5 Steps to Starting a Fabric Business

If you love crafting or sewing and want to start your own business, a fabric store business could be ideal for you. These businesses range from really large chain stores that sell all sorts of fabrics that the average seamstress uses to small, local stores that cater to one or two particular types of fabric customers – perhaps wedding dress makers, quilters, or costume designers. Before you jump into your new business, take this advice on how to start a fabric store business in your area:

Step 1: Research, research, research

It’s vital that you start with great research about how to start and maintain a fabric store business. One thing you’ll want to figure out first is what businesses are already available in your area and what types of fabric store customers you might have. For instance, if there’s already a large chain store, like a JoAnn Fabrics, in your hometown, you probably can’t compete with their low prices and broad selection. However, you could compete by catering to specific customers who want harder-to-find or higher-end fabrics and who don’t mind paying for them. Some ideas for a smaller, more selective store include a fabric store that carries mainly designer quilter’s cottons, a store that specializes in bridal and formal fabrics, including gorgeous laces you can’t get at chain stores, or a fabric store that specializes in upholstery and drapery fabrics.

Besides just figuring out your niche, though, you’ll also need to research a few other things for your business:

  • How much will it cost to start your business, including renting space for your business and purchasing your first supply of fabrics?
  • Once you know how much your business will cost, what are your funding options? Do you have cash in hand? Can you apply for a small business loan or business credit card?
  • What can you do to promote your business? Could you run specials when you start your store? Have you considered offering crafting and sewing classes to attract new clientele?
  • What would your options be for selling online? In some cases, it might be better to start an online fabric store and then move into a brick-and-mortar location once you start making some money.
  • What types of licensing will you need for your business at the federal, state, and local levels?
  • How will you take care of business accounting? Will you hire someone to do it, or will you do it yourself?

If you aren’t sure where to find the answers for some of these questions, contact your area’s Small Business Administration. They usually host seminars or offer one-on-one counseling for new local entrepreneurs.

Step 2: Find your fabric

Start contacting vendors and manufacturers about the types of fabric you want to carry. Be very careful about purchasing high-quality goods and getting a wide variety of different fabrics, notions, and patterns for your store. Also, come up with a good pricing scheme for your fabrics. How much will you mark them up over wholesale to cover your costs and make a profit?

If possible, you might want to look into some unique outlets for fabric, as well. For instance, see if there are local artisans in your area who specialize in weaving textiles or hand dying fabrics. These fabrics can sell for $50 or more a yard, but they can make a nice addition to your business to round out your regular fabric offerings.

Step 3: Setup financing and cash flow management

Even if you don’t need a small business loan because you already have the capital to start your fabric store, you might want to consider applying for a small business credit card. A credit card can help you make secure online purchases, set up recurring charges so you can make sure they’re paid on time every month, and can even get you some excellent perks, including cash back on certain purchases.

Step 4: Start advertising

Whether you’re operating online or in a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll want to start advertising your small business as soon as possible. Letting people know when you store is going to open and what opening sales and deals they can expect is a great way to make people more aware of and excited about your business before you even get started.

Social media marketing is essential to any start-up business these days, so start a Twitter account and a Facebook page for your new business so you can connect with potential customers online. This is especially important if you’re starting an online only business, but it’s even very helpful for local stores, since social networking can help you connect with potential customers in your actual area.

Step 5: Setup shop

Once you’ve gone through all the above steps, it’s time to set up shop. Whether you’re marketing solely locally or online, or doing a combination of both, this process can take some time. In a brick-and-mortar business, it’s all about location, so set up your store in a busy area where lots of traffic passes by. Online, it’s all about getting your website noticed by search engines so you’ll get more search engine traffic, so talk with a web professional about helping you create the perfect website for your business.

After your shop is set up and the grand opening is completed, you’ve just got to learn to run your business.

Daniela Baker is a social media advocate and blogger at CreditDonkey, where she helps entrepreneurs find business credit cards for new business like yours.  She reminds you that at first, you may have trouble meeting your monthly expenses as your business gets off the ground, which is where a small business credit card can come in handy. Eventually, if you cater to the right customers and give them exactly what they want, you’ll build a stable business that will be fun for you and your customers alike.

One Response to “5 Steps to Starting a Fabric Business”

  1. Kirsten says:

    Good article, would like one similar but on starting a clothing design business. The same principals apply though. Research, preparation, and planning. What I would like to know is if there are other avenues online to sell clothing besides ETSY, ebay, and Craigslist. What are some of the better, higher end forums?