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Invitations & Stationery The invitation is the first glimpse of any big event. Couples are investing more and more on this element of their wedding. If you're creative, this could be the business for you.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Startup Costs: $2,000 to $10,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home
Part Time: Can be operated part-time
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? Yes

Business Overview

What: There are plenty of options for a wedding invitations business. Printing using an outside designer to create templates; or invitation design, which outsources the printing to a professional. Alternatively, a business can combine design and printing services.
Advantages: Start part-time without making a huge investment; it's creative and challenging, and startup costs are low.
Challenges: It takes a certain amount of artistic training and creativity, even if merely running a press. Troubleshooting press runs and juggling multiple orders require exceptional technical and organizational skills.

The Market

Brides and grooms are spending more and more on invitations as they strive to show their guests a glimpse of the big day to come. Attract clients with quality design and exceptional customer service.

What You'll Need to Get Started

A printing press, assorted inks and printing supplies. If hand-setting letterpress--applying each letter and design element individually and by hand--numerous type cases (fonts) must be purchased. The other option is to have templates made for each individual invitation suite, eliminating the need to stock up on type. For design, good desktop publishing software, such as Adobe Illustrator, is needed. Art, letterpress and computer classes help the designer produce quality invitations.
To get attention:

  • Attract business though ads in the Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of the local newspaper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Establish yourself by joining in on discussions on popular wedding blogs, such as The Knot , Style Me Pretty and Wedding Bee .
  • Offer a few lucky brides- and grooms-to-be free or at-cost wedding invitation packages in order to establish a reputation and portfolio.
  • Network with wedding-oriented vendors--florists, photographs, bridal shops, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and musicians.
  • Leave your business cards and brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.
  • Send press releases and samples of your best wedding invitation suites to local and national publications that feature either wedding-related content or profiles of new businesses.

Q&A With Invitations Designer Rachelle Schwartz

Entrepreneur.com spoke with industry professional Rachelle Schwartz of Wiley Valentine about how she started her successful wedding invitations design and letterpress business with partner Emily Owen.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in starting a wedding invitations business? I think one of the most important investment moves we made was to attend the National Stationery Show in New York City. We attended first so we knew what to expect. We did our research taking a look at what people did with their booths. Then the following year we exhibited, and grew our retailers to a nationwide presence. Prior to exhibiting we literally went store-to-store locally and sold our invitations that way. It worked enough where we had a good presence locally and was something to build off of. It was humbling, and we had to be persistent as this is not the usual way that retailers will want to buy your product. However, if you believe in your product and it's a good one, they will buy it. Don't give up!

Do you think now is a good time to start up a wedding invitations business? The industry [feels] like it's getting a bit saturated; however, there are always standouts. It's all about doing something different--there is always room for that. Letterpress is definitely a niche market; I think what makes us different is that we offer both flat printing as well as letterpress, so we're able to hit both price points. We offer letterpress imprintables [letterpress designs on blank invitations without text so customers can print the text themselves], which are a great way to give a do-it-yourself bride access to letterpress.

What kind of training and background are necessary to do what you do? Emily and I both have our BFAs in graphic design. We worked in the graphic design industry for four years before branching out on our own.

Would you say it's common for those planning their own wedding to decide to start up a wedding-related invitations business? I don't know if I would say it's common. It can be a great launching point since the bride would be immersed in the wedding planning industry so completely. It's not just a hobby; it's a job, a career--it takes a lot of work. But when done properly, the reward is immense.

How much capital did it take to start up your business? Emily and I did a lot of freelance work while still at our previous place of work. We saved all the money we made over the course of a year and had enough to pay ourselves for about six months. I think this was key in that the money definitely does not come in right away. It takes a lot of investment of time as well as money to start the business, so having that cushion was great! We began working from our homes, which saved a great deal in rent and overhead.

How much would you say startup costs are for a letterpress business? Purchasing a press can be anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 depending on the type of press. I recommend a good deal of research into this before making the purchase.

What were your fees at first, and what are they now? How much can people charge for letterpress invitations? We actually began with flat printing first, and our prices have definitely increased just as the cost of the supplies--paper, envelopes, etc.--have increased. I would say the most significant increase, though, has been in our custom design fees, which started at around $150 and are now more like $500. Custom is much more time-consuming, and you learn to charge for your time as your business grows.

What are your closing words of advice to would-be wedding invitation designers? I would say do your research and have a business partner if possible (it's huge to have someone else to depend on and help out). And keep with it--it may take a few years before you can call yourself a successful business, but it's worth it. As long as you are doing something that you truly love and are passionate about, the business will follow.

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