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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
✔ Need more information about business entity types? Check out this guide that compares the pros and cons of different business structures →
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:
Name your boutique
Enter your desired LLC name to get started
Once you’ve named your boutique LLC, it’s time to register your store as a business and open financial accounts.
✔ Learn all you need to know to set up a business checking account in this guide →
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.
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.
✔ Business costs may seem overwhelming to calculate. Learn how to calculate your small business costs in this guide →
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.
✔ After putting all the numbers together, do you know the bare minimum you have to sell to keep your business profitable? Make your projections by using our break-even calculator →
Depending on your situation, there are a few funding options open to your new boutique.
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.
✔ What funding options do you have as a business owner? Learn how to fund your business in this guide →
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:
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.
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.
✔ Learn what you can do to effectively market your business here →
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:
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.
We’ll form your LLC today so you can hit the ground running for just $0 + state fee. Past that, we’ll introduce you to the best resources to help run and grow your business as efficiently as possible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
“This is your life.
You want to get it right.”
– Mark Cuban on Starting a Business
Entrepreneur and Shark Tank host lays out
3 steps to follow when starting a business
Start an LLC in Your State
When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for forming an LLC.
Ready to Start Your Boutique?