Start a stationery 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 stationery 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 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 very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. 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 stationery business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
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.
Recommended: You can get $200 when you open a Chase business checking account with qualifying activities. Learn 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 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
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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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 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.