It’s fair to say that not everyone dreams of owning a vinyl sticker business. There’s a lot of hard work to complete when you start a sticker business. On top of that, traditional business advice is flawed and incompetent.
But don’t worry. In an effort to keep you from wasting time and money on a business that is ultimately doomed to fail, I'll teach you all about the lean startup method and how to use it to start a sticker business, which will save you time, money, and effort, and will ultimately prove a more efficient way to start your business. The idea behind the lean startup method belongs to author Eric Reis, who later described the method more thoroughly in his book The Lean Startup Method, which he released in 2011.
Before I jump into teaching you about the lean startup method, I'm going to explain why the traditional business startup method doesn't work.
Table of Contents
The traditional flawed business startup process
When you read traditional business advice, it always includes a set of steps that look similar to these:
- Identify a passion or skill set you can cash in on (in this case, I’m guessing it’s making vinyl stickers).
- Write a business plan.
- Fund your business.
- Find a location.
- Choose a business structure.
- Decide on a business name.
- Form your business formally: register your business, get tax IDs for your business, apply for business licenses and permits, and open a business bank account.
- Ultimately fail because this method is flawed.
Reading these steps, it's easy to see why so many people use them to start their businesses. The traditional start up method seems like a well-thought-out and logical way to start your business. (Well, that is until you get to the eighth step. Most business articles aren't going to tell you about that one.) The steps to start a business using the traditional business start up method appear as though if a person has a solid enough business plan, all they need to do is come up with the money to start their business and choose a good physical location for it. Beyond that, the traditional start up method makes it seem like you don't have to put any effort into your business to make the profits roll in.
While this method looks good in theory, it doesn't actually work that way in reality. Just because you hope starting a business will be easy doesn't mean it is. In fact, four out of every five businesses that use this traditional startup method failed during their first year. These businesses don't fail because the owners are lazy or didn't have the ambition it takes to succeed. The traditional business startup method fails because it's founded on three flawed assumptions.
Assumption 1: You have deep and intimate knowledge of your market.
If you are here to learn how to start a sticker business then it's a logical assumption that you require more knowledge and experience before you’re ready to launch a large-scale sticker shop.
When you start your own vinyl sticker business, you won’t immediately be an expert on the ins and outs of the sticker industry. Of course, it's possible that you've worked in the sticker industry prior to this experience, which is great. You’ll have more experience in the industry than someone who jumps in with no experience or knowledge whatsoever. However, there’s a major difference between owning your own vinyl sticker business and working in a sticker shop.
The first flawed assumption that the traditional startup method makes is that you already know everything there is to know about your industry. Of course you don't! This assumption is flawed because gaining master-level knowledge of an industry can take decades, yet the traditional startup method assumes you have it from the start.
With the lean startup method you can get your feet wet first, learning about the vinyl sticker industry, as well as gaining experience well before you open your doors. Learning about the industry this way before you open your business leads to its overall success.
Assumption 2: Your needs and wants are more important than your customers’ needs and wants.
Every business has the same goal: to make money. But if your company doesn't value customer feedback and appears not to care about the wants and needs of its clients, then it won't be in business for very long.
The traditional method encourages YOU to focus on the reasons that you want to start a sticker business, instead of focusing on the reasons YOUR CUSTOMERS would consider buying your products.
Advertisements that come across as “Please buy my vinyl stickers” are not a very good marketing strategy and are not likely to make your company look good.
Using the lean startup method you develop relationships with your customers while learning about their vinyl sticker needs. Do they want a sticker business that offers custom stickers? Do they want a variety of stickers and designs? Do similar businesses in the area only offer boring, bland logos as opposed to stickers with designs and characters that they can use to express themselves?
The traditional startup method screws up by assuming that what business owners want is more important than the market demands and the wishes of their customer base. An essential part of the lean startup method is conducting research to find out what services and products consumers would buy from a new vinyl sticker business before you start one. Customer feedback is invaluable to the startup process because it means that you can start a vinyl sticker business that revolves around the needs of your clients. Conducting market research prior to opening your vinyl sticker business will give it a fighting chance of succeeding beyond the first year because you'll be selling products and services you know your customers want.
Assumption 3: You have unlimited cash to burn.
