Do you want to start a stationery business at home? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a stationery business with NO money and no experience plus a sample stationery shop business plan template. If you have an eye for designs, are talented and are on the know about new trends for products, then you can start a profitable and fulfilling stationery business.
The stationery business is one that is huge as it caters to products like personal and professional correspondence, birth announcements, marketing materials and wedding invitations. Asides having the right kind of talent for this business, you will also need to ensure that you are well grounded in running a business as you will need a mix of these two attributes to be able to kick start and run your business.
Like any other business, you will first need to research the stationery industry you intend going into. This will allow you to understand the niche markets that exist therein and how you can suitably choose a niche that will be beneficial for your business in the short and long run.
In order to gather accurate data and information for your market research, you will need to study competitors that are close and also far from you. This will allow you to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how you can take advantage of their weaknesses so that you can effectively compete with them in the same region or industry.
Other steps that you would need to take regarding your stationery business include, having to secure the necessary finance for your business, getting a business name and also ensuring that your stationery business is properly incorporated with the right business structure that will allow you achieve all the goals and objectives you have regarding your business.
18 Steps to Starting a Stationery Business at Home
1. Understand the Industry
Globally, the stationery market is one that has been projected to be more than $226 billion by the year 2021 especially as there are more growing enterprises, improved literacy rates that has led to a rise in school enrollment as well as a favorable demographics. The other reason for the growth is the high demand for skilled workers as well as the growth of more primary and secondary educational institutions.
The united states of America has the largest market share globally, while the Asia-Pacific is ranked as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of more than 6 percent. The growth in the Asia-Pacific market is largely caused by the large population from steady birth rates, an increase in business development activities, increased literacy rates, rise in the establishment of new offices, as well as a launch of government supported educational programs.
The stationery business in the industry according to IBISWorld is worth $6 billion annually. There are more than 82,000 stationery businesses in the United States of America employing more than 2 million people. This industry however has experienced a negative growth of 3.9 percent between the period of 2011 and 2016.
The negative growth is due to decline especially as consumers are beginning to lean towards alternative forms of communication. Another reason for the decline is due to the fact that stationery products are no longer regarded as profitable due to input prices and rising external competition. Finally, the industry is experiencing saturation and threats from online correspondence.
According to analysis on this industry, sales have been on a decline since 2011 due to digitization and the rise of online correspondence such as emails and the increased use of gadgets and devices which has caused a decline in traditional stationery products.
Between the period of 2016 to 2021, operators in this industry will have to face intensifying competition from alternative forms of communication which will lead products in this industry to become more obsolete and be used less as a means of correspondence especially as electronic forms of communication are becoming increasingly popular.
According to IBISWorld industry report, the stationery market is experiencing a decline. The periods of 2011 to 2021 have been particularly cruel to the industry and there are no signs of it becoming better. The Industry Value Added (IVA) has been forecast to decline annually at the rate of 4.1 percent.
In comparison, the United States’ GDP is expected to grow by 2.2 percent during the same period and factors such as the digitization of the economy has been identified as one of the reasons why the industry is experiencing decline. Also, the fact that stationery products are discretionary has made their performance in the industry to be more volatile than staple goods.
The stationery industry has started becoming more pronounced in areas such as Green, Bridal, Baby, Greeting Cards and the office. According to a research by Mintel, Americans who bought green products regularly between the period of 2007 and 2008 rose from 12 to 36 percent but has however remain unchanged since then, even though the report indicated a 19 percent growth in the year 2013.
Products that involved green were those that incorporated recycled papers, soy based or vegetable inks and other forms of such products. Some companies have started using this to attract members of the green trend. Globally according to MarketLine, the office services and supplies industry witnessed a growth of more than 3 percent in 2010 to reach $191 million. This however expanded by more than 16 percent between 2010 and 2015, thereby reaching revenue of almost $222 million.
