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A stained glass business creates and sells original and commissioned pieces of stained glass in the form of windows, sun catchers, lamps, and jewelry. Depending upon the business owner’s skill level, they may offer repair and architectural installation as an additional service.
Who is this business right for?
Have you always been enamored by stained glass? Do you enjoy working with your hands, creating one-of-a-kind art pieces that bring lasting joy to your customers? Are you passionate about continuously expanding your knowledge, technique, and artistic talents? If so, owning a stained glass business could be the perfect fit for you.
What happens during a typical day at a stained glass business?
In addition to tending to the standard administrative duties that come with running a business, there are a number of tasks you and your team will be responsible for each day. Customer inquiries should be addressed in a timely manner. Commissioned work must be discussed at length to ensure the client’s vision translates into your work. Additionally, a networking and marketing strategy should be implemented and managed to ensure consistent sales. An equal balance of studio time and administrative tasks should be maintained at all times to ensure maximum productivity and profits.
What is the target market?
The artist with basic stained glass skills should focus their marketing efforts on customers who enjoy events like arts and crafts fairs. Those with proper knowledge and experience can expand their customer base to include religious facilities and historic preservation societies, who are seeking the artist that can repair and replace glass in buildings around the community.
How does a stained glass business make money?
Stained glass businesses generate revenue through the sale of original and commissioned works. Stained glass can be enjoyed in a number of different ways, depending upon the artist’s skill set and the customer’s wishes.
What is the growth potential for a stained glass business?
Stained glass has been recorded in history dating back to 675 AD. It is enjoyed in religious establishments and homes, evolving over time as artists improved their skills. The growth of technology and the Internet has expanded the artists’ reach, making it possible to work with clients across the world. A stained glass business’ growth is only limited by the team’s skills, drive, and marketing strategy.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful stained glass business?
The most important thing for you to remember is that this is a business. Many people make the decision to turn their hobby into a full-time job, without considering all that this entails. Before embarking on this business venture, carefully consider all that owning a business entails. If possible, spend some time in a stained glass studio. The hands on training, along with the knowledge you will gain about managing this type of business will prove invaluable.
Creating stained glass requires a significant amount of knowledge and skills. Your client base will expand exponentially with each new bit of information you absorb. In addition to artistic, craft, and business skills, the most successful stained glass business owners are well-versed in relevant aspects of architecture. They are well read, willing to learn new styles and techniques in an effort to better serve current and future customers. The Stained Glass Association of America offers members a wealth of information regarding stained glass, its history, and safety in the studio. For those who plan to do restoration and repair, the Standards and Guidelines for the Preservation of Historic Stained Glass will prove invaluable.
Additionally, strong leadership skills will help carry you to the top in the industry. You will be interacting with everyone from religious leaders to historians and other aspiring stained glass artists. The ability to communicate and the confidence to tell a client something won’t work will be a driving factor in your success.
What are the costs involved in opening a stained glass business?
Industry leaders report an initial investment as low as $2,000 and as high as $10,000, depending upon the supplies they started out with. Your studio should be stocked with basic supplies such as cutting tools, soldering iron, and a stained glass solder. It should also have ample space to move around and a large, flat table. Since you will be working with lead, don’t forget to stock your supplies with gloves and masks. It is recommended that you shop around when purchasing glass for a project; many glass companies and studios sell smaller chunks of glass at a reduced prices.
What are the steps to start a stained glass business?
Once you're ready to start your stained glass business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your stained glass business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your stained glass business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Establish a 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. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I 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 stained glass business?
Successful stained glass business owners offer the following insider tips:
- Always wear gloves and a protective mask and set your studio up with proper ventilation. This will help prevent the buildup of lead in your system.
- Never assume you have learned all there is to learn. Network and travel, studying windows and architecture everywhere you go. Along with your portfolio, keep a work diary that includes measurements and details that will help you grow as an artist.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take the time to learn your craft thoroughly.
How to promote & market a stained glass business
The key is to make a name for yourself within the community. Consider offering guided tours of stained glass in your area and lectures to churches and clubs in the community. Prove you are knowledgeable by submitting articles to local and national publications. Your ability to raise public consciousness about stained glass will translate into higher profits for your business. Approach local studios, gift shops, and restaurants. Donate a few of your works and ask that they spread the word about your talent. Network with other glass artists, making the SGAA Annual Summer Conference a part of your yearly schedule.
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How to keep customers coming back
As with any business, word of mouth can either be your strongest marketing tool or the downfall of your company. Build a solid reputation by being honest with clients, offering fair prices, and quality work. Don’t be afraid to tell customers the truth about a project; it is better to let them know their vision won’t work, than to disappoint them later.
How and when to build a team
Splitting your time between the studio and administrative duties means working more hours than most individuals care to work. If marketing or accounting are not your strong suit, consider bringing on an assistant that has a firm grasp on these concepts. As demand rises, it may also be necessary to bring on additional artists. When doing so, carefully consider all prospects. It is your name that will be attached to each piece sold; make sure every team member’s values, drive, and vision align with yours.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a stained glass 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.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A stained glass business is generally run out of a workshop. 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 stained glass 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 stained glass business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Stained glass businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and so on.
How much can you charge customers?
The prices you set should cover time and materials, in addition to a comfortable profit. Value your work and set prices accordingly. Gift shop or boutique items sell from $200 to thousands of dollars. Prices for custom pieces will vary depending upon a number of factors.
What are the ongoing expenses for a stained glass business?
In addition to the standard administrative and payroll costs that come with running any business, you will also need to invest in supplies for each project. Networking and ongoing education should also be an integral part of your budget. Glass makers are urged to travel for conferences, where connections are made and education is gained.
How much profit can a stained glass business make?
Your profits are directly tied to your skill set, knowledge, and the type of glass you create. Successful architectural art glass makers have reported over a million dollars in sales, while private artists report significantly lower annual sales. The standard range for profits is $30,000 to $60,000 within the first three years.
How can you make your business more profitable?
To ensure maximum profits, consider teaching classes, both online, in writing, and in your studio. Develop your craft methodically, with a clear set of goals and a timeline. Gaining the education required to take larger architectural commissions and to repair stained glass will boost your profits significantly. Additionally, selling your work both locally and online will ensure your client base reaches far and wide.