McLean, VA (a special Q&A section by Gladys Edmunds/USA Today) --
Hi Gladys, I have always loved crafts, and I currently make my own soaps and candles. And it seems that crafting has found its way into the small business world. I have many friends who constantly ask me to make soaps and candles for them and they have been pushing me to start my own business selling them. Many people have expressed interest in the products I have on Pinterest. Can you tell me where I can get funding to start a business in this field? -- Mary J.
I believe that as a home-based businessperson you should start where you are with what you have and grow your business out of profit. In the end you will be much happier with both yourself and your business. In general most crafting businesses are developed without borrowing money or creating a formal business plan.
The handmade marketplace has being growing significantly over the past few years and I suspect it will continue to grow, as more people use their crafting skills to enter their own businesses, just like you want to do.
And it's a lot easier to build a business when you don't have a lending company or investors looking over your shoulder!
The most important thing that you will need to get started: Your time and talent.
And keep these ideas in mind, too:
-- Secure space with your local Farmer's Markets. I recently met a woman who makes soy candles and according to her, she made $40,000 last year at these types of venues. Another option: Creative online communities, like the "I Made It" market place. Get on these groups' mailing list, and make a point to attend whatever events are offered.
-- Speaking of which, use social networks to the fullest. LinkedIn, for example, is a wonderful way to connect. The woman I just mentioned told me that she had more than 5,000 people on her Linkedin network and she sends all 5,000 invitations to visit her booth.
-- Build an interesting website and make certain that you put a sign-up sheet on the "about" page. This of course is a great help in finding potential customers. Start a blog about your craft, and pack it with interesting content and pictures. You might want to include video clips, too.
-- Don't forget about home shows. Get together with a few other crafters and offer to do home parties similar to Mary Kay cosmetics or PartyLite candles. With the holidays coming up soon, perhaps this idea could give your business an early head start.
So, find creative ways to build your candle and soap business, like I say, out of profits. And remember, there are ways to get customers to either pay in advance or at the very least give you an advance deposit. I buy things on the Internet often and I have to pay for the merchandise first and then it is shipped. That's another argument for an online presence.
Need more ideas? Don't be shy: Just go to a craft show and talk with someone there. It's your business, and you can take the time to build it right.