Products that were paper-based represented a large segment of the global industry for office services and supply, with more than 45 percent of the overall market. The industry according to Global Industry Analysts is expected to reach $22 billion by 2017. Certain factors such as product innovation, developing markets and higher literacy rates will prove crucial in the growth of this industry.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who use stationeries are limitless as they are used for a variety of purposes and cannot be restricted to only students and those that work in a corporate or business environment. Stationeries are used in a number of places such as schools, offices, hospitals, government agencies and institutions, weddings, baby and bridal showers and a whole lot of places.
Therefore, if you are looking to define the demographics of the stationery industry, this might prove to be a bit difficult and so you should look towards making it more encompassing regardless of the fact that the economy is tending towards digitization.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
The stationery industry is one that involves the use of paper, writing equipment, envelopes and invitations in order to communicate with one another. It has been particularly useful in schools, offices, hospitals and other places where paper documentations are kept for official and other purposes.
However, even though this is a very important industry, it has been experiencing decline especially as there has been increased dependence on digital correspondence by consumers. Operators in this industry have sought for ways to retain a hold in the industry and have therefore chosen to look for niches that will make their businesses stand out.
Therefore, some of the major niche areas where some stationery businesses may decide to focus on are;
- Office stationery
- Educational stationery
- Writing tablets and other supplies
The Level of Competition in the Industry
The level of competition in the stationery industry depends on the location of the business but the growth of the internet and technology has made it easier for businesses to be able to operate from any part of the world and still compete effectively against others in the same industry.
The internet has made it possible for stationery businesses to be able to market their products and services to clients that are far away from where the business is operated from. Asides the internet, growing entrepreneurs and even established businesses can stock their products in chain stores in order to be available to clients who love the products, especially if the products are specialty or niche related in nature.
This however does not mean that stationery companies cannot compete amongst themselves locally, as competition is also stiff locally and so local operators must do their best to stand out by following industry trends and trying to make their supplies as affordable as possible especially as certain clients will prefer to physically see the products they intend to get than going for one that is far off.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
Every industry no matter how new have brands that are recognized by stakeholders and even those outside the industry. Some of the reasons why some brands stand out might be due to the quality of their products, their affordability, how long they have been in the industry, customer care attitude or advertising and promoting measures.
Below therefore are some of the leading stationery businesses in the United States of America and even globally;
- American Greetings Corporation
- Avery Dennison Corporation
- Hallmark Cards, Inc
- International Writing Instrument Corp.
- Newell Rubbermaid Inc
- Archies Limited
- Office Depot
- Corporate Express Inc
- Letts Filofax Group Ltd
- Dixon Ticonderoga Company
The stationery business is one that involves a wide range of materials which include paper and office supplies, greeting cards, writing implements, pencil cases, glue as well as other similar items. Operators in the industry perform a variety of functions such as buying raw materials, converting the raw materials to stationery materials and selling these products in wholesale or retail to those who need them.
The stationery industry has been facing a decline especially as the economy is becoming more digitalized, thereby causing an intense vertical competition between the traditional form of communication (paper-based correspondence) and the modern form of communication (e-mails and other online correspondences).
Most of the techniques that are employed by the industry in order to produce the overall product include embossing, letterpress printing, thermographic printing as well as engraving. These products are used as office and educational stationeries, for special occasions as well as for specialized invitations.
According to a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc, the market for stationery products globally was due to surpass $155 billion by 2015 especially due to the advancement in technology as well as an increasing population and literacy growth. The stationery market in the United States will continue to grow at a CAGR of more than 4 percent from 2016 to 2021.
Therefore anyone looking to start this business should be aware of the fact that while this might be a very lucrative business, it is facing intense competition from digitalization and therefore as an operator, measures should be taken to ensure that a niche is chosen that will allow the business not only stand out but to also remain profitable.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Starting your stationery business from scratch or buying a franchise depends on the goals and objectives that you have set out for your business as each of these options comes with its pros and cons. If your aim is to understand your business from scratch and to be in charge of making major decisions that will have an impact on your company, then starting your business from scratch is what you should stick to.
