How to Start a Greeting Card Business
You’ve got the creativity and a knack for heartfelt messages. Now you’re thinking of channeling those gifts into starting a greeting card business. While having an artistic edge is important, there’s more to building a successful business than crafting the perfect card.
Starting a greeting card business can be a rewarding venture, and because you can do it part-time and with a relatively small investment, it’s an accessible business option, too. To help get things kicked off, we’ll provide an overview of the greeting card business, provide practical steps to get started, and answer some common questions.
Greeting card businesses design and create greeting cards that consumers buy in stores or online. These businesses often offer lines of cards for various occasions, including birthdays, holidays, weddings, condolences, and more. A greeting card business may design cards and then send them off to a printer to be printed, but some companies handle the entire process, designing and then hand-making each card individually.
A business may sell its cards in multiple ways. Some businesses only wholesale cards, selling them to retailers and gift shops, who then sell them to consumers. Some businesses do a combination of wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales. A business may sell online through its website or rely on sites like Etsy and Amazon to help drive sales. Some handmade cards may also sell well at craft fairs and other events.
While it’s entirely possible to run a business out of your home and handmake your own cards, outsourcing the actual card creation to a printer can quickly increase your volume.
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The greeting card publishing industry has faced declining revenues in recent years due to shifts toward digital communication. Despite this shift, consumers still purchase over 6.5 billion greeting cards each year, and is a $6.8 billion market.
According to the Greeting Card Association, the most popular type of greeting card is the birthday card, followed by cards for seasonal holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This market is largely female-driven, with women accounting for four out of every five card purchases. The average American spends approximately $100 each year on greeting cards. Outside of seasonal cards, weddings, anniversaries, graduation, and get well cards are also big sellers.
The industry is vast, with numerous players ranging from large companies to independent artists and small businesses. To stand out, personalization and uniqueness are increasingly key trends to succeed in the greeting card industry. Customers are increasingly seeking out cards that offer something different from mass-produced versions – this could be a unique design, handmade elements, or customization options. Sustainability is another significant trend, with a growing preference for eco-friendly materials and processes. And while brick-and-mortar sales still dominate, there is a noticeable shift towards online sales, which opens up new opportunities for businesses to reach a wider audience.
Steps To Start A Greeting Card Business
With proper planning and preparation, you can make your greeting card company dream a reality. Here are some common steps to take while starting your business.
Step 1: Research the Market
The first step in starting a greeting card business, or any business for that matter, is conducting market research. This step allows you to assess who your market is, whether there’s sufficient demand for your cards, and how to stand out from the competition.
Market research involves gathering and analyzing information about your potential customers and competitors. You’ll want to understand who your customers are, what they want, and how much they’re willing to pay. For example, are they looking for personalized, handmade cards or unique designs that can’t be found elsewhere? What occasions do they typically buy cards for, and how often do they purchase them? You can use this information to create unique and differentiated products that appeal to a specific niche or customer segment.
In addition to understanding your customers, you’ll also want to analyze your competitors. Who are the major players in the greeting card industry? What types of cards do they offer, and at what price points? What are their strengths and weaknesses? This will help you identify gaps in the market that your business can fill.
While market research isn’t an exact science, it can provide valuable insights that can significantly reduce the risks associated with starting a new business. For instance, if your research shows that there’s a high demand for eco-friendly greeting cards, but few companies are offering them, this could be a unique selling point for your business.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
After getting a better understanding of the market, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. I know that a business plan isn’t a required step and believe me, creating a business plan might not be the most thrilling part of starting a greeting card business, but it’s one that I still recommend. Why?
For starters, a business plan has you to define and set clear goals and objectives for your greeting card business. This process helps to provide direction and establish priorities to focus on what’s most important for your business.
Your business plan should also include a detailed strategy for the operations of your business. This includes everything from how you will be designing and producing your cards to shipping and delivering them. This section helps you to prepare for unexpected challenges that may arise.
A business plan serves as a tool to map out the financial aspects of your greeting card business. This includes the initial start-up costs, projected cash flow, and revenue projections. By forecasting these numbers in advance, you can determine how much capital you need to get started and if additional funding will be required.
