Starting a new business
I am thinking about trying to build a home based home decor business by doing custom window treatments and pillows. I have been sewing for over 20 years and have dabbled in doing something 10 years or so ago but decided it wasn’t the time. I’m now not working and have the opportunity to try something new. I’ve signed up for several classes in custom window treatments at my local fabric store ove rthe next couple of months and hope to start advertising my services sometime in September.
Here’s my question: where can I go to get help on setting pricing, what services I should offer, fabric discounts for bulk purchases and anything else I should know before I jump in with both feet? Is there a book or a forum or a web site I should visit or know about? Does anybody whose done this have any advise for me?
Any and all help, feedback and advice is greatly appreciated !
Find your nearest University Extension office...usually located in the county seat of where you live. They should be able to hook you up to a small business counselor and a list of classes for people who want to start up a business. They have workbooks on what to include in your business plan. DO A BUSINESS PLAN! Where I live they can help set up a mentor for a newbie; find someone who is doing what you want to do and offer to pay them a consulting fee to help you think through what you need to get started. All of that business stuff seems dull and depressing but successful businesses have been planned; the business plan acts like the foundation and framework of a house. Even though you're anxious to jump in and get sewing, if the framework is well thought out it will mean so many less headaches farther on down the road. It is very hard to shift a hobby to a business and make enough of a profit to succeed. You need to be very clear and honest to yourself when you set your goals in your plan.
I'm a former small business owner who went into it for all the wrong reasons...if you can't live another day without being in business, then go for it! If not, then you might want to start small (doing some work for friends, etc.) and grow it from there if you find you're loving it. That will be much easier on your sanity than jumping in with both feet and a big loan, then finding out you don't like it after all (which is what I did).
Running a home-based business is a 24/7/365 proposition. Don't let anyone tell you any differently! There's nothing casual or convenient about it. All those cute "my home business" stories in the magazines are encouraging, but they don't say much about the hard parts, especially the strain on your family and what it's like when your house becomes a mini-factory.
If you want to forge ahead, I'd suggest you contact the U.S. Small Business Administration online, through the U.S. govt. website (firstgov.gov). They have all kinds of info you can download to help you plan and organize your business venture. Also, for FREE financial advice, contact your local SCORE office (Service Corps of Retired Executives). I did and got some excellent advice (and moral support) from a retired bank V.P. I also used sources from my local small business development organization/chamber of commerce (cheap seminars on business issues, etc.); and the local university's marketing department even analyzed my marketing plans for free. Oh, and one more thing...find out if there are any ordinances restricting/ prohibiting home-based businesses in your neighborhood. All it takes is one cranky neighbor tired of hearing the UPS truck drive to your house, and you could be in a pickle.
I don't mean to sound like a downer, but experience does count for something; and in this case it's to give you a "heads up" on what you're getting into! Take care and good luck!
If you couldn't make it with all your thorough preparation, I wonder who could. It sounds as if you did everything there is to do to make it a success. I hope you found something better....easier...more fun? rjf
I really don't want to sound like a downer...if you really love it, go for it. If I could do it again, I would have started small. Just keep in mind it will take 110% of your time and energy; but again, if you love it, it won't seem like work.
I'm doing what I truly love now, and that's teaching.
You didn't sound like a downer, just realistic. I tried dressmaking for others for a brief period. Very shortly, the ladies who couldn't decide if the hem should be up a quarter of an inch or down a quarter of an inch drove me crazy so that's when I went back to school and started teaching. The "start small" sounds like a good idea....you don't invite instant disaster that way. rjf
You might want to talk to some professional interior decorators/designers to see how they handle their fussy clients...will clients' indecision about drapery hems make you nuts, too?
Well, I'm past the point where I want a home business but your comment on professional decorators made me think about "Trading Spaces", the show where two couples decorate each other's bedroom or kitchen or something with the help of a professional decorator. In some ways, the ideal project! They never consult with either couple...it's just "This is what we're going to do". It's an eye-opener for any do-it-yourselfer. The good part is when the owners get to see what happened at THEIR house. So I watch from two points of view, the decorator and the owners. rjf
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