If however you do not want to be bothered by the too many paper works that you might face when starting your business, then buying a franchise is what you need to go for. However, you must ensure that you thoroughly investigate the franchise which you intend to buy so as to make the right choice for your company.
One thing you should note when buying a franchise is that you will not be in charge of the major decisions for your company as major decisions that concern advertising, promotion, and what products to sell will be determined by the franchisor. Starting your business from scratch or buying a franchise is however no guarantee that your business will survive as there are a lot of factors to take into consideration for your business to stand a chance of surviving.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Every business that has been established to maximize profit and also compete against its competitors is bound to face threats and challenges. The threats and challenges that sometimes crop up are those that cannot be controlled and therefore should this be the instance, an entrepreneur must ensure that he is ready at all times to face whatever threats and challenges the business is likely to come across.
Some of the threats and challenges likely to be faced are; a downturn of the economy that will see consumers restrict their spending pattern, new trends in the industry as well as increasing digitalization of the economy. There is hardly anything you can do as an entrepreneur to change the threats and challenges but having plans in place will help make your stationery business stand against any threat that might likely occur.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
choosing a legal entity is something that can overwhelm many entrepreneurs and so it is important that you seek the services of an attorney or accountant so that they can help you not to only choose the best legal entity for your stationery business but also incorporate your business successfully. There are four kinds of legal entity that one can choose when choosing to start a stationery business and they are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
A sole proprietorship is the easiest form of legal entity to set up for any entrepreneur and it is usually perfect for entrepreneurs who want to run their stationery business from home or run the business on a small scale. In a sole proprietorship, the owner makes all the decisions and controls everything. The entrepreneur is responsible for the actions and inactions of the company and should the business encounter any sort of loss during its operation, the entrepreneur can be held personally liable.
The partnership form of legal entity is where two or more people come together in agreement to start a business either verbally or via a written document. Any decision made by one partner in this form of legal entity is binding on all other partners. Like the sole proprietorship form of legal entity, the partners are personally liable for any losses incurred by the business. However, one huge benefit with this kind of legal entity is that there is a huge tax benefit for this legal entity as owners are taxed on their personal income return.
The corporation form of legal entity is one that is very formalized especially as the business is regarded as a separate entity from the owners. This means that should the business incur any sort of losses during its operation or should it fail, the owners cannot be held personally liable. This sort of legal entity is one that is very complicated to set up and so usually requires the help of an attorney.
There are two forms of corporation – the S corporation and the C Corporation. Lastly, the Limited Liability Company (LLC) is another form of legal entity and like that of the corporation has a legal entity that is regarded as separate from its owners. It also comes with the benefit of tax that the partnership kind of structure has. Entrepreneurs in this industry usually choose one out of these four legal entities.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
Choosing a name for your business is very important because not only does the name have to be catchy, it has to be one that will indicate what kind of industry you are in and also make you stand out as well. Your business name must also be one that is memorable to your clients.
If you are therefore considering what names to choose for your stationery business, below are some catchy business names;
- Scurvy Stationeries Inc
- Butterfly Stationeries and Designs
- Scroll stationeries Inc
- Meda Dominic Stationeries
- Ma Baker Stationery Supplies
- Bob’s Office Supplies
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Having insurance policies either as an individual or a business is considered very important in the United States of America. Therefore, regardless of the kind of business you intend to run, you will need insurance policies so that should your business run into any form of hitches, you would not have to personally pay out of your pocket.
If you aren’t sure of what insurance policies to get, you can seek the advice of an insurance agent or broker, who would help you determine what insurance policies will best suit your business and what budget you would need to set aside as regards the insurance.
