Start a sewing 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 step guide to starting your sewing 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 sewing business?
Unlike many other types of businesses, a sewing business can be operated from home. A home-based sewing business has the added advantage of providing a higher level of comfort and privacy during fittings. It is possible to start a small home-based sewing business with very little initial investment. At a minimum, you’ll need:
- A simple sewing machine capable of performing basic stitches and creating buttonholes
- A serger for tailoring seams to prevent fraying
- A full-length mirror for customers
- An iron and ironing board for removing wrinkles from fabric
- Fabric scissors and pinking shears for cutting patterns
- A cutting wheel
- Measuring tools for taking customer measurements and marking hems and cuffs
- Garment racks for hanging clothing
- A table for cutting fabric, drawing and designing
What are the ongoing expenses for a sewing business?
Ongoing expenses for a sewing business include:
- Supplies such as material, zippers, thread, buttons, and trim
- Equipment maintenance
- Website updates
Who is the target market?
Preferred customers are those who require alterations of a garment. Many customers require the services of a sewing business to prepare for attending a formal event such as a prom or a wedding. Other types of customers include sports teams who require their team logos, names or numbers to be embroidered onto their team uniforms.
How does a sewing business make money?
A sewing business makes money by charging a fee for designing, making, or altering clothing. Prices are determined by calculating the amount of time and the cost of materials required for each order. Some sewing businesses design and manufacture custom apparel, while others focus on alterations.
How much can you charge customers?
Average prices for clothing alterations vary according to the type of alteration and the strength of the local economy. The price of hemming a garment may be as little as $15, while the price of a custom-made wedding gown can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s a good idea to research the services offered by local competitors when deciding what types of services to specialize in that would enable you to set yourself apart.
How much profit can a sewing business make?
A small single-person sewing business can earn an annual income ranging from between $18,000 and $67,000, depending upon experience, location, and the type of equipment the business owns. With one or more employees, a sewing business can earn much more, and some become successful enough to provide enough to provide franchise opportunities.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Many sewing businesses offer sewing classes to increase revenue and strengthen their ties within the local community. Others design and sell their own lines of clothing and accessories such as scarves. Partnering with other industries focused on clothing, like laundromats and clothing stores, to offer custom alterations can also prove to be a profitable strategy for increasing both your revenue and your customer base. Making garments to be worn by models in clothing stores is another great way to publicly showcase your work, which is the best form of advertising.
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.
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 sewing 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 sewing 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 addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more 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
Certificate of Occupancy
A sewing business is generally run out of a warehouse, or other storefront if not out of a home. 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 sewing 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 sewing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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 sewing business
It is great to provide potential customers with some physical media for your business, such as flyers and business cards. You should have a business logo that is consistent on all your marketing materials. Having a website is an important aspect of any business. Potential customers search online for products and services and having a website is imperative. Placing an ad in the local paper, especially before social events such as prom or Valentine’s dances, is a timely way to let people know about your services.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Visiting local fabric shops is an excellent way to spread the word about your services to those with an interest in sewing. As people become more environmentally and socially conscious, old-fashioned sewing circles are making a comeback. Inviting people to participate in creative activities that benefit the global as well as the local community is one of the best ways to attract, and keep, new customers.
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 Sewing 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 ideal for people who enjoy creating fashion and helping people achieve the confidence that comes with looking their best. Many fashions are not ideal for all body types and sizes, and sewing businesses provide an alternative for people who do not conform to existing rigid size measurements.
What happens during a typical day at a sewing business?
Some of the daily activities of a sewing business owner include:
- Communicating with customers about their clothing needs
- Taking customer measurements
- Purchasing supplies such as fabric, zippers, and buttons
- Creating and using patterns
- Fitting and tailoring garments
- Performing alterations such as hemming, shortening, lengthening, taking in or letting out seams to accommodate weight changes
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sewing business?
The first prerequisite is an extensive knowledge of fashion. Previous sewing experience and familiarity with various types of materials as well as sewing machinery is also essential. Educational opportunities exist for those who wish to learn and practice the skills necessary to own and operate their own sewing business.
What is the growth potential for a sewing business?
The growth potential for a sewing business is excellent, with annual income ranging from approximately $28,000 to almost $110,000 depending on the level of expertise and the location of the business.
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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 sewing business?
Experts advise not only thoroughly researching the local competition, but asking for advice from successful sewing business owners in other locations. Being well-informed about industry trends is crucial for the success of a sewing business that depends on the ever-changing world of fashion. In the age of the personal brand, one of the best ways to promote your new sewing business is by modeling your work in public with your own wardrobe. Nothing demonstrates your skills and talents—and attracts compliments and potential new customers-- more than wearing your own unique, finely tailored and perfectly fitted clothing.
How and when to build a team
Businesses of this sort usually cannot accommodate a high volume of customers with just one seamstress/tailor. As such, when demand exceeds capability, businesses of this type benefit significantly from the addition of qualified workers. Other valuable additions to your company’s resources can include industry organizations such as the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals and the Custom Tailor and Design Association, both of which can help you find the team you need.