Start a stationery 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 stationery 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 stationery business?
If you are starting your small business from your home, your overhead can be relatively low. If you decide to open a shop or rent an office space, your monthly expenses can increase within the range of $2,000-4,000. And, if you decide to purchase your own letterpress, you can add an additional $4,000-7,000 to your start-up total.
Regardless of where you set up shop, you can expect to need the following items:
- A computer with powerful processing speed for creating and generating designs
- A subscription to a design suite, such as Adobe
- A website and tech support
- A camera and tripod for taking product photos for your website
- Your own promotional items, such as business cards, stickers, and print examples
What are the ongoing expenses for a stationery business?
Ongoing expenses should stay fairly low, as paper products will be ordered, as needed, and shipping costs should be absorbed through customer orders. There may be needs for additional computers, programs, or tech supplies as the company grows. If you purchased one or more printing press/letterpresses, the maintenance expenses may prove the most costly as well as the most vital.
Who is the target market?
Stationery design and printing is primarily a service sought out by those planning weddings and social or business events. Hosts or event planners who want to add panache to the special day will often look for a non-commercial design, which is perfect for the boutique printing operation. Carefully consider that these type of events, or your level of customer reach, will determine your success or struggles. Social media and an online presence are necessary for reaching a desirable customer base.
How does a stationery business make money?
Stationery businesses make money by charging clients for the labor and materials associated with the design and printing of custom stationery products.
How much can you charge customers?
Customer pricing should be relative to industry print pricing, but should also underscore the fact that you are designing an original product and your work is unique. Materials costs will be relatively the same, depending on where you order wholesale. The real price fluctuations will come from the intricacy of the design and the hours of labor you charge for. A beginner stationery company may want to hedge their bets by offering standard print packages in the $200-600 and $600-1,000 ranges. As you progress upwards, you can charge considerably more, with some specialty printing companies charging five figures.
How much profit can a stationery business make?
A stationery business can maintain a successful bottom line with low overhead costs fairly easily, as many of the services can be subbed out to other contractors, such as paper supply and printing. On average, a small stationery business could generate $20-22,000 annually, with the potential for much more through organizational growth.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider printing options that are overlooked or dismissed because of cost, and brainstorm how to create profitability. Offer a low cost option, such as bulk order pricing, that will be worthwhile for you and penetrate a market not using your services. Thinking outside the box is always a positive, especially if you can minimize your risk.
Or, go the other direction by offering premium pricing for individualized content and design extras. Give your product a branding which denotes the highest quality and exclusivity and the clientele will often rise to the occasion, so to speak. Whatever you do, remember your pledge to deliver high quality and proper customer service.
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 Stationery 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 stationery 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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a stationery 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 stationery business is generally run out of a place that holds your printing press and other stationery materials. 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 stationery 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 stationery business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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.
How to promote & market a stationery business
As mentioned previously, the internet and social networking will be key to introducing you to your next client. Align yourself with the organizations and other businesses who are equally immersed in this festive landscape. Wedding planners will often choose to team up with reliable and reasonable businesses, as mutual partnerships can be excellent for cross promotion. You might also want to consider setting up a booth at a trade show or local business expo. All exposure is good exposure and, having a chance to interact with semi-captive audiences only increases your chances of attracting new clientele.
How to keep customers coming back
Be fair in pricing to your customer and yourself, deliver what you promise and make sure your product remains at a high quality regularly. If you can establish reliable prices and quality, your customer base will be one of you greatest promotional tools as word of mouth and recommendations are invaluable. Once you are successful, remember those who helped and reward their loyalty with discounts or deals, when applicable.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
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 Stationery 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?
If you have an eye for style and a passion for graphic design, the stationery business could prove a lucrative opportunity for you. This business venture offers entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to get involved with the public on a more personal level, as your responsibility is to help clients announce some of their greatest moments.
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 stationery business?
A stationery business is customer driven, so creating, printing, and delivering or shipping customer orders occupies a large part of the workday. Additionally, a stationery business will spend time:
- researching emerging design trends
- contacting paper product wholesalers to order more supplies
- marketing and promoting your store or online shop
- networking with related industries, such as wedding and event planners
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful stationery business?
Stationery design and supply requires a keen knack for understanding a customer’s needs. Be a good listener and communicator, as you have to develop a rapport with your clientele. And, since you will be designing paper products, a background in graphic or print design or visual arts will help propel your ability to bring your customers’ ideas to life. Finally, business management experience helps keep entrepreneurs on track with finances and company organization.
What is the growth potential for a stationery business?
Stationery businesses are somewhat niche in their clientele, so it is important to understand and gauge the potential competition from another designer/printer located in your area. You don’t want to saturate an area with a specialty service. If there is a need for such a supplier, though, there is usually a steady demand for custom stationery products.
TRUiC's YouTube Channel
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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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 stationery business?
A stationery business can be a great outlet for a visually creative individual. But, being a talented artist or designer is only one half of the equation. Create a business model or plan for your company and stick to the plan. Many businesses fail because they take unnecessary risks or make unattainable goals. Don’t sabotage your business through careless planning. Additionally, you should:
- Attend a stationery or print trade show to discover new trends and products and gain advice from seasoned pros
- Advertise on social media and through print organizations to make a name for yourself
- Network with wedding and event planners and businesses who require stationery products and specialty printing regularly
- Offer something unique to your customers. An individual style element or personalized touch can set you apart from the crowd
- Create complete design and print packages, with pricing included, which help streamline customer decisions in your favor
How and when to build a team
Initially, a stationery business can be helmed by a single individual, although having a partner or competent assistant can be instrumental in relieving some of the burden associated with a start up. Once you have some success and can see an upward trend, a few more employees will allow for more opportunities for you to pursue expansion and growth.