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Starting A Business3
“Starting a Monogramming Business?”
(Part Three - Setting Up Shop) (Read Part One)(Read Part Two)
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Although any monogramming business would love to be in a beautiful shop with great interior detailing, ample natural light for a warm and inviting environment, high visibility, lots of customer parking and low rent, not all will be able to find or afford the perfect setting - especially if you are just starting your business.
Some monogrammers run their businesses from their homes, either from necessity or convenience. If you anticipate that you can structure your business as strictly custom, without the need to deal directly with the consumer, then a home-based business may be the perfect situation for you. A good example would be a monogramming business that works for local linen shops - orders are processed by the shop, communicated to you, and then delivered to the shop when the order is finished.
Even if you have a commercial embroidery machine - or two - a spare room or basement location can provide the basics that you will need.
A few things to keep in mind when outfitting the space:
* You will be spending alot of time in this space, so make sure that it has good lighting and ventilation. A nice view of a meadow or some palm trees out the window will go a long way to providing some relaxation, but isn’t absolutely essential. Being able to see what you are doing IS essential.
* In addition to a stand or sturdy table for your embroidery machine, you will need at least one work table or work surface. Make it as large as possible.
* Cleanliness is essential for a monogramming shop, since the majority of your work will involve whites. Work tables should be easy to clean - a waterproof surface will be helpful and will extend the useful life of the work surface.
* Although there are plenty of sources for ready-made tables, think carefully about the work surface and it’s height off the floor. It’s possible to spend your day sitting down while working, but your work pace will be slower than if you are standing up and able to move easily from place to place. Consider custom made work surfaces, or customizing purchased tables to get the height correct for standing up. You will notice more physical wear-and-tear if you have to bend over uncomfortably as you work.
* You will need some amount of storage for your materials - thread, stabilizer, toppings, etc. Try to arrange this storage so that you can easily get to the things you use most, and don’t have to move other things out of the way to get to them. Also, try to organize your supplies so that they are either just below or just above the height of your work surface. Lots of bending up-and-down takes its toll on your back.
* You will also need a work surface for unfolding linens, and for refolding them after the monograms are applied. If you are extremely pressed for space you can use the same work surface for this process and also for cutting stabilizer, hooping, etc. but your workspace will be better organized and more efficient if you can devote separate work tables to different tasks.
* Are you left or right handed ? Do you prefer to move in a clockwise or a counter-clockwise direction ? Try to set up your work areas so that you move from one to the next in the most comfortable way.
* You will need an office space, or at least an office nook - a place for business computer, printer, filing cabinet, supplies catalogues, etc. Some monogrammers, even those who have ample workspace, like to organize everything in the same space, so they can be good multi-taskers. If you can manage it, consider a separate office, with a door that can be closed. If you have a commercial embroidery machine with auto-trimmers you can actually walk away from the machine occasionally to answer the phone.
* Many monogrammers overlook lighting as a major consideration. Bright is always good, but over-bright isn’t necessarily better. Don’t underestimate the physical and psychological effects that lighting can have on your productivity. Many people react poorly to standard fluorescent lighting, which can be very tiring, and can also affect the way colors look. Some natural lighting is ideal, but if this is impossible then consider either natural balanced fluorescent lighting, or incandescent lighting that shines up and reflects off a white ceiling.
Beyond the setup issues with your workroom, there are a few other things to consider.
* Some communities have ordinances that prohibit businesses in residential structures or neighborhoods. Investigate the zoning laws with the local building department. Pay close attention to distinctions that may be made between businesses that have walk-in customers and parking issues, as compared to those that don’t deal with this. If you are doing all of your work for outside sources and don’t deal directly with the public you may have the equivalent of a home office. Home offices are quite common in the modern world.
A monogramming shop is like a home office, and unlike one in some ways. Know what is permitted in your locale. We read a newspaper clipping several years ago about a home-based children’s clothing company. The article began “She didn’t think twice about calling the Fire Department when she smelled gas. But as she stood in front of her home, she realized that her secret would be out as soon as the firefighters arrived.”
* Talk to someone knowledgeable about tax law before deciding to deduct a portion of your home mortgage or rent payments as a business expense. You may well be entitled to this deduction, but the IRS has some fairly specific criteria that must be met.
* Talk to your residential insurance broker if your business is going to be home- based, and consider getting separate business insurance coverage whether you are home-based or not. This insurance can be arranged to cover office equipment, your embroidery machine, inventory, supplies, etc.
If you’ve decided to set up your monogramming business in a separate facility, all of the considerations above still apply, but if you are going to have walk-in customers your workroom will be the “back room” and you will need to create a retail space in front.
