How To Start A Stationery Business
You've stumbled upon the idea to build a stationery business and now you're ready to take the next steps.
There's a lot to think about when building a business, so we put together a guide on how to get started, launch, grow and run your stationery business.
We also provide you with real-life case studies and examples of founders running successful stationery business (and how much💰 they're making today).
💡 Introduction To Starting A Stationery Business
Is Starting A Stationery Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a stationery business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a stationery business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Little startup costs required
The cost to start a stationery business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 62 to 44,061.
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services for your business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 10 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
Cons of starting a stationery business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your stationery business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Finding The Right Supplier
Most businesses in this space go the supplier/manufacturer route, which isn't a bad thing! However, finding the right supplier can take a lot of time, energy and trial/error. If done properly, this process can save you months (if not years) of time and energy. More on this below in the "finding a supplier" section.
• Low margins
The gross margins for your stationery business are typically around 35%, which can make it more challenging to incur new expenses and maintain profitability.
- Paper Source (52.9K Alexa Ranking)
- OfficeSupply (73.3K Alexa Ranking)
- Envelopes (75.7K Alexa Ranking)
- The Goulet Pen Company (92.2K Alexa Ranking)
- Bunbougu (182K Alexa Ranking)
- Lucky Dog Design Co. - Revenue $/month
- Bookblock - Revenue $260K/month
- Sheedo Paper - Revenue $40K/month
- Raghaus - Revenue $25K/month
- Planner Peace - Revenue $22.5K/month
- Ferrotype Ltd - Revenue $20K/month
- Seniman Calligraphy - Revenue $13K/month
- Fernaco - Revenue $10K/month
- Cinquanta Cox-Smith - Revenue $10K/month
- Paper Saver - Revenue $6K/month
- Jordyn Alison Designs - Revenue $4K/month
- Penny Portrait - Revenue $1.25K/month
- Chirps & Cricket Design Studio - Revenue $1.1K/month
- The Food Diary - Revenue $750/month
- Seph Crafts - Revenue $200/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for stationery product over the last year:
How To Name Your Stationery Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your stationery business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your stationery business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your stationery business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your stationery business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your stationery business:
- Paper Products check availability
- Your Name Here Stationary check availability
- Art Collection check availability
- Station Based check availability
- Picture Perfect check availability
- Writers Wanted check availability
- Great Poems check availability
- Le Messa Stores check availability
- MercuryMade Stores check availability
- SimpleRay Stores check availability
- SunPent Stationery check availability
- Record Replica check availability
- Book Lovers check availability
- Daywish Stationary check availability
- Avalen Stationary check availability
- Kester’S check availability
- Art Post check availability
- My Memo Book check availability
- Creative Pages check availability
- The Cascade check availability
- Favorite Stills check availability
- Greystate Stationary check availability
- Written Words check availability
- Design Review check availability
- EarlyWish Stores check availability
- Caesar Stores check availability
- Goldcave Stationery check availability
- Pure Parchment check availability
- Picture Pamphlet check availability
- The Stationary Store check availability
- Handwritten Smitten check availability
- Great Writers check availability
- Rest Rise Stores check availability
- Author Zone check availability
- Customize Me Station check availability
- Prose society check availability
- Happy Handwriting check availability
- Journal Guide check availability
- Oakcounty Stationary check availability
- Production Epic check availability
- Collage Love check availability
- Sophisticated Station check availability
- Art Voice check availability
- Gridstone Stationary check availability
- Genius Review check availability
- WriteEasy check availability
- First Letter check availability
- Stationary Memories check availability
- Midtown Stationery check availability
- The Perfect Set Stationary check availability
- Fashion Voice check availability
- Stationary Reimagined check availability
- WhiteCoils check availability
- LevelGrid check availability
- Baseberry check availability
- Collage Book check availability
- Authentic Art check availability
- Digital Art check availability
- Copycare check availability
- Creekland Stationary check availability
- StatSense Stationery check availability
- Teens + check availability
- The Stationary Room check availability
- Fun Magazine check availability
- UrbanSpace check availability
- Linnex Stores check availability
- Secret Book check availability
- MeekRay Stores check availability
