Have you ever thought of opening your own store? If so, you are in the right place! Owning and running a boutique is a dream for many women, especially those who would like to run a business and enjoy the freedom in lifestyle that comes along with being your own boss. Imagine being able to make money with your love for fashion, style, and shopping! Plus, a lot of the work, especially when running an online store, can be done in the comfort of your home - Yes! That’s right - You, at home, in your stretch pants, sipping on your favorite bev, and making money!
When I was young, I always wanted to own and run my own boutique, and I’m so happy that I finally made the choice to do so! Although it has been the scariest thing I have ever done, I will never look back on my decision. You really don’t need a lot of money to get started. I began with a small online store and grew it into a boutique business in only a year. Oh, and please be aware that this is a statement coming from a mother of four, so, if I can find the time to do it, then so can you. Be aware that I broke this post in two parts. This article shows the steps I followed to open my online boutique.
Step One: Take a Leap of Faith
First, you need to believe that when you start, you WILL be successful. Look at how much you have dreamed about it! Now, make that decision and get started. Keep in mind that there will be challenges, but your mindset about your success is just as important as the work you put forth.
Step Two: Come Up with a Name
You need a catchy name for your business, one that is easy to remember. The name should be unique and in some way refer to your passion or what inspires you. I chose to name my boutique after my beautiful, oldest daughter, Addie, who inspires me daily.
Step Three: Apply as an LLC
After deciding the name of your business, you will need to apply as an LLC. Depending on your state, you will need to check the availability of your name, register a DBA name, file your company’s articles of association, draft an operating agreement, open a bank account for your LLC, and obtain different permits and licenses for your approval. I know this sounds overwhelming but the good news is that you can complete this paperwork at your computer. I completed this less than an hour in my sweatpants.
Step Four: Apply for your Tax ID
Every business entity is required to pay federal taxes and must have a tax ID assigned by the IRS. You can obtain this for your boutique by applying on the IRS website, calling the IRS directly on phone, or by mailing the appropriate form to the IRS.
Step Five: Apply for your State Resale License
The next thing you will have to do is apply for your state resale license. The law requires this because you will be selling or leasing tangible items, which would be subject to sales tax if sold through retailing. Again, you can complete this online.
Step Six: Register your Name with your City
Step six requires you to step away from your computer and change out of your sweatpants. You now have to register your business name with your city, state, or federal government. This is referred to as a fictitious business name, which is anything apart from your formal name. The city of Alexandria required me to fill this out at city hall.
Step Seven: Create your Logo/Brand
You will need to turn your boutique’s brand identity into visual art by creating a logo and brand style guide. With a little research, you can do this by yourself online or hire a professional graphic designer to help you. Canva is a wonderful online design app that is very user-friendly, and already has tons of templates and ideas that are easily editable. If you have the budget available, hiring a professional graphic designer or brand consultant can really help streamline the branding process and give you more time to devote to your shop.
Step Eight: Register with Wholesalers for Product
For the sake of your products, you will need to register with various wholesalers, who will be supplying your boutique with the items you will sell. FashionGo.net and LaShowroom.com are wonderful options to buy wholesale and discover new brands.
Step Nine: Build and Promote Your Website
Your boutique will have more exposure if you build a website and list all of your items there. The idea of building a website might be daunting at first, but with web design and e-commerce apps like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace, building a beautiful website is possible, even for the novice. If you still need help in this department, hiring a web design professional is also a possible solution. Do not forget that once you have your site, you will need to direct traffic to your website, or how else will people know it is there? Printed promotional material, word of mouth, social media advertising, or Google AdWords are all great tools in getting visitors to your site.
Step Ten: Create your Social Media Accounts
For you to get more customers, you will also need to create social media accounts and share your items with online friends and followers. Social media is one of the best tools to advertise to your target audience. To save yourself some time, think about using Hootsuite or Tailwind for posting. It is important to post regularly and use hashtags that relate to your post so that you can attract your audience from anywhere in the world.
Step Eleven: GET INSURANCE
Before you sell a single item… Get insurance! I know some of you might think to yourself, “Well, I haven’t been doing this very long, so I don’t really need insurance yet.” In this day and age, people love to sue over just about anything. Imagine you’ve sold a bracelet. The next day, the customer breaks the bracelet while chewing on it. One of the charms goes down her throat and she chokes. After hours in the emergency room, she decides the bracelet was faulty and seeks an attorney to sue you. Yeah, It happens! Don't skip this step!
Next time, we'll discuss the ins and outs of opening a Brick and Mortar storefront!
*Please note that these are the steps that I took to open my boutique. Please consult your local small business development for advice when opening in your area. In other words, please don't sue me if it doesn't work out.