Unfortunately, money is not a renewable resource. It would solve a lot of the world's problems if there were just a never-ending supply of money. But the reality is that even the wealthiest people on earth carefully consider how they spend their money and curb needless spending. Of course, as a business owner you will eventually have to make some risky financial choices, but there's no need to recklessly throw your money away.
If you were to start a sticker business using the traditional startup method, you would start out with a brick-and-mortar sticker shop in a physical location, outfitting it with equipment and supplies like printers, reams of sticker paper, Cricut or other vinyl cutting machines, and various other products to help you with the cutting, printing, and shipping of your stickers, as well as a team of employees. The second flawed assumption of the traditional startup method is that you have enough money to fund such a venture from the start.
It costs an average of $32,787 and a maximum of $58,797 to start a sticker business. That's a lot of money to the average individual and most people couldn't afford to replace that much should your business fail. So it's not reasonable to assume that everyone has that much money to blow.
With the lean startup method, yes, you are encouraged to start your business immediately, but in smaller increments. For instance, maybe instead of spending thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line printers or a fancy cutting machine, you contract out the sticker production. Or maybe you start out with an Etsy shop, using the e-commerce site to sell your stickers before you move to a physical location. When you use creative business models this way, you'll notice that your startup costs are far lower. This also gives you the opportunity to test out the products, services, and branding of your company without spending a lot of money and taking significant risks.
The only way to avoid becoming one of the four out of five businesses that fail every year because they used the traditional startup method is to use a different type of startup method—the lean startup method.
What is the lean startup method?
The lean startup method is a technique that business owners can use to start a new business and is made up of three separate phases: build, measure, and learn.
When you use the lean startup method you constantly experiment with various business ideas, conduct market research, and obtain customer feedback to find out whether your ideas are plausible.
This means that you’ll jump right into the sticker industry (by taking baby steps) rather than creating a business plan and adhering to it before there's even any business to speak of. Another core idea behind the lean startup method is choosing the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways to deliver your products to clients.
The first phase of the lean startup method is the build phase. In the build phase your objective is to identify a problem that affects your community and then create a solution that satisfies them enough that they're willing to pay for it. Is there nowhere to buy vinyl stickers in your area? Do customers want a sticker business that sells stickers with fun designs and characters?
The second phase is the measure phase. During this phase you test out the solution you developed and decide whether it works or if you need to go back to the drawing board. Are customers satisfied with the quality of the vinyl stickers you are selling? What are your company's best selling vinyl stickers?
The last phase is the learn phase. In this phase you obtain feedback about your sticker company that you can use to determine which of your ideas or products are working and which ones need to go. Do all your vinyl stickers sell well, or are there some stickers that no one ever purchases? Do customers complain about any of your vinyl stickers? How do people feel about your sticker company overall? If any of your ideas aren't working out well, you can use this phase to take a closer look at the situation and abandon any tactics that aren't successful. In doing so, you won’t waste time on failing products or methods, but instead you can focus all your energy on successful products and marketing.
Why use the lean startup method?
If someone were to try to sell you an expensive product and you happen to know that there was an 80% probability of it falling apart within a year, would you still buy it? That’s exactly the dilemma you face when you start a business using the traditional startup method. Four out of every five businesses that use the traditional startup method go out of business within a year.
You circumvent this problem entirely if you start a business using the lean startup method. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, because the lean startup method encourages you to find the cheapest way to sell your products, your startup costs will be low. Second, developing a customer base before your business opens results in a more successful vinyl sticker business.
If you start a sticker business with the traditional startup method, you take serious financial risks to get the funding to cover excessive startup costs. With the traditional startup method you're expected to open a business and turn a profit immediately instead of learning about the market and what your customers want first.
However, if you start a sticker business with the lean startup method, you'll have an automatic advantage over other sticker businesses because you will have already created a community of clients that love your brand. These loyal clients will create a market for the vinyl stickers and services that your business provides.
When you use the lean startup method, your business will have lower startup costs than a business that was started using the traditional startup method. The traditional startup method takes for granted that all business owners can access vast reserves of money, but that's just not the case for many small business owners.
But the lean startup method allows you to learn about the sticker industry gradually, rather than taking enormous financial risks before you test out your company and the market. Without the financial stress of huge startup costs and risky financial decisions, your sticker business will thrive and have a better chance of succeeding.
Small business owners often use the traditional startup method because they're either unaware of its faults or because they mistakenly believe that other startup methods won't work for them.