- Xcel Stores check availability
- ZeonShield Stationery check availability
- Artwork Bio check availability
- Tell Them check availability
- White Cover check availability
- Lifework Log check availability
- Print Journal check availability
- Neembus Stores check availability
- Solo Stationary check availability
- Creative Memory check availability
- Paper Mark check availability
- Pretty Words Stationary check availability
- Moontalk Stationary check availability
- Core owners Stationery check availability
- Black Cover check availability
- Clonette Stores check availability
- New Words Now check availability
- Handwritten check availability
- MegaBook check availability
- Eduwave check availability
- Neon Shield Stationery check availability
- Big Pencil check availability
- GoldMax Stores check availability
- Color Sketch check availability
- Talent Record check availability
- Letters Of Love check availability
- The Sketchbook check availability
- Artist Technic check availability
- Parchment Post check availability
- Castlewey Stationary check availability
- Little Writers check availability
- Aeronotes check availability
- DeepCave Stores check availability
- Youngminds Stationery check availability
- PaperTips check availability
- Tera Stationary check availability
- Boxall Stores check availability
- Uptown Stationery check availability
- Post Pad check availability
- Love Letters Stationary check availability
- Kangaroo Stationary check availability
- Media Artist check availability
- Writer Bros check availability
- Pegasus Stationary check availability
- Paper Pros check availability
- Schooltopia check availability
- Simple Authors check availability
- Parchment People check availability
- Art Archives check availability
- Post It check availability
- SilverCave Stores check availability
- Letter By Letter check availability
- Mission Diary check availability
- Paperie For Me check availability
- Jackport Stores check availability
- Parchment check availability
Read our full guide on naming your stationery business ➜
How To Create A Slogan For Your Stationery Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your stationery business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your stationery business:
- Will inspire your writing
- Letters made even perfect
- By writers, for writers
- Writing made even better
- For your writing needs
- The best stationery ever
- The perfect stationery for you
- Stunning stationery for all genders
- Beautiful stationery inside
- Writing made more elegant
- Amazing stationery for you
- Writings to remember
- Make your writings extra special
- Awesome letters written
- Writing made more awesome
- Stationery that impresses
- Making your writing sessions better
- Write anything under the sun
- Amazing designs you'll love
- Bring the best of your letters
- Your friendly stationery
- Unleashes your writing abilities
- For perfect love letters
- Perfect gift for all ages
- Stationery that you'll love
- Colorful papers, wonderful letters
- Write with confidence
- Love the feel of writing
- Amazing love letters, guaranteed
- Absolutely stunning stationery
- Real stationery for everyone
- Born to write
- Stylish stationery for you
- Stationery for winners
- Passion for writing never stops
- What Can Envelop Do For You?
- Don't Live A Little, Live A Stationery.
- Blue Letter Paper, Official Design
- The Stationery People.
- Biting The Hand That Feeds Stationery.
- Fibrous And Desirous
- Stationery, Fits The Bill.
- Envelops With Line
- Monogram Is What We Do
- Pencils With Group
- Set Of The Stylus
- I Can't Believe It's Not Stationery.
- Point Of The Templates
- A Different Kind Of Company. A Different Kind Of Pencil.
- White Enshroud, Fibrous Enfold
- Dial Down The Notebook.
- Work Hard, Printing Harder
- For That Deep Down Body Notebook.
- Personalized Whole, Personalized Templates
- Mug Is What We Do
- Food Or Stationery? I'll Have Stationery.
- Special And Rental
- Nuclear And Gloomier
- See The USA In Your Pencil.
- Spiral Binder, Blue Netbook
- Indelible Foolscaps Are What We Do
- A Stationery Is Forever.
- Don't Hold Pencil Back.
- Pure Stationery.
- It's Nothing But Stationery
- Soft Pencil - A New You
- Fine Stationery, Done Right
The eCommerce Business Model
One of the main benefits of operating online is that you are exposed to the entire world, versus just one local area. Rather than depending on foot traffic, you have all the tools at your disposal to create exposure for your store online.
Additionally, there are much lower costs to operate an online store - fewer employees, you can operate from your home, and you get to create your own schedules (yes, holidays included!)
Although you are operating online and have the ability to connect with people all over the world, it's important to consider that you will need to invest marketing money upfront in order to promote your store to the right audience.
Gia Paddock, founder of Boutique Rye explains the 3 reasons why she decided to build an online store:
I wanted to find something I loved but also allowed me to stay home at the same time. While I was working at this local boutique, I realized that there was a lot of sitting around during the day when other people were out working. Therefore, an online business seemed like the best route for a few reasons:
- We didn’t have the extra funds sitting around to pay sign a year or two-year lease at a brick & mortar location.
