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How to start a small business

Make a business plan 

- This is an opportunity for you to organize your thoughts. Outline what your business is and where it's going? What are your goals and how can they be achieved? What is your WHY? 

- Keep in mind that as you grow and gain more experience, you can fill in the gaps to questions unanswered or you may need to rewrite your goals entirely over time. 

You want to think about.. 

  • Your vision and mission - What do you want to achieve? 

  • Your product - What are you going to make? How?

  • Make a financial plan and budget - What are your start-up costs? What are your monthly/yearly costs? (tools and equipment; marketing material; licenses, permits, or educational courses, etc) 

  • How will you price your work?

  • Who's your target audience? How & where are you going to sell? 

  • Find suppliers for product and packaging 

  • Branding & Marketing 

  • What do you feel comfortable doing yourself and what do you need to hire help for?

Choose a business name and legalize 

- You want to choose a name that is unique to you and your brand and is easy to pronounce and remember. Make sure the name is not already taken and avoid common names that will make yours difficult to search. 

- In Oregon you can operate as a sole proprietorship under your SSN. Some states require special licenses so it is important to research all legal documents and registration in your state. (A sole proprietorship won’t offer you protection if your business runs into any legal issues.)

- Consider registering as an LLC to separate business from personal and look into insurance options if necessary. For art businesses ACT Insurance is a highly recommended company.

- Some FREE small business resources in portland are

Separate your personal and business finances 

- This separation will help keep your personal finances safe from business-related legal issues and, it’ll simplify your tax-filing processes. 

- Open a business checking account where you only deposit business earnings and pay your personal checking from there. 

- Open a business credit card to build business credit and make sure never to spend more than you can pay off. 

- Open a high yields savings account to save your taxes for the year

- Educate yourself early on what you can and cannot write off for taxes. Save all recipes in a file!

Purchase tools and materials. Start making products!

- Don't forget safety equipment! Check out this post for DIY vent system to extract fumes.*fumes settle and turn into hazardous dust in small spaces so it is extremely important to extract. Check out this post for DIY sanding box to contain all dust and sanding. 

- Remember that you can start with the basics and slowly invest as you grow and figure out what works and doesn't work for you. You don't need to have everything to start, just enough to start.

- Focus on quality products and perfecting skills to maintain a reputable name for yourself. 

Sell Product 

- Create a website, etsy, social media or any other platform you would like to use to sell and share your work. I personally highly recommend investing in creating your own website as this is a platform you can personalize and have full control over. Think of it as a portfolio. You can easily design your own website through wix or shopify and set up an e-commerce site. Otherwise you can hire someone to design your site for you but this can be expensive. 

- Other ways to sell your work include, In person artisan markets (pop ups, flea markets, juried events, farmers markets), wholesale or consignment in boutiques and cafes, newsletter directing customers to your website. 

- Take professional, high quality photos of your products from multiple angles, in good lighting. Product photography can often make or break a sales decision, so quality photos are important to creating a trustworthy brand.

-Pricing your work - Standard is... Materials = * x4 + labor = retail price (adjust if necessary and look into other pricing formulas that might be better aligned with your needs) 

- Make sure you are paying yourself enough to cover costs of wear on tools, marketing/packaging materials, utilities, office supplies, and other less considered expenses. 

Establish your brand and start marketing

- Remember that it takes time to establish yourself and grow. Put efforts into creating positive relationships with customers as returning customers are key to growth. This can take time to develop so be patient with your growth and rework strategies if needed. 

- What makes you different? Tell your story! Be yourself and engage with customers. 

-Create a logo that fits your brand. There are several free platforms such as Canva that can help you design business cards, care cards, thank you cards, fliers, brochures and so much more. 

- I personally like VistaPrint for printing all marketing materials.

- It’s worth brushing up on some essential SEO tactics to keep your website top in the search engine and easy to find

- Understand what makes your product stand out. What's your aesthetic?


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