Monday, November 5, 2007

How to Put Together a Home Boutique

This Saturday I will hold my third annual home boutique. I find that this is the best way for me to sell my items while making a good profit. Here are some pointers for putting together your own home boutique.

  • Invite only people you know and ask them to bring a friend.
  • You need a big mailing list - I mail out around 120 invitations and approximately 35-40 people attend.
  • Ask talented family members and friend to sell items at your boutique.
  • You don't have to move all furniture and decorative items out of the way - I move just enough items to make room for the folding tables that we set up.
  • Be sure that your house is clean.
  • Buy plastic shopping bags, receipt books, and price tags. (All available at Office Depot). Ask those who are selling at your boutique to bring their own folding tables, table cloths, etc. Remind them to price all their items ahead of time.
  • Allow sellers to set up their tables on the day before or before the event starts. Our event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to there's plenty of time to set up, however, I do require them to be set up no later than 9:30 a.m.
  • We serve light refreshments in the kitchen - those selling items are responsible for bringing the snacks. I don't spend money on snacks since I provide the house. Don't have too many snacks, keep it simple.
  • Mail invitations in advance. Ask those who are selling with you to either mail invitations to their friends or to help you with the postage and printing costs.
  • On the day of the event - have a guest book so that guests can sign and write down their addresses. This helps keep your mailing list updated and growing.
  • We only accept cash or checks. If someone wants to write a check for purchases from multiple sellers then they pay me and I give them a receipt which they take back to the seller to pick up their purchase. This ensures that everyone gets paid.
  • Give your customers a short explanation of your work and then let them ask questions if they need to.
  • Hand out business cards with every purchase.
  • Package all purchases professionally (i.e. with new shopping bags).

Above all, have fun! If it's not fun and you find it's too much work then don't have a home boutique. This may not be for you.

State tax home page links

Here's a list on the Small Business Administration website of State and Commonwealth Tax/Revenue home pages. This should link you to your state's tax department or department of revenue so that you can read all about your state's small business taxes and any requirements they have for sales tax, filing assumed names, income taxes, etc.

Information Source - Small Business Administration

Check out the Small Business Administration website for all sorts of small business information. It includes everything from a small business planner, services they offer, tools for productivity, and local resources. I recommend the start a business section, which takes step by step on starting a small business.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I just finished reading...

Well, I just finished reading Barbar Brabec's book "The Crafts Business Answer Book - Starting, Managing, and Marketing a Homebased Arts, Crafts, or Design Business." I highly recommend that you get this book if you are starting or running a small crafts business. Her book is well organized, easy to read, and it covers just about any question that you have. She explains every topic in easy to understand language. She also provides you with additional website links so that you can look up information in more detail. Her topics cover everything from business licenses, sales tax, income taxes, marketing, copyright issues, and much more. It's well worth the price. Make sure you buy the latest edition so that it contains all of the latest information. I own an older book by Barbara Brabec and while the information is very helpful it did not include any internet links since the book was written before the internet was popular.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to register to do business

How do I register to do business? Where do I go? Can I do it myself? How much does it cost? These are many questions you are probably asking yourself. The answer is - it depends on the state where you live. (This refers to the United States only). There are many state and local regulations that have to do with doing business in a state. The easiest way to start is to go to your state's secretary of state website and then find a link that has to do with starting a business. If you don't find such a link then e-mail your secretary of state's office and ask them. Some of the common requirements that you will find will have to do with registering assumed names and registering for sales tax. Here is a link to a list of all secretary of state offices.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are you running a small business or enjoying a hobby? Part I

So you have started selling your crafts online. You think this might be a hobby or just something to do for fun. Could you actually be running a small business according to IRS rules? Do you have to pay income taxes on your business or hobby?

You have started your small business online and have incurred costs in running your business. You have had few sales and you expect to have a loss. Do you get to deduct the loss on your income taxes?

Well, according to the IRS rules it depends. You need to consider whether you are engaged in a business or just pursuing your hobby. According to the IRS there are some factors you should consider:

  • Do you run the activity in a businesslike manner? For example, do you have records, a business card, a website?

  • Does the time and effort you put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?

  • Do you depend on income from the activity?

  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?

  • Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? In other words, are you trying to find ways to make more money through the sales of your crafts.

  • Do you or your advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business? Do you have knowledge in selling crafts? Are you consulting others who do?

  • Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?

  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?

According to IRS rules, an activity is usually considered a business if it makes a profit (profit = sales are greater than costs and expenses) during at least three of the last five years. So, basically whether you are running a small business or enjoying a hobby depends on your intent and whether your activity makes a profit during at least three of the last five years.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thinking of Starting a Small Business Selling Crafts?

So you make some really wonderful and unique craft creations and all of your friends encourage you to start your own crafts business. Wouldn’t that be so much fun? You could certainly use the money you make from your sales. That’s what I thought when I took the plunge and decided to make handbags and diaper bags. What I found is that there are several costs related to starting my own business. Here is a list to consider:
· Materials and supplies
· Equipment to make your items if you don’t have good equipment
· Labels for your products (in my case labels for my purses)
· Business cards
· Domain name
· Web hosting
· Digital camera
· Computer
· Internet connection
· Fees to list your inventory on a website
· Shipping materials
· Auction website template
· Last but not least – your time!
o To make your inventory
o To learn how to take good pictures
o To take good pictures
o To write good descriptions
o To determine the price of your items
o To determine the cost to ship
o To list your inventory online
o To ship your sales to buyers
o To promote yourself online
o To maintain business records

What I also found is that competition can be brutal online. When I started out I thought that I had the most unique creations out there. Then I realized that there are hundreds of people out there selling really unique things and that a lot of them are selling them for very low prices. You need to take the time to investigate the market that you want to sell in and whether your product is unique enough and whether you can make a profit with the prices that the market is paying for your product. I found out that my friends are willing to pay me more for my current product line than what I can sell them for online.

So, after you consider all of these factors and do your research, ask yourself whether you really want to start an arts and crafts business. What’s your motivation? Do you want to eventually support yourself from the profits of this business? Do you want to have a profitable side business? Do you want to sell enough to pay for your “habit”? Is this just a hobby? Once you figure the answer to these questions then consider the cost involved and determine whether it makes sense for you to start a crafts business. As for me, I would like to have a profitable side business and I believe that after months of research I have found the type of product I would like to offer online. But more on that later as I start this process. In the meantime, I will continue to sell to my friends at my very successful annual home boutique.