Therefore, some of the basic insurance policies that you might need to consider purchasing if you intend to start your greeting card business in the United States of America include;
- General Insurance
- Liability Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Errors and Omission Insurance
- Business Owner’s Policy Group Insurance
- Health Insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
The stationery business is one that deals in the supplies of stationery products to consumers. Therefore, it is not necessary for entrepreneurs in this industry to consider applying for intellectual protection except they are in the stationery production aspect of the business and therefore would need to protect their designs and concepts. If this is the case, there will be a need to get in touch with an attorney who thoroughly understands the stationery business industry to apply for IPP with the USPTO.
If however, you are just a regular entrepreneur that wants to protect certain aspects of the business such as logo, business name and production materials, then you will still need to apply for IPP with the USPTO. However, if you are under this category and do not feel it is necessary to apply for an IPP for the above named categories, then you need not bother.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
To start the stationery business in the United States of America, an entrepreneur does not need any sort of professional certification as this is a business that requires creativity and business acumen to survive. If you intend to take any sort of professional certification, it might be in areas that would allow you improve as an entrepreneur.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
Having legal documents before you can start and run your business in the United States of America is very important as no business can be run without certain documents. The regulatory agencies do not take it lightly with any individual who runs their business illegally and so not only will such a person face stiff financial sanctions, the owner of the business might not be allowed to run such kind of business anymore in the United States of America.
Below therefore are some of the basic legal documents that you will be required to have if you intend to run your stationery business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Insurance Policy
- Employment Agreement
- Sellers Permit ID
- Federal Tax Identification Number
- Employers Identification Number (EIN)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Even though the stationery business is not one that is capital intensive especially for those that are starting the business on a low scale, it still requires sourcing for finance especially if it is not readily available. Sourcing for finance is not something that is easy for any entrepreneur but is a task that any determined entrepreneur must go through if he intends the business to be a successful one.
Some of the areas where one can readily source for finance when starting a stationery business include;
- Raising part of the start-up capital from personal savings or sale of property
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
- Sourcing for loan from the United States Small Business Agency (SBA)
- Apply for loan from bank
- Apply for loan from credit unions
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
It should be noted that the stationery business can be run from home or from a commercially leased or rented facility. Also, with the growing use of the internet by consumers, some local stationery business owners prefer to run the business from home and then promote their business via the internet, in order to save certain parts of overhead and operating costs.
If you however intend to lease a location for your stationery business, it should be noted that the location you intend to use will determine how successful your business is likely to be. Therefore, if you intend to lease or rent a location for your stationery business, it should be in an area that is visible, strategic and close to your demographic market so that you will not have to spend too much in promoting your business to your target market.
If you intend to locate your stationery business in an area that is close to your target market which would be within the city hub, then you should be prepared to pay a substantial amount of money especially as locations in the city do not come cheap. It is however important that you set aside a budget for location so that you do not end up spending more than you should and putting a strain on other aspects of your business.
You might also need to consider getting in touch with a real estate agent who has the necessary experience regarding your kind of business to help you choose what will most likely be the best location for your stationery business.
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
Most of those who run this kind of business usually lease or rent a commercial facility and also make use of the internet to get the attention of their target market. While leasing a facility might depend on the scale of business you are running, but to be taken seriously and be able to compete with others, you will need to lease a facility as opposed to running the business from home.
Financing for this business depends on the scale at which you intend to run the business. If you are going to be running a medium to large scale sort of stationery business, then you would need to source for financing options that will allow you not only start your business but run it conveniently till the business is able to sustain itself and start paying for itself.
The equipment you need to run this business are ones that can be gotten as fairly used, aside from your inventory, especially if you are running the business on a strained budget. Therefore some of the equipment you would require include; computer, printer, scanner, phone, packaging supplies and software (accounting, inventory and customer database).
Regarding the number of people you would require to successfully run your stationery business in the United States of America include; a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), an Admin and Human Resources Manager, Marketing and Sales Executives, Business Development Executive, Front Desk Officer, Purchasing and Inventory Manager, Accountant, Cleaner and Driver.