The truth is, the lean startup method is so much more effective than other startup methods that it gives your company an automatic advantage over other businesses which have used inferior startup methods.
How is it that I can tell you with absolute confidence that the lean startup method will work for you? That's easy. I've started five different businesses over the past eight years using the lean startup method. Three of those businesses were successfully sold, and I still operate the other two to this day. I've also helped thousands of people open their businesses and fulfill their dreams using the lean startup method, and I can help you open your sticker business too!
How do you use the lean startup method to start your vinyl sticker business?
When I start any new business, I use the core principles of the lean startup method: build, measure, and learn. With the lean startup method, your sticker business will grow and thrive because you built it on solid foundations instead of the outdated advice and false assumptions of the traditional business method.
The first phase of the lean startup method is the build phase. You'll use this phase to come up with ideas about your vinyl stickers and services while also building your business. Some of the more important tasks involved in the build phase include identifying a problem that affects a large section of your community, building a community that revolves around your sticker business, brainstorming solutions to the problem that you identified, then finally developing that solution.
Completion of this phase ensures that the ideas you have for your business are solid ones and that the solution you want to provide is favored by the community. Completing this phase gives your business a strong start and ensures that it will prosper in the future.
Step 1: Identify a problem
Before you form a solution you must first identify a problem.
Too many businesses sell stickers for customers to purchase vinyl stickers from them all. Providing your clients with a convincing reason to buy your vinyl stickers is a far more effective strategy.
The hard part is finding this convincing reason.
People with a problem naturally seek solutions to it. In this situation, one of two things usually happens: either people will develop a solution to the problem themselves or they pay someone who has created a solution to the problem. Whatever the problem is, you want the solution to be your vinyl stickers.
As someone who wants to sell stickers, it's important to keep in mind that selling the same products as other sticker businesses is an ineffective way to market your company. It's far more effective to detect a common problem that people in your community are facing involving vinyl stickers. Do people want an online sticker business that will supply them with printable patterns so that they can print their own stickers? Are people dissatisfied with the quality of the designs or paper that other sticker businesses offer?
Start by talking to people in your area and research other sticker businesses. If people want stickers with cute and quirky characters, as well as high quality printing and paper, then that is exactly what you should develop your brand around.
Conduct market research by asking people what they want from a sticker business and what sort of vinyl stickers they need. Do they want custom logo stickers for their businesses, or would they like vinyl stickers with more lively designs and different types of sticker paper? Are customers dissatisfied with the prices or shipping rates other businesses charge? Do customers want to buy vinyl stickers online through a store such as Etsy, or printable designs so that they can print the stickers themselves?
Talking to people is an easy way to get the information you need. Most customers will provide you with loads of feedback and information—all you have to do is listen.
In fact, it's not difficult to pinpoint a problem. You just need to figure out which problem you should address.
How do you choose which problem to focus on?
Many of the steps in the lean startup method include thorough instructions. But there aren't any instructions describing how you should go about choosing the problem you want to focus on. So here are three tips to make this job easier:
- Choose a problem that affects a lot of people. It's not a problem if nobody cares about it, and if it's not a problem then it's not a good business idea. Are people having trouble finding a sticker business that sells vinyl stickers in the colors and designs they want? Do customers want online options that sell stickers on platforms such as Etsy, or downloadable, printable designs so that they can print their own stickers with a printer and sticker paper?
- Choose a problem that is a pain point. “Pain point” is a business term that describes the amount of distress or pain that a particular problem causes people. If a problem causes enough pain then customers will desperately seek a solution to it. Are there no sticker businesses in your area? If there are other sticker businesses in your area, are people dissatisfied with the quality of the stickers they produce, the designs, or the sticker paper they use?
- Choose a problem that your business can easily solve. If people want stickers that feature copyrighted characters and brands, or if they want quality vinyl stickers at prices so low that you may as well be giving them out for free, then you can’t possibly deliver. But what you can do is provide them with vinyl stickers that feature new characters, designs, or a different logo or brand each month as a monthly special.
The two main goals of this step are to identify the problem that affects the most people, and to find out whether that problem affects people so much that they would pay for a solution.
Step 2: Build a community
You've identified a problem, so the next step is to build a community for the people affected by said problem. Thanks to modern technology, you can easily complete this step. You can use social media to build a community by creating a Reddit forum, Facebook group, or profiles on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.