Overall, a business plan serves as a reality check. It helps you gauge whether your greeting card business is a viable proposition. If, after laying out all your plans, the numbers just don’t add up or the market seems too narrow, you’ll know it’s time to reassess.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Source Funds
Understanding your startup costs is necessary when launching a greeting card business, even if the initial costs are relatively low. This step allows you to plan your finances effectively, ensuring that you have enough funds to cover all necessary expenses and keep the business running until it becomes profitable.
Startup costs for a greeting card business may include design software, materials for creating cards (such as paper, ink, and embellishments), printing equipment or services, packaging supplies, website development, marketing, and distribution costs. You’ll also need to consider ongoing expenses like rent (if you’re not working from home), utilities, website maintenance, and replenishment of materials.
Once you’ve calculated your startup costs, you can assess whether you have enough money on hand to get started. If not, there are a number of funding options, such as friends and family, bank loans, and credit cards (usually not the best long-term option).
Step 4: Register the Business
The next step is to legally establish your greeting card business. The specific requirements may vary based on your location, but here are some of the key tasks to be aware of:
Choose a business structure: The first step is to decide on your business structure. The four main types are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest structure, where the business and the owner are considered the same legal entity. It’s easy to set up and has lower costs, but it doesn’t offer any liability protection.
- General partnership: This is similar to a sole proprietorship, but it involves two or more people. Each partner shares the profits, losses, and liability of the business.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. It provides liability protection, but it’s more complex and expensive to set up.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines the liability protection of a corporation with the simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership.
Given the low risk and simplicity of starting, a sole proprietorship is often chosen when starting a greeting card business. If the business grows to the point where liability protection or the tax strategy makes sense, you can change over to the LLC.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Step 5: Set Up Operations
After knowing who you want to sell to and the business registered, the next step finally gets us to the nuts and bolts of setting up the business.
Starting off, you will need to figure out the process of taking a card from an idea to something that customers can purchase. After designing the card, the question becomes, will you print the cards yourself or outsource this to a print service? Printing in-house gives you more control but requires investment in a good-quality printer and design software. Outsourcing is easier but might cut into your profits. If you do outsource to a printer, look for a supplier who is willing to negotiate on printing runs so you don’t have to buy more cards than you really need.
Once you have your materials and printing sorted, you’ll decide where and how to sell your products. An online store like Shopify offers the most control over your brand, but platforms like Etsy can help you reach a broader audience quickly. Don’t underestimate the power of local sales channels, either. Retailers and craft fairs can be excellent venues to get your cards in front of people. After all, people like to feel a card’s quality and see the colors in person before buying.
Step 6: Determine Pricing
Pricing your products is both an art and a science, and the first step is to calculate how much it costs to produce one greeting card. This isn’t just the cost of paper and ink. Include the fees for any online marketplaces you’re using, any packaging materials, and even the electricity it takes to run your equipment. This gives you your baseline, the bare minimum you’ll need to charge to break even.
Next, take some time to check out your competitors. What are they charging for similar products? While you don’t have to match or beat their prices, knowing the market rate can help you decide where you fit in. If your cards offer something unique, such as hand-painted elements or premium materials, you might be able to charge a premium price.
One area that a lot of new business owners get wrong is valuing their time. Time is money, as the saying goes, and if it takes you two hours to design a new card, that labor cost should be reflected in the price. Remember, you’re not just selling paper and ink; you’re selling your creativity and effort, too.
Once you’ve set your initial prices, pay close attention to how your cards are selling. Are people snapping them up quickly, or are they lingering in your online store? Don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing based on customer behavior and feedback.
Pricing is a bit like a puzzle. Every piece, from costs to competitors to your own sweat and time, needs to fit together to create a complete picture.
Step 7: Create a Marketing Strategy
just like any marketplace, there are giants here. Big brands dominate the racks, but there’s a growing niche for custom, handmade cards that speak volumes more than mass-produced ones. The challenge? Standing out and finding your own slice of the market pie.
The first thing when creating a marketing strategy is to know your target market. Who is your card designed for, and what is the age range that will appreciate it the most? Is it for specific occasions like birthdays, Christmas, or weddings? Once you have identified your target market, it will be easier to create content that resonates with them. It will also help with defining your brand voice and style, making it easier for you to appeal to that group.
With your market in mind, you can connect the dots and figure out how to best get your cards in front of them. A few ways greeting card businesses do this include:
- Create a website and social media presence: This will give you a platform to showcase your greeting cards and connect with potential customers. Be sure to update your website and social media pages regularly with new content, such as photos of your greeting cards, behind-the-scenes content, and special offers.