Therefore, from the above breakdown, you would require at least 9 key staff to help run your stationery business and enable it attain its intended goals and objectives.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
The stationery business is one that involves the production and sale of stationery products and depending on which part you intend starting your business, it is important therefore that you understand the processes involved.
First off, you will need to ensure that you identify which suppliers will be best for your business as the suppliers you intend to use should not only offer prompt delivery services and discount on bulk orders, they should also offer you tips that will help you run your business efficiently.
Once you have gotten the right suppliers for your inventory, you will then need to sort out the right market for your business depending on the niche you intend to start your business in.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Having the right marketing ideas and strategies for your stationery business is important as you not only generate revenue for your business through marketing but you also get to create awareness for your business to your target market. Marketing is also very important as it helps you to understand what it is your clients want and also what strategies that can allow you to stand out and compete favorably against your competitors whilst penetrating your intended market.
Before you can craft the right marketing strategies for your business, you should endeavor to carry out a market research about your intended market. This market research will help you understand your intended target market; know what it is they expect from you and what you should expect from them as well.
It is after gathering the necessary data and information that you can then draft the right marketing strategies for your business. Knowing the marketing strategies that suit your business is important as it will allow you save cost and resources than if you were just trying out methods as you go.
Another importance of conducting a market research is that it helps you know what amount to set aside in running your marketing campaigns. As an entrepreneur, knowing the right resources you will need to fully start and run your business is very important as this means you will not spend aimlessly.
Below therefore are some of the marketing ideas and strategies you will need in order to run your stationery business successfully;
- Ensure that you introduce your stationery business to corporate clients and other stakeholders in the industry by sending a letter introducing your business as well as attaching a brochure that has your contact information and rates
- Engage in direct marketing by empowering your marketing executives
- Tell your loyal customers to help spread the word about your business
- Ensure that you advertise your business in newspapers and magazines as well as on radio and television stations
- Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Linkedin to advertise and promote your stationery business
- Distribute handbills and fliers in strategic locations
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
Every entrepreneur whose intention is to go into the business to generate revenue and make profit will need to contend with having competition and must therefore seek for strategies that will allow it win over its competitors especially if it wants the business to exist for a long period of time.
Therefore, some of the possible competitive strategies that you will need to adapt to be able to win over your competitors include; ensuring that you do not run out of supplies, giving your customers excellent customer care by minimizing complaints about your products or service, and employing only the right set of people who understand the core objectives of your organization to work in your company.
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Engaging in activities that would boost the awareness for your brand and also create a corporate identity for your stationery business is very important as this helps you to generate revenue for your business whilst increasing the awareness of your products. Little wonder already existing businesses do not mind spending a fortune to boost awareness for their brand because of its accompanying benefits.
There are other reasons why you should promote awareness for your business especially if your objective is to become nationally and even internationally known for your products. Most entrepreneurs starting their business usually engage the services of a publicity consultant who is well experienced and has several successes to help craft strategies that will help bring their company into the focus of the right customers.
It is important to create a budget for your promotional activities after looking at what channels would be effective in helping you attain all your goals and objectives. The internet is one area that entrepreneurs are taking advantage of when it comes to promoting their business and it is cost effective as well.
Below therefore are some of the platforms that you can use to boost awareness for your brand whilst also creating a corporate identity for your stationery business;
- Ensure that you place adverts in local newspapers and related magazines as well as on radio and television stations
- Use social media platforms to your advantage by promoting your stationery business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus as well as other such platforms
- Create a website for your business and engage the services of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant to help ensure that your website is ranked amongst the top for search engines
- Ensure that your stationery business is listed in online directories as well as in yellow pages
- Distribute handbills and business cards and also paste fliers in strategic locations all over the area where you are operating your business from
- Use your business name to participate in popular online forums and blogs that are related to your kind of business, by offering advice and tips to your audience and using that to promote your business
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