When you build an online community with social media, you'll not only gain followers and create a potential client base, you'll develop your brand, as well as testing out various advertisements. If you were to start your business with the traditional startup method, it would take at least three separate steps to accomplish everything I’ve just mentioned. But the lean startup method allows you to accomplish it all in one step.
You should also diversify your community by creating offline community options as well. You can create offline community interactions through a club or meetup group that gets together regularly at local small businesses. Offline communities afford you the chance to become acquainted with your community, and customers love face-to-face interactions because they make them feel like they know you better. It's also beneficial because you can get customer feedback in real time, as opposed to waiting for customers to post online comments or fill out surveys.
Another benefit that you should take advantage of is local business groups. You should reach out to some of these groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, because they often offer a variety of benefits for local small businesses.
Reasons to build a community:
- You learn more about the problem you identified, like how many people are affected by the problem and how much it bothers them.
- You can begin to develop your branding as well as your advertising tactics.
- After you open your sticker business, this community will serve as a pool of potential clients who already know about you and your brand from your social media profiles.
- You will find that it is easier to obtain both funding and support for your sticker business in its beginning stages.
How to build a community:
- Establish a Facebook group that will serve as a platform for your community to discuss various sticker trends and craft techniques. This can function as a place to ask about the needs of this community, as well. Be consistent with your posts—you can do this by sharing content about vinyl stickers, various ways to cut stickers, different methods to sell stickers, Etsy tutorials, videos about sticker paper, free printable designs that are designed so that people can print their own vinyl stickers, and posting videos about a new top-of-the-line cutting machine, printer, or Cricut machine. When you interact with people in your community, the reach of your social media profile will grow.
- Twitter is another platform where you can gather a following. Twitter allows you to create interactive polls, and consumers love interactive content like this because it makes them feel as though they have a platform to voice their opinions.
- Start an Instagram account where you share pictures of creative craft projects made with stickers or sticker paper, various sticker designs such as a silhouette, or custom stickers, tips for using a new printer, cutting machine, or Cricut machine, tips to get started selling stickers on Etsy, pictures from craft fairs, etc. Instagram is an excellent platform to grow your community.
- You could also use your social media profiles to network with other small business owners, as well as people in the sticker industry. Business owners in the sticker industry can tell you about the market, state requirements for businesses, what you need to start selling on Etsy, all about creating an e-commerce store and selling stickers online. You can find out where to get the best prices on sticker paper, problems that others have had with a specific type of printer, whether customers buy a particular type of silhouette sticker or whether they prefer custom stickers and labels, various printing techniques, whether they love their Cricut machine or a different cutting machine, how to reduce the cost of your products, whether it’s harder to make a silhouette sticker or a label, etc.
Creating a community for your sticker business means you’ll obtain customer feedback that you need to figure out what products you want to sell and what sort of stickers customers want to buy. You will also gain support for your business through your online community.
Providing consumers with a place where they feel free to express their opinions will surely tell you everything you need to know. They will tell you about the types of stickers they currently buy, such as custom stickers and labels or “war” stickers with fun designs, whether they would be interested in buying silhouette stickers, how important the quality of the paper the stickers are printed on is to them, etc. They'll tell you what sort of projects that they use stickers on, as well as what they think about other sticker businesses in the area or online, such as a particular Etsy shop, and whether they were satisfied with the services.
The best part about creating a community is that the information is free and could very well contain everything you need to establish your company’s branding.
Creating a community also serves as free advertising for your sticker business. The more that customers interact with each post, the more visible your community will become to other users and the more it will grow. Once people spread the word that you take time to interact with your community and that your company uses customer feedback to create stickers and services that meet customer demands, you’ll see it grow even more.
Step 3: Identify a solution opportunity
After you've completed the first two steps you'll find that the problem you've identified still exists. Unfortunately, it takes more than realizing there's a problem. Resolving to develop a solution doesn't provide resolution to the problem.
While you're learning how to start a sticker business with the lean startup method you could use the community you built to ask questions and about the type of stickers that community members currently buy. Learn about other sticker businesses in the area and online e-commerce stores such as Etsy. Determine how satisfied your community is with the services that other sticker businesses provide and the stickers that they are currently buying. This is also a good chance for you to find out about the types of paper that other businesses are using, whether they only service businesses, if they provide custom stickers and labels, or if they provide more detailed pictures or silhouette stickers. You could also use this platform to find out if local businesses are using online stores to diversify the methods they use to sell their stickers.
