I’m sure a lot of you out there have dreamed of starting your own shop! How many times a week do I hear “You have my dream job!” Well, it doesn’t have to be as scary or as expensive as you would think. I don’t have a business degree, but I have owned and operated several businesses over the past 30 years so I feel that I’ve had enough successes AND failures to be able to suggest a few things that might help you decide if now’s the right time or not.
First, let’s talk money. It has always been my belief that it’s wise to start small – invest a manageable amount of money and then gradually grow as you go. Start with just the basics, a complete line of paint of Cottage Paint and necessary supporting products, several painted pieces for inspiration and colour/technique samples, and the basic beginner’s class schedule. Then of course, you need to find a location. My shop is about 1500 square feet now, but I did start with only about 1000 square feet. There is some free parking available and plenty of walk-by traffic in the summer.
I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in the space initially – more energy and enthusiasm! The space got a fresh coat of paint, a used cash register, phone, desk and a couple of fold-up table and chairs for classes. Use whatever you already have – you can always upgrade down the road. So, all in all, it cost around $5000 to hang the open sign. The rent is around $2000 per month and in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been open, I’ve never been late on a payment.
The next big issue is TIME. I have to confess, that I am only open from 10 – 5 Wednesday through Sunday but if the truth be known, I spend at least half of the time on my ‘days off’ doing things related to the business or even secretly going into the shop to catch up on work that I need to get done! I like starting at 10 – if I need to pick up anything before work, most other shops are open at 9. It’s a good thing I really LOVE my job! How much free time does a person need anyway? I have my evenings free for TV and knitting etc and that seems to be enough for me.
Furniture on commission: is a really good way to start – in fact, I still do it that way. This way, you can have as large an inventory of painted pieces as you have room for and you only have to pay for it when it sells. I only charge 25% to my girls. You may need to charge a bit more (and most do) if your rent is higher, but I like the fact that we can offer the furniture at a very good price, the girls still get a good price for their work and we have a good turn over, keeping the inventory new and fresh. Furniture sales only represent about 15 – 20% of the total but they go a long way to encourage people to buy paint (the bulk of my sales) and try it themselves. Not having to pay up front for these large ticket items, frees up your money to purchase other products that go with the painting, like knobs, embellishments and stencils for example.
In the next posts, I’d like to talk about advertising, marketing yourself and increasing inventory – which way to go?? I’d like to really get into book keeping, staff and other aspects of the business end of things. How to set up classes and display the products you bring in to drive sales…
Opening a shop can indeed be a bit daunting, but if you take it step by step it’s not so scary! The BEST part for me is the excitement of the whole thing! I look forward to ‘going to work’ everyday – a new piece to paint, a new technique to share with everyone and a new idea to try – whatever it is, I get to decide what to do!
If this article interested you, please let me know what you’d like to hear more about. It could be an excellent forum for sharing business ideas – what works, what doesn’t, how-tos, why nots… what next?