A retail shop can be as fancy and elaborate as you wish (and can afford) but no matter what it should include some basic features:
* Your business will by nature include consultation with your customers about their monogramming needs. Although you can have these conversations at a retail sales counter, it would be a nice touch to have a consultation area with a table and several comfortable chairs. The table should be large enough to spread out some samples and catalogues for linens, etc. but also attractive enough that it will look inviting even when there is nothing on it. A separate consultation room might be a good idea if the space is large enough, but it can also be located in a spot in the main store space.
* If you have a commercial embroidery machine, consider putting it in the front window, where it can easily be seen from the street. Although it may be a bit less convenient in this location it will certainly attract attention.
* You will need to display samples. Consider how broad your product base will be - is it going to consist primarily of sheets and towels, or are you also going to stock tote bags, baby clothes, sweatshirts, etc. Whatever constitutes your main line of goods should be displayed as samples.
* Since you will need to display samples, consider doing so by creating an attractive display of samples that are also for sale. For example, if you carry hand towels, do some monograms on those items in several popular single initials - B, F, M, S .. perhaps a few others. You customers can see samples of you work, and if they happen to be lucky enough to need that initial they can purchase the sample - if not, they can place a custom order with you for a different initial or a multiple-letter monogram. The “stock” versions can be priced so that they are a bit less than the custom version.
* Have a catalogue of available monogramming styles, either as sewn samples or as a printed document. A sewn sample of at least one letter of the alphabet is a good idea so that the customer can see and feel a real monogram, but you should also have something that shows each letter of the alphabet in each style that you offer. People can be very particular about how certain letters look, and in any case it avoids surprises and misunderstandings if the customer can see exactly what they are getting.
* How many monogramming styles do you want to offer? There is one school of though that says you should offer only a few basic styles because if you give people too many choices they will have a difficult time choosing. The opposite approach also has its supporters - offer as many options as possible so the customer knows that they have access to a wide variety of choices.
Perhaps a compromise is the best option: organize the styles that you offer into categories that take stitch count into consideration - basic, complex, elaborate. Each category can fit within a different pricing structure.
Embroideryarts offers a high-resolution printable catalogue of all of our styles. Our designs are easy to acquire, by download or by mail-order, so you could reasonably offer a great many styles even if you haven’t yet purchased all of them. A customer order would be the occasion to purchase a style that you don’t currently have in stock.
How to Find Customers
The most conventional way to let people know that your monogramming business exists is paid advertising in the local yellow pages, local newspaper, radio, TV, etc.
There is nothing wrong with advertising, and you should certainly do as much paid advertising as you can afford and that you feel is bringing you results. However, consider some less expensive advertising ideas as well. For example:
* Visit local linen shops and set up an appointment to speak with the owner about monogramming services. Bring sewn samples of your work. Discuss ways to provide the shop with a book of information about the styles that you offer. In this situation you will most likely be monogramming on items that the linen shop stocks, so be sure that you have a clearly defined policy about pricing and liability limits on customer-supplied goods (this issue was covered in previous installments of this article.)
* Remember Laverne from “Laverne & Shirley” ? A giant L on a cashmere sweater may not be your own personal style, but you should be able to come up with an alternative. The conventional wisdom in the general commercial embroidery industry applies to monogramming as well - always wear something monogrammed. It’s a conversation starter.
* Does your community have church auxiliaries, women’s clubs, civic associations, etc? Do they hold fund-raisers? Try offering monogramming as a door-prize at their next event.
* Every town has at least one real estate agency. Visit with the agency and offer to provide a “Welcome” gift to them for new home buyers. The gift could be a nice basket with fancy soap and a monogrammed hand towel. Offer this item to the agency at a very reasonable price, and don’t forget to include your business card in the basket. It’s a nice gesture to the new homeowner, costs a pittance compared to the 6% commission the agent made on the sale of the house, and can get you lots of monogramming prospects.
Every monogramming shop needs a supply of basic materials (thread, backings, toppings, etc.) as well as a supplier or two for linens/blanks - and don’t forget about monogram designs.
There are so many sources that we can’t really list them all, but here are a few selected sources to get you started:
Thread, Embroidery Supplies
3939B Paper Mill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37909
(877) 271-0557 tollfree
3031 James Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
WHOLESALE LINENS SUPPLY INC.
6231 Nagel 2 West
St. Louis MO 63109
(888) 291-8900 tollfree
ALL ABOUT BLANKS
849 Manor Oak Lane
Buford, GA 30519
Commercial Embroidery/Monogramming Publications
5680 Greenwood Plaza, Ste. 100
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
EMBROIDERY MONOGRAM BUSINESS
1115 Northmeadow Parkway
Roswell, GA 30076
Designs for Monogramming, Alignment Tools, Custom Monogram Digitizing
17 Fourth Avenue
Nyack, NY 10960
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