You should ask how much members of your community pay for stickers, the cost of shipping if they bought their stickers online, the quality of the paper, printers, and cutting machines that other companies are using, if the company selling the stickers was upfront about the cost or if there were hidden fees or if they were charged an unreasonable shipping fee, if they were offered any free services or stickers, and anything else you can think of regarding the sale experience. Do other companies only cater to businesses by selling custom stickers with business logo designs on them and labels? How many other sticker companies operate in your town? Are there sticker businesses similar to your own online and in the form of e-commerce shops like Etsy? Do customers feel satisfied and loyal to other sticker businesses?
It seems like a lot of questions, but this information can provide the answers that you need to figure out what stickers your business will offer, as well as what branding you will use for your company, the cost of your stickers, whether you want to establish an online shop like Etsy, how much shipping should cost for your stickers, how to design your website, and the employees you’ll hire when you eventually buy your own sticker shop.
Step 4: Develop a solution
Unfortunately, the problem you identified in the first step remains unsolved by the time that you've reached the fourth step. Now you have identified a problem, created a community, and discovered a few possible solutions. It's time to create a solution to the problem. Developing the right solution means that your community will like it so much that they will happily pay for it.
How to develop your solution:
- Brainstorm a solution idea. If your community has voiced desires for quality stickers and paper that are printed the same day the order is received, that's exactly the service you should highlight in your branding. If people have complained about custom stickers and labels that other businesses provide then you should go out of your way to provide quality stickers and labels for businesses, as well as printable solutions at a low cost so that companies can print their own stickers and use a machine like a Cricut to cut them out.
- Solicit feedback from your community about your solution. It doesn’t matter what you think about your solution if it doesn’t meet your community’s needs. The majority of your community needs to agree that they like and support your solution idea. During this phase it is a good idea to talk to other people who own sticker businesses because they can tell you if your solution is feasible.
- Create and develop your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Your company's MVP will be the product that you can provide at the lowest cost, deliver easily and effectively, and the one that will provide the most profits for your company.
You'll know when you found your MVP if it has a low production cost and can be easily produced, and if people will pay a lot of money for it. If you get your MVP right, your company won't be pressured by financial strains from the high cost of production, and without this financial strain your company should be more successful.
Once you've completed the build phase, it's time to move on to the second phase of the lean startup method: the measure phase. I mean “measure” in the scientific sense of the word, where it typically means “test” or “experiment.” During this phase you’ll conduct tests to see how successful your solution idea is.
Step 5: Test your MVP
After you have identified and developed a solution, obtained feedback from community members about your solution, and developed an MVP, it's finally time to test the MVP. Learning how to start a sticker business with the lean startup method means that you’ll be conducting many experiments throughout the life of your company, so you should get comfortable with experiments early on.
There are many factors to consider when developing the MVP for your company. Some of these factors include whether the stickers you want to sell are versatile enough to sell on a variety of platforms, both in your shop and in online stores such as Etsy, various equipment types that you need to create your stickers, such as printers, sticker paper sheets and other materials, machines to cut out the stickers, such as a Cricut or cutting machine, graphic design software to create the images that you put on your stickers, and shipping packaging or materials. One of the best aspects of the lean startup method is that if an idea isn't successful, you can always start over and repeat the build, measure, learn process again until you find a product or a series of stickers that result in sales.
It might seem weird to test your MVP while still learning how to start a sticker business and before you even have a brick-and-mortar shop. However, if you think about it from a financial standpoint it makes a lot of sense. If you worked for a financial institution, would you be more likely to award funding to a prospective entrepreneur who has performed no market research and has no evidence that their business will succeed or one who comes equipped with a solid business plan and a well-established community of clients, has conducted thorough market research, and has tested their business? Of course, most financial institutions would choose the latter example, and no one could blame them.
Testing your MVP may be a scary prospect, but it's actually a simple procedure. And testing your MVP can be a great form of free advertisement for your business.
You can use a few methods to test your MVP while learning how to start a sticker business. The first is to set up a booth, stand, or table at a local craft fair, artist festival, flea market, or other local event. Take a printer, sheets of sticker paper, and a machine to cut your stickers out, as well as some printable designs for your stickers. Print your stickers out and offer free stickers at your booth, including ones with your logo. You should have several different types available, ranging from a basic logo or label to more intricate designs, silhouette stickers, and a few custom stickers. Make them memorable and eye-catching.
