How to Start a Shoe Repair Business

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Shoe repair businesses specialize in restoring high-quality footwear by replacing heels and soles, repairing worn seams, and eliminating discoloration caused by exposure to the elements. Many shoe repair businesses also repair and restore purses, belts, and other leather accessories as well.

Learn how to start your own Shoe Repair Business and whether it is the right fit for you.

Start a shoe repair 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 shoe repair 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 shoe repair business?

The costs of opening a shoe repair business vary according to the cost of acquiring space in which to perform the repairs and store the needed supplies. Many shoe repair business owners reduce costs by partnering with clothing and shoe stores and renting space within their already established businesses. Others work online from their own homes, establishing a mail order business in which the cost of rent is low, but shipping costs are higher. Shoe repair equipment can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on whether it is new or used and the type of mechanical capabilities it possesses.

What are the ongoing expenses for a shoe repair business?

Ongoing expenses for a shoe repair business include:

  • Supplies such as heels, soles, leathers, and dyes
  • Electricity and maintenance of machinery and equipment
  • Shipping costs, if applicable
  • Telephone and website maintenance costs
  • Rental of space to store machinery and complete repairs

Who is the target market?

Preferred customers are often business professionals who purchase high-end footwear. However, rugged work boots are expensive as well and resoling can make them last longer. Other preferred customers include those who have favorite styles that are no longer manufactured and want to preserve them for as long as possible and those who place great sentimental value on items which may have been gifts from loved ones. Those wishing to conserve natural resources and combat the mindset of disposability are also frequent customers.

How does a shoe repair business make money?

A shoe repair business makes money by charging a fee for the time and materials used to repair and refurbish shoes, boots, and other leather accessories.

How much can you charge customers?

Repair prices vary according to the amount of care needed and the cost of the materials necessary to make the repairs. A complete replacement of both heels and soles for a pair of shoes can cost as much as $100.00, while a simple shoe shine can cost as little as $12.00. Consider the prices of other companies when creating your prices, so as to be competitive.

How much profit can a shoe repair business make?

Annual income for independent shoe repair business owners ranges from $23,000 to $34,000, with an average at $25,000. However, this number varies depending on many different factors. There are also opportunities to partner with designer brands that reflect the same dedication to quality craftsmanship and long-term durability.

How can you make your business more profitable?

You can increase your customer base by offering other services such as waterproofing and shoe shines that can benefit nearly everyone, regardless of the cost of their footwear. An important consideration is researching the competition in your area and offering services that supplement, rather than compete, with those already available. Extensive knowledge of the services provided by existing businesses can help you create a list of services that will set you apart from the competition. Collaborating with designers and attending fashion shows where people that will likely require your services purchase their footwear can also substantially increase revenues. Successful shoe repair businesses maximize value for their customers—providing not just economic, but social and sentimental value as well.

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.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your shoe repair 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.

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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!

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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 shoe repair 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:

Certificate of Occupancy

A shoe repair business is generally run out of a warehouse or storefront. 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 shoe repair 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 commercial kitchen:
    • 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 shoe repair 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 shoe repair business

It is essential to have a website that lets customers know your location, available shipping options, the list of services you provide, and their prices. Partnering with shoe stores that sell high-end brands can also be an effective marketing strategy for all parties concerned. Customers are more likely to purchase more expensive footwear with a reminder that with proper care and maintenance, their purchases can last for years to come.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Utilizing social media is one of the best and least expensive ways to attract new customers. Social media not only allows you use special promo codes to offer special discounts for first-time customers, but it has the added benefit of providing you with valuable customer feedback on your services.

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 Shoe Repair Business In Your State

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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 those who want to preserve the tradition of quality workmanship as well as conserve natural resources. Those who recognize the sentimental as well as economic value of restoring their customer’s favorite accessories will enjoy this type of business.

What happens during a typical day at a shoe repair business?

Some of the daily responsibilities of a shoe repair business owner include:

  • Purchasing quality materials used for restoration of shoes and accessories
  • Measuring, stitching, mending, and correcting defects caused by wear
  • Inspecting finished items for quality
  • Customer relations and advertising

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful shoe repair business?

Important knowledge and skills to have in this type of business include:

  • The ability to identify brands and models of a wide variety of shoes
  • Basic requisite skills and techniques of shoe repair, including sewing, gluing, and mending which are often acquired during an apprenticeship with an established shoe repair business
  • Excellent vision and hand dexterity
  • Scheduling flexibility
  • Customer service skills

What is the growth potential for a shoe repair business?

The growth potential for a shoe repair business depends on a number of factors, including location, the number of competitors in the area, and the strength of the local economy. Unlike other types of businesses, a shoe repair business can enjoy an increase in revenues during economic downturns.

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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.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a shoe repair business?

Those entering the business should know that the failure rate for new shoe repair businesses is higher than for those that are purchased after having already built a reputation and a regular clientele. The importance of researching competitors and offering superb customer service cannot be overestimated in this business.

How and when to build a team

Even if you prefer to work alone, it’s a good idea to join a professional organization for the purpose of continuing education that will keep you informed about the latest fashion trends. Many of them also offer opportunities for enjoyable networking with other industry professionals. For example, the Shoe Service Institute of America (SSIA) has a yearly convention. Other benefits of membership include access to an established network of suppliers.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Tool.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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