Start a stained glass 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 guide to starting your stained glass 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 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 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.
Who 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.
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.
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.
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 Stained Glass 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 stained glass 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
STEP 9: Establish your web presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. Press releases and Social Media are among the most effective ways to establish your web presence.
Start A Stained Glass 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?
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.
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 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 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 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.
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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 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 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.