Last Updated on August 17, 2020
There’s something so touching about receiving a greeting card in the mail, but finding that perfect card to send to that special someone can be tough. If you’re creative and a talented designer, then you could create that exact card that you’ve been searching for – and then you could sell it to others who are also looking for 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.
Greeting card businesses design and create the greeting cards that consumers buy in stores or online. These businesses often offer lines of cards for a variety of occasions, including birthdays, holidays, 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 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 it might rely on sites like Etsy to help drive sales. Some hand made cards may also sell well at craft fairs and other events.
Greeting cards may be a long-standing tradition, but the industry is still alive and well. Southern Living reports that each year, United States consumers buy seven billion greeting cards, with sales reaching as high as $7.5 billion. This market is largely female-driven, with women accounting for four out of every five card purchases. Ninety percent of households who buy greeting cards buy approximately 30 cards each year. More than half of the cards sold are birthday cards.
IBIS World reports significant growth in the online greeting card industry. From 2014 to 2019, the industry experienced a 9.3% annualized growth. By 2019, the industry reached $714 million in income, with 1,680 businesses employing 3,032 staff. That growth was due in part to the consumer shift toward online shopping. Online greeting cards are affordable and convenient, and their popularity is predicted to continue in the coming years.
The greeting card industry is evolving and new trends continue to emerge. One of those trends comes from millennial purchasing habits. NPR notes that millennials are increasingly buying fancy specialty cards, and they tend to prefer cards with personal touches. Millennials frequently buy cards for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and to congratulate friends for education accomplishments. Millennials are also sending online digital cards, as well as creating personalized cards from photo-printing companies like Shutterfly.
Millennials are also using their entrepreneurial spirit to enter the greeting card industry. Many millennials are starting up companies that create cards with unique features like pop-up 3D images, animated cartoons, LED lights, hand-painted art, and more. These cards are more expensive, which leads to the next trend: Rather than buying large boxes of cards to send to 50 friends, millennials are spending more per card and are buying fewer cards as a result.
Generally speaking, the majority of greeting card buyers are women, and millennials also frequently buy cards. A greeting card business’ specialty may further define its target market. Elaborate, unique, and highly detailed cards with higher price points may appeal to millennials, while more traditional cards with a lower price point may appeal to a broader audience.
Skills, experience, and education useful 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 to design new and exciting cards that will help the business stand out from the competition.
Design skills. Experience as a designer is valuable when creating business cards. Awareness of design aesthetics and color usage will help a designer to create cards that look 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 to build those 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.
Costs to Start a Greeting Card Business
Greeting card businesses have a relatively low barrier to entry, and they’re highly affordable to start. It’s possible to start a small business for as little as $3,000. Plus, because business owners can manage these businesses on a part-time basis initially, they can maintain other employment as this business builds momentum and grows.
Common startup costs for a greeting card business include:
- Printing supplies and equipment (if handling the production)
- Inventory of cardstock and inks (if handling the production)
- Computer and design software
- Shipping materials
Steps to Starting a Greeting card business
Step 1. Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2. Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and LLC. Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3. Select your Location
It’s possible to start a greeting card business out of your home to save on rent costs. As that business expands, it may be time to rent a space for storage and production. Rental costs will depend on factors like the size of the space, location, and any amenities that are available.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
A greeting card business owner will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state and, federal registrations a greeting card business may need include, a sales tax permit, and Employer Identification Number among others.
Step 5. Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a greeting card business is another. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Marketing a greeting card business can be a challenge. Many smaller businesses sell their cards online on sites like Etsy, and standing out from the competition can be difficult. Keyword research and description and store optimization can help with this. The creation of a website that supports online purchases can be a wise investment, too, and this can also allow a business to sell digital cards. Other marketing techniques include social media marketing, email marketing, and online advertising. A loyalty program can also help to encourage repeat customers. Marketing costs will depend on the type of activity and its volume.
Step 7. Get Insurance
A greeting card business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:
- General liability insurance helps to protect the business in the event that a customer is ever hurt while on the business’ property.
- Commercial property insurance can help to protect the business against losses that can result if its shop and inventory are ever damaged or destroyed by a fire or other event.
- Worker’s compensation insurance is only needed if the business hires staff, and it helps to cover expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a shop might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.
Insurance policy cost will depend on factors like the business’ size, location, and value of its equipment and inventory. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, look beyond how the premiums compare and instead focus on other elements, too, like plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles.
Step 8. Hiring Employees
A greeting card business owner may be able to manage the business entirely on their own for years. If the business grows and the owner wants to expand it, then bringing on another designer could help. According to ZipRecruiter, greeting card designers earn an average of $37,992 per year, though salaries can range from $18,500 to $95,500.
In addition to salary expenses, a business’ budget also needs to include funds for other employee-related costs like workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off.
Related: Hiring your first employee
How much can you potentially make owning a greeting card business?
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. Business owners can increase their business’ profits by carefully studying the market and offering cards that are in demand. Exploring a variety of sales methods, including online and in local stores, can also help to increase sales and potentially increase profits.
Things to consider before starting a greeting card business
While it’s possible to run a business entirely out of your home and handmake your own cards, outsourcing the actual card creation to a printer can quickly increase your volume. The Business Barn recommends that if you do outsource to a printer, you choose that company carefully. Look for a supplier who is willing to negotiate on printing runs so that you don’t have to buy more cards than you really need. This is particularly important when you’re just starting out and are working with limited funds. Put time into building a good relationship with your printer, which will be important if you ever need a last-minute change to your order.
If you plan to wholesale your cards, Emily McDowell & Friends recommends that you choose your prices carefully. She notes that most stores want to be able to achieve a 50% markup in their sales. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to be able to make a profit off of the cards that you wholesale, so do a careful cost analysis to determine what price point you need to be at. If you also sell directly to customers, your retail price needs to be high enough that you can cut it in half when wholesaling. Many card businesses require a minimum wholesale order of 100, though you can set your minimums at the amount that makes sense for you.
Greeting Card Association