Starting a Paper Goods business can be relatively inexpensive and a great way to make some extra income on the side. Everyone, especially women, LOVE stationery! Handmade note cards & invitations are often times sought after more so than generic note cards, because of the uniqueness and extra care that goes into making something personal. I have created a list of 10 things you need to know about (or do) in starting your own paper goods business.
1. Have a Plan. Write out a business plan. It doesn’t matter if it is 1 page or 30 pages. If all you have for now is an idea of what you want to do – go for it! It is purely an outline for what you want your business to be about. (p.s. No one checks your business plan. This is for you own records).
2. Software. Find a software program that you can use for designing. Believe me – you do not need a background in graphic design. There are some free design software programs available such as Inkscape. Another example is one of the many Adobe programs (Photoshop & Illustrator). Some of these software programs will offer a 30 day trial for free. Try out a few and see what you like. Spend a little time getting to know the program and you’ll soon be designing your own paper goods.
3. Create & Design. The paper goods you design should reflect your own unique style. Your style may be similar to another, but make sure there is something that sets you apart from another designer. There is something for everyone! Your design/style may not resonate with one person, but will certainly be adored by another. I am not the least bit offended when someone doesn’t care for my paper goods – someone else out there LOVES it. Be true to your own particular style in designing & creating. Design with integrity.
4. Invest in a printer. This investment doesn’t have to be a huge expense. Printers have come a long way since I first began printing my own stationery from home. You can easily pick up a nice color ink jet or laser printer for minimal expense.
5. Legalities. For tax and legal reasons I will also suggest setting up your business legitimately. The cheapest way to do this is to file a DBA with your local county Clerk-Recorder office. A DBA (Doing Business As) is also known as a Fictitious Business Name. Check your local county website for more information and details on how to file.
6. Quality Paper. Once you have created your paper goods, and have your printer, your next step is to get a hold of the actual paper! As I mentioned before, women love paper products, but they also love quality paper goods. There are several online resources for finding paper, envelopes & packaging. I’ll give you a big tip … check out http://www.ClearBags.com. You will find cardstock, envelopes & for a great price (if you can afford to buy in bulk. If money is a little tight, as it was with me when I first started out, look into using Michael’s, JoAnn’s, or some other craft store. You can find smaller quantities of paper goods in the scrapbooking sections.
7. Price your product. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve invested the time and money into starting this business, be sure to price your products so that you can be rewarded for your efforts. An easy formula for setting your price point is to add up ALL your raw material. This becomes your cost:
COST x 2.5 = sale price.
8. Set up shop. Now that you have your products and a price point, you are ready to sell. There are a couple of ways to go about this. If you cannot afford the expense of a website designer, there are a few very inexpensive alternatives to choose from. Sell your products on Etsy.com. This is wonderful community of creative people buying and selling handmade goods. You don’t need a merchant account either. Etsy, like ebay, uses PayPal for all transactions. Setting up an Etsy shop is very inexpensive too! You are only charged a few cents to list an item, and then once you sell an item you are charged a fee through PayPal. In addition, there are several hosting sites (Shoppe Pro, Pappa Shop, Merchant Moms, Eco Chic Hosting), these offer inexpensive pre-made templates where you can list your products and sell them online.
9. Spread the word. Getting the word out is easy within your social circle. Send out an email announcing your new business, offer family and friends sample products for free, you can even ask as few friends to host a Paper Party.
10. Do something every day. There are many ways to market your new business daily. When you engage in conversations with people the same questions come up; “what’s your major?” and “are you working?” Don’t be afraid to tell people about your paper business. This business is part of you, even if you are still in school.
Tapping into the social media scene is a great way to generate awareness of your business. Start a blog to compliment your business and be sure to comment on other blogs. Commenting on other blogs will bring others to your site. Offer to sponsor a giveaway on one of the blog you like. Join Twitter or start using your Twitter account to generate awareness. Engage others on Twitter and follow other paper people. Everyone is on Facebook these days, so why not create a fan page?! Do one thing daily.
Heather Cowdell started Swanky Paper in 2005 to offer stylish and fun stationery and invitations at an affordable price. Swanky Paper has built a good reputation in offering a great product at an affordable price, without compromising quality. “I like to say that I fell into designing stationery by accident.” Heather recalls, “I wanted personalized stationery, but was too cheap to buy some overpriced, poor quality note cards, so I made my own and had fun doing it.” Soon after, she made some stationery for family and friends. Heather was then encouraged to start her own stationery boutique.
She started playing around and designing on the computer and was instantly hooked. She had so much fun creating something from a blank screen. Now she enjoys creating both personalized stationery and working with clients to create invitations for their special event.
She loves the opportunity to raise her 3 children while pursuing her passion in the stationery industry. When she is not designing stationery and invitations you can often find her cuddling her baby girl, or building an expansive train track system for her 2 boys.