Starting an Arts & Crafts Business

Think all you need to know is how to knit or paint? Not quite. If you want to start a serious crafts business, you'll have to focus on the business and the craft.

It's a common fantasy, and why shouldn't it be? It sounds amazing: Instead of forcing your crafting time into nooks here and there--after dinner, before the kids wake up, on the weekends--you'll start a business so you eat, sleep, breathe and, most important, live off your hobby.

But such is life that nothing is as easy as it seems. You may have the skills to create wonderful handiwork, but starting a successful crafts business calls for much more than that. "[There's] a separation [between] those who are crafting for fun and extra money and those who start out with the idea, 'I intend to make money from this, so I'm going to do it right,'" says Barbara Brabec, a homebased business expert and author of Make It Profitable! "And I've always said in all my books that the people who succeed are those who have a financial reason to do so."

So here's your first step: Decide why you're really starting this business. "If you're doing it for love or extra money, that's fine--you can have a lot of fun. You can make enough to keep yourself in craft supplies for the rest of your life, but you're never gonna bring home the groceries," says Brabec. "If you're in it because you actually need to supplement your family income, then you need to get serious."

And what does getting serious entail? Read on to find out how to get started.

Start reading. You don't necessarily need an MBA to succeed in a crafts business, but knowing how to wield a mean needle isn't enough. "It's not necessary to have a business background, but if you don't have one, [it is] necessary to read up," says Susan Brandt of the Hobby Industry Association, which counts crafts manufacturers, publishers, distributors and retailers among its members.

Brandt suggests visiting your library to find business magazines and texts as well as checking out community resources like adult school classes. "If you can visit some large gift centers or markets, try to find people who'd be willing to talk to you from noncompetitive areas," adds Brandt. "There are a lot of very generous people who remember that somebody helped them when they started."

10 Steps to Startup

  1. Find out about zoning regulations, licenses and permits.
  2. Acquaint yourself with IRS regulations.
  3. Register the name of your crafts business with local officials.
  4. Call your telephone company.
  5. Open a checking account for your business.
  6. Obtain a retailer's occupation tax registration number.
  7. Learn about federal regulations applicable to your crafts business.
  8. Set up a good record-keeping system.
  9. Make sure you're properly insured.
  10. Decide which printed materials you need in order to do an effective promotional and selling job.

Source:Handmade for Profit (M. Evans & Co.) by Barbara Brabec

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