Also consider creating business cards and other merchandise with information about your services, including the website address of your Etsy store, as well as a list of your products and services.
Ask customers what they think about your products. Do they appreciate the quality of your stickers? How do your stickers or your Etsy website compare to those of local sticker businesses? Did they notice any stickers sold in your online shop that differ from your competitors? How likely are they to purchase stickers from your shop or refer their friends to your online Etsy store?
A good marker for success is if your booth experiences a lot of traffic and many visitors inquire how to purchase stickers online from your Etsy store or web address. If you’ve got a sticker business and you’re handing out free stickers, there should be a lot of interest in your booth. It’s not that hard to get people interested in stickers. But if there’s no traffic to your booth, then you’ll know that this test wasn’t successful and you need to start the process over.
Step 6: Sell your MVP
Once you’ve reached this step, you’ve already tested your MVP, learning about the market and industry experience. The sixth step is where you’ll finally sell your MVP. However, you should keep in mind that when you start making sales with the lean startup method, it won’t be as glamorous as the dream of selling stickers from the quaint little sticker shop that you’ve envisioned.
It’s important that you get this step right because it’s the last step to complete before the final stage, which involves receiving feedback from your community about your company and then moving on to applying for funding from a bank and growing your business. When you sell your MVP while still learning about your business, you have an advantage over businesses that were started using the traditional startup method. Completing this step will prove that you can sell your products, that you have the skills and knowledge to run your own business, and that you deserve funding from a financial institution.
When you own a sticker business, selling your MVP means that you need to have some printed stickers to sell. You should figure out how to set up an office somewhere temporarily, perhaps in your home. Create a website and an Etsy store so that you can take orders online. You’ll also need various shipping supplies, although for stickers a small cardboard sleeve or some bubble wrap and a shipping envelope should suffice. Some other things you’ll need if you plan to sell your stickers online are a printer, good graphic design software so that you can create printable designs on sheets of sticker paper or similar materials, and machines to cut stickers out with.
This is admittedly a long list of expensive materials, and many people don’t have the digital design skills necessary to make their own stickers. The good news is that you don’t have to purchase expensive printers, learn digital design, print or cut out your own stickers. You can contract out your orders to companies that already have the equipment they need, such as a printer, a vinyl cutting machine, and knowledge of digital design. Typically, it doesn’t cost as much money to contract out your work this way as it would to design, print, and cut the stickers yourself.
When you sell your MVP you’ll learn more about your business, as well as the market, receive industry experience, develop your branding, and start to build a customer base that loves your products.
The final phase is the learn phase, which is the last phase you’ll complete before you fund your business and figure out your branding. You’ve built strong foundations for your business and measured the strength of your MVP, so it’s now time to ask for feedback from your customers and your community about your business. You need to figure out if your community feels that the solution you’ve provided them with is enough to solve their problems. You can use the feedback that your customers give you to change your products and services so that they’re tailored to suit your community’s needs, which will result in a more successful sticker business.
Step 7: Get feedback on your product idea
You’ve now identified a problem that many people in your community are bothered by, created a community of people who love your business and your products, developed a solution that you think fits the needs of your community, as well as created, tested and then sold your company’s MVP. It took a lot of hard work and time to complete all these steps, but the result is you having more knowledge about the sticker industry, and you know more about your business, too. In the long run this will all lead to the overall success of your company. Here’s how you complete the learn phase and improve your business using the feedback your customers give you:
- Ask your community questions about their favorite stickers, what they like and dislike about your products, how your sticker business compares to other businesses of this type, and whether there are sticker types that they would like to see your company provide in the future. How do they feel about your custom stickers and labels? Would they like to see more silhouette stickers offered? Do they like your printable design options, and do they want to see more printable stickers in your Etsy shop or on your website?
- Carefully take note of the feedback that customers provide you with. Are your customers having problems with someone you work with? Do they like the quality of the printable designs you currently offer? How do they feel about your shipping rates? How easy is it for them to find and navigate your website? Do they have any problems with your Etsy store? Which is your best-selling sticker? Is there a particular type of sticker or a design that people have told you, “If you were to sell that, I’d buy it”?