- I realized the opportunity to reach a wider audience online compared to the audience of this small local boutique. For us, it seemed like hitting two birds with one stone.
- And finally (maybe the most important of all), running it as an online-only business would allow me to stay at home with Riley!
Learn more about starting a stationery business:
Where to start?
-> How much does it cost to start a stationery business?
-> Pros and cons of a stationery business
-> Other stationery business success stories
-> Examples of established stationery business
-> Marketing ideas for a stationery business
-> Stationery business slogans
-> Stationery business names
-> Stationery business Instagram bios
-> Stationery business tips
-> Stationery business calculator
🎬 How To Start A Stationery Business
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Stationery Business
If you are planning to start a stationery business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a stationery business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $62
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $44,061
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a stationery business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you use for your business and give money to the landlord. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$5,750|
|Utility Costs For Office Space: Utility costs are the expense for all the services you use in your office, including electricity, gas, fuels, telephone, water, sewerage, etc.||$0||$1,150|
|WiFi & Internet: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is essential. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$0||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$0 (min)||$7,000 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll Costs & Fees: Payroll cost means the expense of paying your employees, which includes salaries, wages, and other benefits. This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$150||$250|
|Employee Hiring Expenses: Apart from payroll and benefits, there are other hiring employees costs. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any other turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$1||$2|
|Employee Rewards: It's vital to acknowledge and reward workers, whether they hit their goals or do a great job. This does not have to be costly. In fact, simply taking workers out to a meal or giving a gift or bonus is among the many ways to show how the worker is valued!||$0||$100|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$151 (min)||$352 (max)|
|Website Builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$10||$500|
|Web Designer: Web design includes several different aspects, including webpage layout, content creation, and design elements.If you have the skills and knowledge to design your website on your own, then outsourcing this to an expert may not be necessary. There are plenty of other ways you can design a beautiful website using design tools and software.||$200||$6,000|
|Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Business Email Hosting Service: An email hosting runs a dedicated email server. Once you have your domain name, you can set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are G Suite and Microsoft 365 Suite. The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$1||$15|
|Website Hosting Costs: Server hosting is an IT service typically offered by a cloud service provider that hosts the website information and allows remote access through the internet. A hosted server can help you scale up and increase your business’s efficacy, relieving you from the hassles of on-premise operations.||$0||$300|
|Website & Live Chat Tool: If your business values high-end customer service, you must consider utilizing a website chatbot. Website chatbots play a pivotal role in converting site visitors into long-term customers. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and features offered by Live Chat service providers.||$0||$200|
|Total Website Costs||$223 (min)||$7,215 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your stationery business.||$50||$700|
|Trademark: Filing trademark registration will protect your brand and prevent other businesses from copying your name or product. USPTO has several different types of trademarks, so the cost to apply can vary (typically anywhere from $400-$700).||$0||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|A Patent: Patents provide protection against others stealing or selling your idea.Securing a patent can be very valuable, but it's important that you are 100% sure this will be a smart business move for you, or if this is something to consider down the line.The process of securing a US patent can be both lengthy and pricey, and typically includes filing an application with the USPTO.||$5,000||$15,000|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business and which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$5,600 (min)||$20,400 (max)|
|Retail Business Expenses|
|Shop Decor: If you plan to operate a physical store, you may want to consider decorating the place with wall decor, furniture, plants etc.||$0||$5,000|
|Utilities (storefront business): This refers to the cost of monthly utilities for your storefront location, which is typically based on a per-square-footage rate.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Retail Business Expenses||$0 (min)||$6,000 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here.||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software system is used to track and analyze your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your business, implementing this, in the beginning, may set your business up for success and save you valuable time.||$12||$300|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your stationery business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|File Hosting Service: It's important to make sure the information for your stationery business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$162 (min)||$3,094 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$62 (min)||$44,061 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Stationery Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your stationery business:
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting A Stationery Business?
As a stationery business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Advice For Starting A Stationery Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a stationery business:
Markus Hartel, founder of Raghaus ($25K/month):
Be Number One, own your space, and do it well, this way you won’t even have to deal with competition.
Read the full interview ➜
Gonzalo Mestre, founder of Sheedo Paper ($40K/month):
You have to launch your product even if it's not perfect.
