You’re a style leader — a person with impeccable taste and an eye for detail. Your fashion ideas turn heads and you really want to take that to the next level. It makes sense to consider opening a boutique where others can sample your wares and purchase their favorite items. But being a boutique owner comes with a fair share of hard work to make the dream a reality.
Benefits of Opening Your Own Boutique
As of 2020, there are around 74,007 boutique businesses in the U.S. As big box stores take over, shoppers yearn for stores that still hold classic values and business practices. More than ever, consumers want convenience and ease as well. With the right positioning, your business could rise to the challenge, whether you open an online boutique, a retail storefront, or both.
How to Start Your Own Boutique Checklist
Starting your boutique is an important decision. And when you put in the hard work and time, you’ll boost your chances to create a solid business that can run for years to come.
Take a look at the following checklist before opening your boutique.
Checklist for How to Start Your Own Boutique:
- Create a Business Plan
- Choose a Business Structure
- Determine Your Boutique Business Costs
- Name Your Business
- Register Your Boutique Business and Open Financial Accounts
- Purchase Equipment for Your Boutique Business
- Market Your Boutique Business
1. Create a Business Plan
Every journey needs planning, and it’s no different for your business. A business plan can help you navigate and map out some of the trickier steps you’ll take with your boutique.
Consider the following in your business plan:
- What is the idea behind the business and what consumer need is it fulfilling?
- What are your goals and are they SMART? (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)
- Are there any potential problems you can picture? What if your location is invisible or someone else opens up your boutique’s twin next door?
- How do you plan to measure your progress?
- What’s your ideal boutique customer profile and target market? Think about age, gender, location, buying habits, and income bracket.
- What costs are involved?
- What services will you offer, like gift wrapping and free shipping? Will you open an online boutique as well?
- Think about pricing. Where will you get stock, and how much will you mark it up? Do you know any wholesalers?
- Are you entitled to any tax breaks or local grants?
2. Choose a Business Structure
An important choice in the creation of your boutique is its business structure. Most small businesses choose between creating an LLC or a sole proprietorship.
As a sole proprietor, you can operate alone or with employees as long as you register the business. But be careful, because your personal assets won’t be separate from the boutique business. If something happens to your business, it happens to your house and other assets, too. Also, to get funding, a sole proprietor has to go through the Small Business Administration (SBA), where your credit history will impact the outcome.
For shipshape shop structure, many new boutique owners set up a limited liability company (LLC). An LLC can have multiple business owners, or just one. It offers tax flexibility and liability protection up to the amount of your investment. Your personal assets are generally separate from the business, and from the boutique’s debt.
Generally speaking, if an LLC complies with all necessary regulations and laws, the owners are protected if the company is sued.
3. Determine Your Boutique Business Costs
Don’t start a boutique without knowing what you’ll spend. The size and location of your physical storefront are big deciding factors. Consider costs of inventory, equipment, and business services like accounting, cleaning, and maintenance.
There are also fixed costs to consider that may be one-time costs or ongoing. These can include licenses, permits, business registration fees, insurance, the costs of applying for an LLC, building a website/online store, and branding. Factor in ongoing costs like rent or lease payments, business taxes, and utility bills. Shopkeep.com’s article on boutique startup costs puts the price tag at an average of $100,000. But those costs vary greatly depending on your business plan.
How can you fund your boutique’s startup costs?
Depending on your situation, there are a few funding options open to your new boutique.
- Government assistance: Government financial help for companies like boutiques has increased during COVID-19. However, businesses need to meet certain criteria in order to claim assistance.
- Credit cards: Business credit cards typically carry lower interest rates than personal cards, but don’t use them lightly. They still have higher rates than business loans, and credit card debt can mount up quickly when you’re buying merchandise.
- Loans: Bank loans can provide deep funding, but many banks want to see an operating agreement before they’ll transfer money. An operating agreement answers key questions that let the bank know your business plan is sound.
Friends and family: Borrowing money from friends and family can be tempting, but any related stress can sour relationships. If you do seek funding from your mom or dad for your boutique, it’s a good plan to get everything on paper, signed by all parties, perhaps witnessed by a notary.
4. Name Your Business
Choosing a good name for your boutique can be fun, but a little stressful too. A business name needs to send a message to your clientele. It needs to tell your story and pull customers through the doors. Names like Apple Blossoms, Hello Beautiful, and Polka Dots convey fun and fashion, while American Blues and Storied Style create a sense of elegance.
