Selling antiques and upcycled furniture can be a lucrative and sustainable business, provided that you put enough energy and effort in planning your model. Don’t treat this venture as a hobby, and you can expect more than a hobby income from it. Whether you are new to the industry of interior design or have experience in the area, you will still have plenty to learn about running this type of business. To help you avoid some of the most common startup mistakes, you will find a few tips to consider before you jump head first.
Find Your Niche Market
Selling antiques is a vague description of any business. You will need to find your market that is interested in what you can get them and your suppliers. Some people simply get started with this venture doing house clearances and renovations, coming across some well designed and valuable items that are too good to get rid of. No matter what got you thinking about starting your business, you will have to find your niche; let it be small boutique hotels, B and Bs or family villa owners.
Get Your Finance Right
Chances are that you will have to invest in stock and premises when starting an antique and upcycling business. You will also need some industry licenses, and this will further increase your startup costs. If you would like to make sure you are not stretching further than you should, it is recommended that you get help with preparing a financial plan. This will not only help you keep an eye on your costs, but also serve your interest when applying for business finance.
Develop Your Workshop
No matter if you are renovating antique furniture or upcycling vintage items, you will need the space. You might want to build your own steel structure workshop or rent an industrial building that has the adequate infrastructure and security for your business. Your workshop must serve the purpose of your business; you need to take care of lighting, climate control, air conditioning, security, and power. The tools you are using might need a higher voltage than regular power machines, therefore, you must check the supplies and the wiring before you strike a deal.
Focus on International Markets
While domestic markets can be profitable, you should not exclude international deliveries. In the United States, China, and some Asian countries, the growing upper class might be interested in unique items to furnish their homes. If you can create a pricing strategy that serves domestic and international customers alike, you will have a greater chance of making profits. There are plenty of international online auction sites thanks to the faster and more reliable internet access around the world, so why not take advantage of the latest technological developments?
Do Your Market Research
You wouldn’t start any business without researching your market and getting to know your target customer. If you miss this crucial step of building your venture, you will have to face some unpleasant surprises. It is important that you read industry magazines and find out what is popular and how much various processes and renovation projects cost. Without this, you cannot develop a competitive offer and convince your buyers. Check online auction sites and – if you feel like – record the sale prices of items, so you can calculate your profits and determine the right price to buy at.
Don’t Forget About the Competition
Just like any business, antique and vintage furniture sales are extremely competitive. You will have to account for the bargaining power of the competition, unless you have an exclusive source where you get antiques and quality vintage furniture from. Your competition might offer more money to sellers, and you will end up with no stock. They might also have access to markets you haven’t yet discovered, and turn around items faster than you. Make sure that you study the most successful companies in your market and learn from them.
Shipping Methods and Costs
One of your greatest variable cost will be shipping. When moving large items, you will need to get a specialist company with adequate insurance and well trained staff, so you can avoid accidents and damage to your goods. Companies like Freo Group have various shipping and haulage packages and a clear pricing policy, so you can calculate the cost that you want to charge your international customers for the insurance and door-to-door delivery.
You shouldn’t forget about taking out business insurance, either, when starting an antique or upcycled furniture business. You are likely to come across customers who are not happy with the condition of the item received, no matter how good your photos and description are. It is crucial that you cover your premises and take out public liability insurance. If you employ staff, you must provide them with health and safety training and equipment, so you can avoid injury claims. However, if you have a business insurance, you can at least cover the legal costs when things go wrong.
Study Demand and Styles
You need to become the expert in the industry if you would like to take advantage of the knowledge and ride on the latest trends. You can study the latest demands and styles by attending conferences and exhibitions, or even learning more about the history of furniture and trends online. Find an online degree program that will give you that competitive edge and help you determine what each item is worth.
Study Interior Design
As a complementary skill, you might also want to study interior design. This will help you advise your customers and prospects about arranging and displaying some of the most valuable items. You can find plenty of online courses or sources of information. Interior design is a great skill to have if you are trying to help your customers make the most out of their homes or spaces and find the best way of selling them unique items.
Subscribe to Trends
Even if you get formal education, you will need to be prepared for changes in taste and preferences, so you can change your business accordingly. You are likely to find several quality international interior design and antiques magazines you can subscribe to online, and there are plenty of experts and auction houses that offer a free or low cost newsletter. It is important that you keep an eye on the trends and the various emerging technologies that can reduce your cost and turnaround times. You will even be able to advertise in some of these magazines and newsletters, so you can build a strong brand.
As a small startup antique or vintage upcycled item retailer, you will find it difficult to find customers on your own. It is important that you build great relationships with suppliers, as well as professional interior designers. You can approach smaller designers and larger companies that would be interested in what you have to offer. If you can create a blog that provides value for industry leaders, you can get them to sign up for updates and newsletters, and it is more likely that you can enter a long term partnership with them.
Develop Your Online Presence
No business can survive without online presence in the 21st century. You should have a website that allows your visitors to browse your projects and items for sale, and even take a virtual tour in your workshop. You will also have to register your business in local and international business directories, so people looking for unique furniture will find you. It is not enough to have a website if you cannot draw targeted traffic to it and get people to contact you. Give your potential customers more than one way to get in touch; phone, online chat, messenger, and social media. You can benefit from Pinterest marketing like many other small startups before, and get your site and brand to become popular.
Build Your Showroom
Once you have established your brand in the marketplace, it might be time to create a showroom online or at your workshop, where people can browse. While some antique dealers choose to go to exhibitions and trade shows regularly, this can cost a lot of money, and success is not guaranteed. If you can get people to visit your showroom or take a virtual tour, you will be able to show off your style and unique brand without having to spend money and time traveling and delivering your furniture from one location to the next. You can even create an online showroom embedded in your website, if you choose the right designer.
If you are thinking about starting your online or offline antique and vintage furniture business, you need to be prepared for a strong competition. Trends change, and you will have to find the niche market, you can provide more value than other small companies. Build strong partnerships with potential suppliers and end users, and focus on creating a strong, unique brand that people can relate to.