Read the full interview ➜
Dominic Irons, founder of Ferrotype Ltd ($20K/month):
No matter what your business is, you might need to think on your feet and adapt to the changes.
Read the full interview ➜
Jordyn, founder of Jordyn Alison Designs ($4K/month):
Stay focused on yourself and your journey. I often find myself feeling ‘behind’ other small businesses. Social media makes comparing yourself to others really easy.
Read the full interview ➜
Ruth Daro, founder of Seniman Calligraphy ($13K/month):
So one day when my then boss passive aggressively asked what day I would like to show up for work that week, I told her ‘how about none?’... and never looked back.
Read the full interview ➜
Markus Hartel, founder of Raghaus ($25K/month):
Ideas are dime a dozen and it really comes down to execution.
Read the full interview ➜
Markus Hartel, founder of Raghaus ($25K/month):
Not every person is suited for every task and as a small business with a broad offering, this can be incredibly challenging. Look for your own weakness and hire for that – at the same time look for a person’s strength and hire them for their skill set, not the other way around.
Read the full interview ➜
Dominic Irons, founder of Ferrotype Ltd ($20K/month):
The biggest change we have made is to expand our business into drinkware, where we have seen up 25% of sales now in drinkware.
Read the full interview ➜
Ricardo Fernandez, founder of Fernaco ($10K/month):
I truly believe that perseverance and patience are the only distinguishing qualities between myself and anyone else.
Read the full interview ➜
Caylee Betts, founder of Swipies ($2K/month):
Learning new skills is one of the greatest gifts my endeavors have given me
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your stationery business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Stationery Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Learn more about securing the right permits and licenses ➜
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Stationery Product
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a stationery business is determining how much to charge for your stationery product.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your stationery product, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your stationery product so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your stationery product may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your stationery product, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your stationery business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your stationery product is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your stationery product fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your stationery product, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Understanding Your Costs
Example from Ishan, founder of Ugly Duckling
First objective: profitability
Our profitability is OK at this point but definitely not where it should be yet. To this day I have not paid myself a regular salary yet...and it’s been 4 years!
The problem is not the cost of goods which are well under 20% of sales, which is good by any standard. The problem is fulfillment costs. In 2018 we transitioned from our first fulfillment company to a much bigger company. We did this because we wanted to provide faster shipment speeds and a better quality of packaging. In hindsight, we chose a company which would have been more suitable for a larger company with bigger volumes. We ended up being tied in with some pretty large minimum monthly payments. So currently fulfillment costs are currently around 45% of sales...way too high.
We are now looking to transit to another fulfillment center. Our target is to get our fulfillment costs down to around 30% of sales which I believe from what I have researched, is possible.
Just to be clear, when I say fulfillment that includes transportation costs also - FedEx, USPS, etc. Not just storage, picking, and packing. I am pretty sure that it is possible to get fulfillment costs down even lower, and I suspect that some large pro sellers on amazon.com work with around 20-25% of sales.
So our target P+L for 2020 looks something like this:
- Cost of goods, including inbound freight and clearance - around 22% of sales.
- Fulfillment - around 30% of sales.
- Digital Advertising & Promotion - around 15% of sales.
- Other marketing and office costs, including salary costs - around 10% of sales.
- That would leave us around 23% of sales - enough to pay me a liveable salary and for the company to make a profit and finance future growth.
That's the first objective for 2020: to right-size the P+L so that we are profitable at our current sales level
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Stationery Product
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your stationery business.
Calculate your gross margin and profit margin here.
Design A Prototype
Turning your idea into a reality can feel like a daunting task - but it's critical that you have an idea of what your product will look like (even if it's just a sketch) prior to finding a manufacturer.
Here are some common ways you can design your prototype:
- Draw Your Initial Design on Paper
- Form pieces of fabric together
- Consider Taking A Generic Product And Putting Your Own Brand On It
- Try Making the Product Yourself
- Consider Building A Prototype With A 3D Printer
To learn more about how to design and prototype a product, check out our latest guide here.
Cinquanta Cox-Smith, founder of Cinquanta Cox-Smith dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
I had to make sure the products that I wanted to create I would wear a lot, but it also needed to resonate with my audience. Phrases needed to be catchy and quick to read when in passing. I went to Pinterest initially when it wasn’t too hard to find some fun quotes to remix and make into your own. Once I had enough quotes I started ordering samples and packaging for my brand. I purchased poly mailers and stickers from a site called Sticker Mule.
