Eventually, you might get to a point in your upholstery journey where you find yourself considering starting an upholstery business of your own.  You have done enough pieces to know the process inside and out, and not only that, but you love it! You find joy in completing the projects and working with fabrics. You have friends and family members who are beginning to ask you if you want to reupholster furniture for them.

As a response you are starting to daydream about what it would be like to run your own upholstery business. You are tired of your 9-5 job and answering to someone else, but aren’t sure where to start. If you are sitting there nodding your head in agreement or silently thinking “yes! I want to start my own business”, as you read, then you are in luck as today we are going to dive into how to Launch your Upholstery Business!

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Starting an Upholstery Business

Before diving into the fun stuff, we need to set a foundation. There are a few misconceptions out there about running your own business, whether in upholstery or not. First, you must know going into it, that being an entrepreneur means YOU will be putting in A LOT of hard work. You will need to devote a lot of time to make this a successful business.

Many think that working for yourself is easy, or you can take all the time off you want. This could not be further from the truth. Owning and running your own business is hard. When you are starting out, there won’t be much, if any, time off. You have to go all-in at the beginning if you want to make it work. If that scares you, then maybe this isn’t for you. However, know that in the end, IT IS ALL WORTH IT.  More on that later though!

Here are a few qualities that I think all entrepreneurs and business owners should possess:

  • A Self-Starter
  • Hard Worker 
  • Organized
  • Honest – Stay true to your word – If you say you’ll do it, then you darn well better do it!
  • True to Oneself – This will be your business and every person is not your ideal client.

If you read that list and checked all the boxes, then congratulations! You have what it takes to run a business! 

Pro Tip: Know who your ideal client is before starting – you’ll avoid a lot of frustration that way! As a small business owner, being able to accept credit card payments is also one of the most important small business tools that should be at the top of your list. By accepting credit cards, you’re making it easier for customers to do business with you. However, when choosing a credit card processing provider, you need to compare the credit card processing fees they charge so you can get the best possible deal.

Steps to Starting an Upholstery Business

01. Pick A Business Name

First, you will want to think of a business name. This can be the hardest part sometimes. My suggestion would be to pick one that easily describes what you do.  There are a lot of “cute” options but you want your clients to be able to identify your service offerings quickly.   Don’t give up. The perfect name is there.

02. Buy The Domain Name

Once you have selected a business name, I suggest purchasing the domain name for your business. Even if you aren’t ready to build your website yet, you still want to do this now! This will prevent someone else from taking your online name.

03. Make It Official

Once your domain name is secured, find out what you need to do in your state/town to get a license to do business. You’ll have to register with the state. If you are planning to start your business abroad such as in Hong Kong, here is the business registration fee Hong Kong for reference. Then get a Tax ID number through the IRS. Part of owning your own business involves bookkeeping. Be prepared to do this yourself or hire an accountant.

04. Decide Your Business Model

How will you run your business? Are you going to reupholster for clients? Will you design and create pieces to sell?  A combination of both? Have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like and how you want it to operate. 

Business Model | Custom Work for Clients

If you decide to go this route, you’ll want to have a few things in place before starting.

First, set up vendor accounts so you can easily purchase supplies, fabric, and tools at wholesale prices. You can also buy more in bulk at a better price! Creating those vendor relationships early on is beneficial. 

Establish two or three fabric vendors, as well as Upholstery Supply vendors. Furniture frame companies like Chervan are vendors you want to establish a relationship with. Think of these vendors as your business partners! 

Once you’ve established your vendor accounts, the next step is to have policies in place.

Again, think about how you want your business to look. 

  • Will you pick up and deliver furniture pieces?
  • If so, will you charge for this service or is it built into the price? 
  • Do you require a deposit before adding the job to your schedule? 
  • Will you use the customer’s own fabric or only the fabric you sell?
  • What will be your standard turnaround time? 

Pro Tip: Make sure your timeframe is reasonable so you aren’t killing yourself trying to complete projects, but also not leaving your clients antsy. I suggest providing an estimated range. This will protect you, as you don’t know what you’ll find once you get into a project.

Business Model | Design + Create Pieces to Sell

Maybe you’d rather not deal with individual clients and their pieces of furniture. You would rather design your own works of art and sell them. This gives you more creative freedom and allows you to work on only the projects you enjoy. Before starting out, I would recommend doing some research to see what is selling in your area. You’ll want to develop your own style so you stand out, while also creating those pieces that are in demand.  

Possible search items could be:

  • Country style
  • Farm style
  • Modern
  • Bohemian
  • Etc.

In addition, start thinking about branding your business. Depending on your business model, you will want to think about what client you want to attract. Your branding will help you attract your ideal client, but first, you need to know who that is. Therefore, you’ll need to know who they are, where they shop, and what trends they follow.

The Cost of Starting a Business:

Getting started in your upholstery business doesn’t have to cost that much. To keep costs down in the early days, work out of your home and start with just the basic tools you’ll need. Wait until you start to have a profit before you invest more in tools.

Pro tip: Don’t work 7 days a week. I repeat, Do NOT work everyday! You will burn out before you even get started.

It is very important to remember that almost every business takes 3 years or MORE to get fully established with a customer following.

During those early years, there will be hard times. However, I encourage you, don’t give up. In just a few short years, good upholsters typically have a thriving business. Many go on to make 6 figures, but you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to get there.  

Run your business like a business – NOT like a charity.  Think of other service based businesses and what you as the consumer are willing to pay them for their expertise. Your business is no different. Your clients will want to pay you for your expertise. Work for clients that fit your business, not for clients who want to micromanage you and dictate what you do in your business. 

A Word of Caution

I see many new upholsterers starting an upholstery business before they are ready. While I know it is tempting to agree to upholster your best friend’s chair- don’t! Wait until you are equipped and ready! Don’t give up your steady income while you are getting established.  Remember I said you had to work hard?  So for a while, you’ll be working two jobs, one that pays the bills and one that will become the career you’ll love and want.  Trust me, it is worth it.  If you wait until you are truly ready to start, and you make it through those first years, you will look back and be so grateful that you not only waited until the right moment, but that you didn’t give up!

Read more about why you shouldn’t perform upholstery client work too soon here!

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Kim’s Upholstery is all about helping and equipping others to learn the art of upholstery for pleasure, and if they want, enabling them to create an income for themselves – all on their own schedule!