Weddings are a multibillion-dollar industry. Brides and their families often spend thousands of dollars on bridal gowns, veils, accessories, favors and other accoutrements. If you are interested in getting a piece of the pie, consider opening your own online bridal boutique.
Outline a business plan. This will help you understand how much money you will need to launch, plan for expenses and anticipate growth. It also will be helpful should you seek a small business loan.
Decide if you will use your website to augment a brick-and-mortar store or be online-only.
Build inventory. A successful website cannot afford to list out-of-stock items. Most gown manufacturers require large minimum orders. Depending on the scope of your business and your financing, you may invest from a few hundred to tens of thousands. Secure clean and climate-controlled warehouse space to store your inventory. If you can arrange a month-to-month lease agreement, you may only need a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. You likely will need to put down a deposit.
Rent studio space to increase foot traffic. You may need space for holding dress dummies, constructing formal wear, assembling accessories or favors or any other bridal-related business needs. Rents vary nationwide depending on proximity to major cities, studio size and other factors.
Secure your domain name. Hosting often costs as little as $10 per year and can be purchased from websites such as GoDaddy that also can provide tools to build your website. Select a name that is relatively short but easy to remember and speaks to the nature of your business.
Open a PayPal account. This is free to start, with a small percentage removed from your transactions if you upgrade to a Premium membership. PayPal can be used as your method of checkout for your website, costs your customers no fees and is secure. Customers do not need a PayPal account to send payment and can use funds from their debit or credit cards to pay you. For first-time webstore owners, PayPal causes the least headaches. As your business grows, you may decide to upgrade to your own checkout system.
Register your business with your state Division of Corporations. The fees associated with this will vary by state.
Consider financing your small business through the government's SBA 504 loan program, which offers competitive low-financing options.
Watch for bridal stores that are going out of business. They will be looking to liquidate, meaning you can save hundreds or thousands by purchasing from these events.
Advertise on bridal websites, wedding blogs, local newspapers and radio. A modest budget would be several hundred dollars, but costs of advertising on radio and in print vary greatly around the country.
If you are not computer savvy, take courses in website creation and management, or hire an IT person. This may cost as little as $40 for CD-ROM-based lessons, or as much as a few thousand if you attend classes.
Promote your store. Announce sales on Facebook or Twitter. If your sell vintage or handmade items, consider maintaining an Etsy storefront, an online marketplace specializing in vintage items. Joining is free, and a small percentage of each sale is taken by the website as a fee for doing business through it.
Tucker Cummings is a freelance writer based in New England. She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of New Hampshire and is a member of the Association of Professional Business Writers. Cummings is also a food writer and curates the blog, Brave New Breakfast.