I might have switched niches or changed the direction of my businesses, but I never quit.
When it came to trying to design embroidery patches I went back to the handy dandy Aliexpress website, and later on, I found an enamel pin manufacturer gxpins.
As far as platforms I did use Shopify and Printful initially in the beginning as well, but as the years went on I operated on both Shopify and Etsy. My Etsy store started to outperform Shopify and it felt like the right decision to close my Shopify store. I now use my Shopify on pause but I use it for some of the apps that are Print On Demand. Like Teelaunch, Printful, and Printify, and Art Of Where to name a few.
I always switch gears in my business so selling courses, tutorials and even writing books seem like another way to make additional income so I started recording my process with Print On Demand and putting them for sale on my Gumroad Site. The world of digital products is profitable, but you need to make sure people want what you are selling and that they need it. Once I learned to take my skill from writing books to creating blank journals on Amazon. I found a secondary source of income. That became my main source. That journal course has sold a lot and to think I gave it away for free at first. Now people have created entire businesses around creating journals and templates for businesses.
I must admit after it’s all said and done I didn’t make my business completely legal until I started making $10,000 in a quarter. I thought that was a lot until I started making $10,000 in a month. Making sure I had an LLC, a business bank account, and finally trademarking my brand. It’s been a long journey and I’m sure I did things backward but we all learn. Learning about payroll and paying taxes with Gusto was an adventure as well.
I’ll include early photos of my first embroidery patches and a phone screenshot of my Shopify dashboard in 2017. I was still unsure of what I was doing. I was still shipping products out to customers. It wasn’t until around 2020. That I realized I wanted my business to be 100% Print On Demand.
How To Find A Supplier For Your Stationery Business
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier/manufacturer:
Know your design
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your design/product will look like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
To get started, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start drawing - or if you are working on a virtual/software product this can be a diagram that outlines the user interface or experience.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
Where to start your search
Once you have an understanding of what type of manufacturer/supplier will be best to bring your idea to life, there are several areas you can start your search:
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your stationery product on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your stationery product.
Leslie Eisen, founder of AlmondClear discusses how to manufacture products in house
If you want to start a line of unique products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.
I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.
I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!
First, you have to tell the chemist what kind of product you’re looking for, the ingredients that you want to include or leave out, and what you want the final product to look like/feel like/smell like, etc.
Then, the manufacturer sends you the first sample, you try it out or give it to others to try, and then provide feedback for revisions. In my case, the first two products came together fairly easily because I only needed to make small changes to stock formulations.
There are many, many rules and regulations around cosmetics and skin care products. If you want to sell products that contain FDA regulated ingredients then you have to register and get a permit.
My products aren’t FDA regulated, so I didn’t have to go through this step, but I did have to be aware of the many guidelines and standards around labeling and safety warnings. Some people hire a lawyer to help them through this process, but my manufacturer was able to guide me through the regulatory process.
The entire process, from researching labs to work with to having the first finished products shipped out to me, took around six months.
Purchasing Inventory For Your Stationery Business
When first starting out, it's important to start small with your overhead to get a gauge for what people want.
Just remember - if you order a line of items that don't sell, it's nearly impossible to recoup the money lost.
Buying the right inventory takes research and planning in order to get it right.
- Identify your target audience: Identify the age, gender, annual income that you will be selling to. This is a defining factor in ordering the right inventory that will sell.
- Research your competition: Conduct market research and identify the different types of styles, price points, and materials being used. This will help you see what's trending and ways that you can improve/stay ahead of the competition.
- Create an inventory wishlist: Identify what you need for the launch of your business and create a budget that you will stay within. Remember, it's okay to start small.
- Find a supplier Make sure to first compare prices and analyze different options.
- Delivery timing: Schedule the inventory delivery to match with seasonality and trending buying seasons
Pro-tip: It's easy to become biased based on your own fashion preferences on what types of shoes/apparel to purchase. This is where a lot of fashion businesses go wrong. It's important to base purchase decisions on current buyer behavior, trends in the market, and specific to your niche.
Erin Hooley, founder of Bailey's Blossoms tells us how poor inventory projections led her to lose over $2M
When we first launched Peyton Bre we did so in a social or direct sales model.
