before starting the business.
However, headstones can enjoy a larger market for those willing to think outside the box. For example, many people would still like a physical reminder of their loved ones, even if the person isn’t physically in the grave. You can also consider shipping your headstones overseas. Mourners in other countries may want a specific type of stone that can't be found in their country, which can open up a whole new demographic.
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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 headstone business?
A new headstone business should have some way of standing out from competitors in the area. You may want to try marketing online, considering that’s how many people are likely to start their search. A grieving family member should have the online tools they need to make decisions from a distance. Some stone workers will offer tombstones as a part of their general business. If you’re able to offer these services on the side as a supplement income to your day job, this can help you get a better idea of the demand in your area without the risk.
Or you may want to distinguish yourself with the quality of your stonework. If you can etch portraits with photo-like resemblance into the stone, this may make it easier to choose you. (Most headstone businesses use lasers to improve their accuracy, but some families may still want hand-carved stone.) Owners should also find ways to source sustainable materials that were ethically mined. This helps people make informed choices without having to do additional research on their own. Think of your own values as well as those of the general community before settling on a branding strategy.
Finally, owners should be partnering with other professionals in the funeral industry. It's likely that funeral homes and cremation services already have headstone companies they partner with but that doesn't mean they're unwilling to consider your services. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to be recommended to those in immediate need of your services.
How and when to build a team
You may not need to hire a team at first, especially if you’re planning to do the stonework and marketing on your own. However, you should strongly consider hiring a receptionist or additional stonecutters long before your orders surpasses the number of hours in the day. Doing so will ensure there’s no lag time between placement and the delivery of your services. When you hire a stonecutter, make sure they're comfortable working with complicated designs and various materials.