- Run paid advertising campaigns: Paid advertising campaigns can be a great way to reach a wider audience and promote your greeting cards. You can run paid advertising campaigns on search engines, social media platforms, and other websites.
- Attend trade shows and craft fairs. This is a great way to meet potential customers and promote your greeting cards in person. Be sure to bring a variety of greeting cards with you to trade shows and craft fairs, and be prepared to answer questions about your greeting cards and your business.
- Partner with retailers: Partnering with other businesses that complement your greeting card business is an excellent way of increasing your reach. Find retailers such as gift shops and bookstores that are willing to stock up your cards in their stores. Offer them an attractive deal and provide them with samples of your card collections. This partnership will not only bring more visibility to your brand, but you’ll also be able to reach a wider audience.
If you plan to wholesale your cards, you will need to choose your prices carefully. Most retail stores want to achieve a 50% markup in their sales. Be sure to keep this in mind, so you still make a profit.
Step 8: Prepare to Launch!
Before you officially open the doors of your greeting card business, there are several loose ends to tie up. Every business will have different needs, but here are some common things.
Business bank account: Opening a separate business bank account can help keep your personal and business finances separate, making tax time much easier.
Credit card processing: To conduct business efficiently, you’ll need a way to accept credit card payments. Payment processors like Square or Stripe can integrate with your online store or be used at events.
Common Questions When Starting A Greeting Card Business
How much does it cost to start a greeting card business?
Starting a greeting card business can cost anywhere from $1,600 to $4,500, depending on various factors such as location, scale, and the quality of materials you’re using. Let’s break down the categories where you’ll likely incur expenses:
Materials and inventory: Your initial stock might cost you anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on the variety and volume.
Equipment: You’ll need a good quality printer and software. A reliable printer can cost around $300 to $800.
Business registration: To register your business name and acquire the necessary licenses, you’ll spend around $100 to $500, depending on your state’s requirements.
Website and online store: If you opt for an online presence, buying a domain name and setting up a website can cost around $200 initially.
Marketing: Your initial marketing budget could be around $500-$1,000. This can include the cost of creating initial marketing materials like posters or online ads.
How much can a greeting card business owner make?
A greeting card business’s profits will depend on many factors, including its profit margins, how it sells its cards, and the number of years that the business has been in operation.
Let’s put this into numbers to get a clearer picture. Say you sell each card for $5. If you manage to sell 1,000 cards in a month, your revenue would be $5,000.
Now, let’s talk about expenses. For simplicity, let’s consider your total monthly expenses are $1,000. This includes material costs, marketing, and other operational costs. So your gross profit for the month would be $5,000 (revenue) – $2,000 (expenses) = $3,000.
So, with a revenue of $5,000 and expenses at $2,000, you could potentially make a net profit of $3,000 per month or $36,000 per year if you maintain the same pace.
This is a simplified example, and real-world factors like seasonality, marketing expenses, and economic conditions can affect your actual profits. But this gives you a starting point to gauge the financial potential of a greeting card business.
To increase profits, consider selling add-on products like specialized envelopes and nice pens.
What skills are helpful in running a greeting card business?
Starting a greeting card business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences can increase the chances of that business becoming a success.
Creativity: Creativity is a major asset in this industry and can help a business owner design new and exciting cards to help the business stand out from the competition.
Design skills: Experience as a graphic designer is valuable when creating business cards. Awareness of design aesthetics and color usage will help a designer to create artwork that looks great.
Writing talents: Creating greeting cards isn’t only about design. A card designer also needs to be a skilled wordsmith to come up with just the right words and messaging for each sentiment.
An eye for detail: Attention to detail is a must, from ensuring cards look their best to filling orders and managing inventory.
Networking talents: If a business owner wants to sell their cards in stores, then networking and negotiation skills can help them build connections and relationships with store owners.
Awareness of trends: A business owner who’s aware of what’s selling and in-demand at the moment can ensure that the business’ cards fulfill this demand, increasing their chances of selling.
Customer service skills: Strong customer service skills will help a business owner to create positive customer experiences to encourage repeat business.
What is the NAICS code for a greeting card business?
The NAICS code for a greeting card publisher is 511191.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?
Greeting Card Association