- Improve your products using the feedback that your community has given you. Customizing your products based on feedback means they’ll be happier with your products and your business overall. Happy customers mean that your business will be more successful in the long run.
Once you get feedback, and you feel that you have a thorough understanding of what your community wants and needs, you now need to start tweaking your products and services using the suggestions your community provided you with.
While you’re working through this stage, you should note the sales, promotions, and advertisements of other sticker businesses. Each time a competing business starts a new campaign or introduces a new product they hope to sell, your competitors are trying to solve a problem that your community faces. If these tactics aren’t working and your competitors are struggling to sell a new product, then you’ll know not to use those tactics. But if you notice that your competitors are selling their new products or that they’re outselling your products, pay attention to these tactics and employ similar strategies yourself.
You’ve now been selling your products and proven that you can run a business, gaining experience and using your community’s feedback to improve your products, all while learning how your business works. Now is the time to expand your business and purchase a brick-and-mortar shop or studio. Purchasing a brick-and-mortar studio means that you’ll need to order top-of-the-line equipment and software, hire employees to help run it, and more. You’ll also need to check with your local and state governments to find out what business licenses you need to obtain.
Getting funding for your business should be quite easy. You’ve now got experience, knowledge, and skills under your belt, and you’ve proved that you can run a successful business. Any talented loan offer would gladly consider funding your business.
The work doesn’t stop once you’ve obtained funding, though. You’ll still have a lot of work to do.
You need to hire employees, and to hire employees you need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It’s also a good time to open a business bank account for your business. Opening a business bank account can keep your personal assets and finances protected, as well as make tax season go more smoothly.
It’s vital that you choose a business structure for your sticker business, as well. You can choose from a variety of different structures, such as partnerships, corporations, sole proprietorships and LLCs (limited liability companies). If you want to know more about the LLC business structure, check out my article about How to Form an LLC.
Another important task is choosing a registered agent. A registered agent is someone who accepts mail, legal documents and service of process on behalf of your business. If you want to know more about registered agents, check out my article about the Best Registered Agent.
It’s important that you choose the right location for your sticker business, too. Even if you choose to use your website or Etsy store to sell your products, it doesn’t mean that your physical location is less important. You should find a location that is easy to travel to, in a popular location with lots of foot traffic.
Here’s a list of some of the other activities you’ll need to complete:
- Hire employees: It’s important that you hire a crew of trustworthy employees that you enjoy working with, who add value to your shop. Here is a list of some of the positions you should hire for: cashier, artists and graphic designers, security (lots of expensive equipment), general manager, and a content creator (for your website or Etsy store).
- Follow state requirements: It’s a near certainty that you’ll need a business license issued by your state government, but you may be required to obtain licenses and permits from your local government, too. And you may need to meet other requirements, such as paying certain taxes or obtaining specific types of insurance.
- Find the right wholesalers: It’s important that you find your materials for a great price, without sacrificing quality. This means finding wholesalers who will give you a discount on bulk products, and who meet your quality standards.
- Switch on the utilities: It’s time to switch on the utilities in your new shop! Here’s a list of some of the utilities you’ll need to run your business: electricity, wifi, water, heating and air, a good ventilation system, and a good security system.
- Business software. Every business, no matter its nature, needs quality business software. Business software can make many everyday activities easier, such as taxes, payroll, inventory management, tracking orders, and maintaining a list of customer information for marketing reasons. For more information about business software, check out my article on the Best Business Software.
- Upgrade your equipment: If you haven’t been able to buy a good printer or cutting machine, or spend the big bucks for top-quality sticker paper, now is the time to do it.
Congratulations! It’s difficult to start a sticker business, and this is made more difficult because four out of five businesses started with the traditional startup method will fail within their first year. However, using the lean startup method to start your sticker business increases your business’s chance of success. Here are the steps to start a business using the lean startup method:
- Identify a problem.
- Build a community.
- Identify a solution opportunity.
- Develop a solution.
- Test your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
- Sell your MVP.
- Get feedback on your product idea.
You’re not finished once you complete the final step. The build, measure, learn phases cycle repeatedly throughout the duration of your business. Continually working on your business this way ensures its success well beyond its first year.
Starting a business is hard work. But if you’re passionate about making stickers, that passion will give you the drive you need to ensure that your sticker business succeeds. The lean startup method’s high success rate will give your business a better chance as well.
Congratulations again on your sticker business, and best of luck on your business journey!
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