Your boutique’s company name also needs to be different from any other boutique in the state. If it’s an LLC, the title must have “LLC” in it. Don’t worry — the store itself can have a different name, and companies can operate by doing business as a different name than their official one.
Consider these naming points:
- Has the boutique company name already been used?
- Is it easy to understand?
- Does it get across your style, brand, and merchandise?
- Are there any prohibited words for LLCs in your state? (A quick Google search for your state should bring up online areas through the state for looking this up.)
- Can you establish an online store or ecommerce presence with this name?
- Is the domain name for a website available?
5. Register Your Boutique Business and Open Financial Accounts
Once you’ve named your boutique LLC, it’s time to register your store as a business and open financial accounts.
- Appoint a registered agent to accept legal papers on the company’s behalf.
- Your paperwork will need to be filed with your state, which will incur a filing fee.
- Although not a legal requirement in most states, it’s smart to create an operating agreement.
- Apply for an employer identification number (EIN) — assigned to your boutique LLC by the IRS.
- Get licensing or zone permits.
- Apply for a business license.
- Consider your insurance options, like general liability insurance. Talk to an insurance agent about how to protect yourself from financial catastrophe.
- Open a business bank account. You’ll need to show or send your operating agreement to the bank.
To find out more about loan options, contracts, and other forms of assistance for small businesses, the SBA can help. To look into tax information for businesses, visit the businesses section on the IRS website.
6. Purchase Equipment for Your Boutique Business
Setting up a clothing boutique often isn’t cheap. Start out with the basics, and pay attention to your budget as you plan your steps. Small boutiques that sell T-shirts and sunglasses cost a lot less to start than high-fashion retailers. But there are a few common elements to consider:
- Painting and wallpaper
- A front desk and POS system
- Display boards
- Display racks
- Clothing racks
- Coat hangers
Take a walk through boutiques and even some bigger retail businesses in your area and jot down equipment ideas. A short information-gathering conversation with a current boutique owner can save you headaches down the road, and it can give you some great ideas for your own business. Then look to Alibaba for inspiration and deals on the kinds of boutique equipment you might need.
7. Market Your Boutique Business
Becoming a boutique owner is just the start. Knowing how to market your startup can launch your business to new heights. Friends, family, and word of mouth are always helpful, but there are other strategies that can provide the extra boost you need.
Create profiles on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for your boutique and use them to create a personality and unique voice. Post regularly across your platforms with unique and interesting content, sales, and images. Sign-up for Google My Business so potential customers can find your shop and also leave reviews and comments on their experience. For more online marketing inspiration, check out these articles from The Boutique Hub.
Use local business directories as well as print media to get your store’s name into homes and workspaces. Another great idea is to partner with local businesses by offering products, exchanges, and competitions.
Examples of Boutique Businesses to Start
Boutique stores vary in their wares and what they offer — from tiny trinkets and pretty soaps to shiny shoes and unique clothing lines. Your inventory speaks volumes about who you are and the market you cater to.
Common examples of clothing boutique businesses include:
- Women’s clothing
- Men’s clothing
- Children’s clothing
- High fashion
Ready for a Beautiful Boutique?
Opening your own boutique can be an exciting opportunity to show off your style, taste, and fashion to the market. Building trust and rapport with customers through a solid business outline, ethical trading, and a lovable brand story can set you apart from other boutiques in the area. With an $18 billion market, the boutique industry is set to generate cash flow for years to come.
- How can I come up with a great name for my boutique business?
It’s easy (and free) to create an informal focus group: Brainstorm boutique company names with friends and family — especially those that you believe fit your “ideal” customer demographic. Also, try Facebook polls to see what gets the most attention from your network, and look at other boutique names online for inspiration.
- How can I drive traffic to my website for my boutique business?
Getting set up in local social media groups and building email lists are two great ways to drive traffic to your new business. Consider setting up an online boutique through ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, then look into built-in traffic-boosting plugins.
- Is running your own boutique profitable?
Like any business, a boutique’s profit potential is what you make it. With annual clothing store revenue of $200 billion for 95,000 stores, average revenue is up over $200,000 a year.
- How much does the average boutique owner make?
The average boutique owner salary is a varied range, with some sites listing it at $33,000 per year, and others going up to $100,000.