Through poor inventory projections we were forced to change models but only after losing $2 million dollars.
It was a devastating time for us and one we were not sure we could survive.
I have since become very intentional about the way that we project our inventory needs and we continue to refine that quarterly and even monthly. We have created a KPI for the cost of goods sold to help us hold ourselves accountable.
Ultimately, the better we manage our inventory the less we have need to discount and the healthier our profit margin becomes.
This is, of course, a very high-level overview of the importance of inventory control.
To see the full breakdown on how to manage inventory, check out my guide over on my blog..
🚀 How To Launch Your Stationery Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
There are various different marketplaces that you can effectively sell and promote your stationery business, whether that's local or online!
Here are some of the most common ones:
- Your own website! Shopify is known to be the best for e-commerce stores
- Local places! Gift shops, farmers markets, festivals, grocery stores etc
- Etsy - E-commerce website for craft supplies
- Craft is Art Marketplace to buy and sell handmade crafts & fine art
- Aftcra Online marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade products
- Storenvy Marketplace for authentic brands
Etsy Tips From Founders
Etsy is one of the most common marketplaces for this business type, however, there are some tips and tricks from other founders you'll want to consider prior to listing:
Financially speaking, Etsy is a really great way to start a business because it’s essentially free until you start selling. It cost nothing to launch besides my 20 cent listing fees.
Etsy has been encouraging free shipping with a lot of pushback from sellers, but I built everything into our prices about a month ago and introduced free shipping shopwide, which seems to have improved conversion rates and search visibility already.
I honestly attribute the bulk of my success to photography. I was a photographer first so obviously very lucky to have no issues launching with great images and it’s something I consistently produce.
With Etsy especially, there are a ton of mediocre amateur photos so it was an easy way to set myself apart from the start, and I don’t think Etsy themselves would feature my products and market them so often otherwise. We’re also able to compete fairly well on price because 80% of customers are American, and our dollar is much weaker.
One big mistake I’m seeing from other people selling handcrafted items is regarding Etsy. I’m seeing people do one of two things:
- Under-utilize the platform
- They are solely using the platform
What I mean by this is that I’m seeing a whole lot of handcrafters that only use Etsy because it’s easy. But referring people to an Etsy page as your webpage isn’t as professional as a dot com webpage, plus, Etsy’s fees are much higher than Shopify. Also, when Etsy makes changes to its marketing structure, I’ve seen people who have no other website get absolutely screwed and their shops go under.
The other camp is those that refuse to use Etsy at all. Etsy is a marketplace, with a built-in audience that is often searching for exactly the product you make! Both camps are making the mistake of not diversifying their markets. Use Etsy, it’s an amazing sales tool, but don’t rely on it solely.
Launch Strategies For Your Stationery Business
There are various different ways you can launch your stationery business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your stationery business.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your stationery business, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your stationery business is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Abigail Butler, founder of Chirps & Cricket Design Studio dives deep into the process of launching the business:
I used Wix to set up my website and launch the business, and it was also relatively easy to set up my shop for e-commerce using Wix too.
It took me several months to design the site, get my portfolio organized, and to photograph and edit the photos of my products. Part of the process also, was figuring out how I wanted guests to interact with the site and how I wanted their experience to go when purchasing stationery. Because I was operating on such a small budget to start up, I did everything myself – from designing my logo and brand, designing my website and setting up the SEO, photographing my products, editing those photos and getting them up on my website to writing all the copy for the site.
Any purchases made to start up was either paid for from my own pocket or the small business line of credit I applied for and received.
Setting goals is paramount in starting a business – it provides direction, sets the stage for the larger picture, focuses you in on what is important/priority, and will motivate you!
With so much excitement and a bit nervousness the launch of Chirps & Cricket was relatively modest with announcements on facebook and Instagram, and I also sent out an email announcement to the small email list I had at the time (mostly to friends and family and a few professional contacts). I did receive orders from my online shop right away, all from supportive friends and family. I also received a few freelance projects right away as well and even got to design a few custom wedding invitations. It was a small start, but I leveraged social media as much as possible to help see things grow.
When I made my first wholesale sale of note cards to the flower shop down the street, that felt like a big win, and when I received my first wedding invitation project from someone that I didn’t know already, I knew things were heading in the right direction.
I’m still working on the growth of my business. Participating in market/craft fairs has helped a lot. This year I’ve hired a company, Electriq Marketing, to work on the back-end of my website, improving SEO, searchability, gain exposure and improve my online presence. I’ve been decently successful at selling my stationery items in-person and to friends and family, but I know I have a lot of work to do in order to improve my online sales.
When launching this creative endeavor there ended up being so many decisions to make and processes to walk through. Here’s a short list of items I not only had to educate myself on but had to implement:
- Applying for an EIN / tax I.D.
- Setting up my LLC (understanding why I wanted an LLC vs. a Sole Proprietorship)
- Because my office/studio is at my home, how did I want to direct other businesses and/or clients to send me my mail? Did I want to give out my home address? I ended up setting up and using a P.O. Box at a nearby Post Office.
- Setting up business bank accounts
- Applying for a small line of credit
- Paying taxes, both quarterly and annually
- Obtaining a sales tax license
- Learning about things like operating expenses, gross margins, cost of goods sold, ROI, sales tax, how to price my product, margins, markups, etc.
- Using an accountant vs. handling my financials and doing my taxes on my own
Looking back, I think I would have been a little bolder with my launch, making more aggressive moves to get myself and my business out there, noticed and exposed to the public. I probably would have asked for help when needed to speed up the process for launch (for example, I’m not a professional photographer, but have friends who are and offered to help with that aspect of my website). There’s also so much I don’t know about Google Analytics, SEO, etc. so I might have hired someone to help with that or taken more time to educate myself on it. I might also have read more books on business or even have taken a course or two to start. Obviously, it’s not too late for that!
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your stationery business is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my stationery business stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Sheets & Giggles explains the motive behind their "Premium Unboxing Experience"
I had a particular vision for our packaging centered around one goal: because we were a DTC company and wouldn’t do physical retail in year 1, we needed to focus entirely on an incredible unboxing experience that made the product feel as premium as possible.
Outside: a white box, nice wax coating, logo front and center with no other copy, easy to open, nice and sturdy.
Inside: make people smile from the get-go, have a social call-to-action, include free extra surprises (a knapsack that wraps the sheets and an eye mask), put funny copy all over the place, and add a donation bag that people could use to donate their now-defunct cotton sheets (sheets & blankets are the #2-most-requested item at shelters behind socks).
Get Press Coverage For Your Stationery Business
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
🌱 How To Grow Your Stationery Business
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to stationery business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your stationery business.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Learn more about the fundamentals of SEO ➜ here and check out Neil Patel's 3 Powerful SEO Tips below
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Cory Stout, founder of Woodies ($250K/mo) provides us with specifics on how to rank better on amazon:
Our main product is walnut wood sunglasses that I sell for $25 on Amazon and Woodies.com.
I dedicated myself to becoming an Amazon expert. I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could find. Shoutout EcomCrew I took the basic fundamentals that are out there and I added a couple of my own twists.
Amazon brings me, 100 brand new customers, every day for very little acquisition cost. If I tried that on my own, it would take a TON of work and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as Amazon, so I took the easy road on this one.
Here's an article I wrote on how to rank better on amazon (30+ Tips):
- Beautiful images (minimum 5 images) especially lifestyle images I use UpgradedImages.com for product photography (hey Ken!)
- Keywords in your title (but it still needs to sound human)
- Competitive price (contributes to high conversion rate)
- NOT having 1-star reviews
- DON'T STOCKOUT: it's such a killer and if you DO stockout, definitely DON'T raise your price right before you do, if anything LOWER your price for the last 10-20 units before you stockout, each ASIN has a 'memory' for when you do get back in stock so that will help you regain ranking quickly
- DON'T VIOLATE AMAZON TOS: just don't
- Perform QC on your stock before you send it in (I sent in a wrong box once and I had to 'remove' over 3,000 pieces so I could sift through them and remove the 150 contaminated pieces 0/7 would not recommend
4/5: Pretty Friggin Important
- Minimum 10 5-star reviews (do this before you do anything below this)
- Well optimized PPC campaigns (could do a whole post on this, keep ACOS under 40%) here's a screenshot of some of my campaigns I use a combination of manual campaigns with exact phrases and high bids...and auto campaigns with a broad range of products and very low bids
- Turning on FeedbackGenius for auto review requests (it's not as good as it used to be, but it's still worth it)
- Get a trademark and get Brand Registry, this protects you from hijackers and other unscrupulous sellers
- Quick response to customer messages (under 12 hours) here are my stats my mom does all my customer service "Employee of the Year" status
- Drive outside traffic (amazon loves outside traffic because they don't have to spend so much to acquire customers) Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords are the usual suspects
- Use ocean shipping to save mucho $$$ on unit costs (use flexport)
Read more about amazon tips here.
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Stationery Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Stationery Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your stationery business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your stationery business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Cinquanta Cox-Smith, founder of Cinquanta Cox-Smith dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
The best thing I ever learned was SEO when I was blogging early on. Here is a screenshot from my first blog and my blog now. When I first started blogging I was writing about everything. Clothing, reviews for products sent to me from Amazon, beauty stuff, and Dollar General penny items. I had no clue what I wanted to do or why I even had a website, but it helped me to start. I learned a lot about SEO, and Google Analytics.
Smile For Me;
Once I learned more about blogging and hosting my site along with email marketing I moved over to WordPress. Where I’ve been hosting my blog, and all things books and business about my entrepreneurial journey. My focus there is Print On Demand and the educational materials and videos I sell and share.
I’ve probably watched numerous videos on SEO, signed up for free courses, but you need to ultimately understand how search engine optimization works. Once you understand how it works then you’ll be able to teach the search engine how to find you and how you show up on google. Here’s a tip: search my name “Cinquanta Cox-Smith” and see how many pages are dedicated to me and my business. How far back do information about me and my business, + books go back. Learn this key SEO skill, and you’ll always make room for organic traffic. It’s just like Amazon. Enough people type in gifts for moms Amazon will start populating those terms and then suggest gifts for moms of toddlers and more.
Ultimately just start. It’s okay if you have to do it alone or with no money. Just begin where you are.
While we are on the subject of Amazon let’s talk about how you can find untapped niches for just about anything on the platform. Whether you want to do an MBA, FBA, or even KDP. (Merch By Amazon, Fulfilled By Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing) You can find niches to get into. Knowing how to niche down is the most important thing. You can find a popular niche and do some digging and sometimes it’s not a lot and find a small niche inside that big one that can create additional income for you. Check out my playlist on YouTube where I do niche research for random Keywords. It's called Let’s Niche Down. Learning to do this will help you research better. One of the best techniques when it comes to business is using the platforms to do research.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a stationery business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
If you can afford to hire someone to help support your stationery business, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.
Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!
If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.
Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?
- So you can understand how long it takes
- So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
- So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
- So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
- Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your stationery business.
- Platform tools such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Google Shopping, Custom Built, Wix.com, Weebly, Mindbody, Adobe Creative Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Walmart.com or Canva
- Email tools such as MailChimp, Klaviyo, Omnisend, Planoly, G Suite, Whatsapp, Litmus, Unroll.me or Privy
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Buffer, Reddit, Medium or Tiktok
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Google AdSense, Amazon Ads, Google ads or Pinterest Ads
- Reviews tools such as YotPo, Product Reviews or Google My Business
- Design tools such as Canva, pixlr, Adobe Suite, Gimp, Pic Monkey, Over, Divi, Procreate, Vista Print or Typeform
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Sumo, Google Tag Manager, Heap or Google Forms
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox, Slack, Microsoft Office 365, Trello, Calendly or Stickermule
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Shopify Payments, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Square, Apple Pay, Venmo, Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay, Quadpay, Squareup or Paywhirl
- Blog tools such as WordPress, Squarespace or Blogger
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks, Xero, Wave, Google Sheets or MYOB
- Customer service tools such as Facebook Chat App or TawkTo
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr or Upwork
- Shipping tools such as USPS, UPS WorldShip, FedEx, Royal Mail or Amazon FBA
- Affiliate tools such as Rakuten, ShareASale, Amazon Associates or rewardStyle
- Education tools such as Udemy, Teachable or Skillshare
- Stock images tools such as Unsplash, Pixabay, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, adobestock or Pexels
- Crowdfunding tools such as Kickstarter or Patreon
- Sales tools such as Salesforce
- Seo tools such as Screaming Frog or Moz
- Web hosting tools such as GoDaddy
- Podcast tools such as SoundCloud, Anchor or Spotify
- Crm tools such as Odoo
- Financing tools such as Shopify Capital or Cap One
- Wholesale tools such as Faire.com or Handshake
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Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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