Opening A Bead Store?

Since June 1994, Caravan Beads has helped clients open bead stores in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Illinois, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa, Vermont, S. Carolina, Texas and Florida. In addition to thorough training in all aspects of operating a retail bead store, we can also provide parts of your startup inventory at competitive prices and tell you the best and most reputable places to go for much of your inventory.

Our training takes place during a 2-day (full days!) visit to our headquarters in Portland, Maine. The program covers all aspects of owning and operating a retail bead store. Here is a partial list of topics we cover during training:

* Advertising and marketing
* Bead store accounting and suggested software
* Inventory selection and display
* Sources for inventory
* Tracking inventory
* Employees
* Making beaded jewelry
* Selling finished jewelry in your bead store
* Classes
* Point of sale choices and decisions
* Pricing
* Plenty of time for questions and answers

If you are seriously considering opening a retail bead store and would like more information about our training, please call 800-230-8941 and ask for Barry. Email is quick, but it can’t replace a personal conversation. Before you call, please make sure you know the following: the population of your town or city; the population within a 20-minute drive of your prospective store location; and how many other bead stores or sources for beads presently exist near you.

The fee for our training is $900 per store. This fee includes follow-up support via email or phone for as long as you have questions.

The bead industry expanded wildly in the late ’90s and continued to grow strongly until a few years ago. During the past two years, however, sales have generally slowed across the industry, and some smaller stores have closed. Here is some cautionary advice if you are considering going into the retail bead business.

1. Population is critical. The smaller your local population, the more challenging it will be to earn a living from your beadstore . Your local population (within a 20 to 30 minute drive) should be at least 150,000; 250,000 or more is better. Counting on tourists or college students to make up the difference is risky.

2. Adequate financing is vital. We started our bead business in 1991 with a $1500 investment (and no idea of what we were doing.) In the mid 1990s I trained people who opened stores with initial inventory purchases of $10,000 and sometimes even less, and they did fine. But that was 12-15 years ago. Beaders nowadays are much more sophisticated and they have, literally, a world of choices of where to buy beads. A well-stocked bead store can easily carry $200,000 to $350,000 worth of inventory.

3. Don’t count on the store to support you during the first two to three years. Early profits are almost always put back into additional inventory.

4. Owning and operating a small business takes a lot of time and energy. Working 60-70 hours or more per week is common. If you are an artist or designer, owning a store will take a large chunk out of your creative time.

5. The more you know before you open your doors, the higher your chance of success. Look at real estate, take advantage of small business courses, talk to the owners of other small boutiques in the area you are exploring.

6. If there is already a bead store in your area (or more than one), think very seriously about whether it makes sense to compete with an established business. Will your local population support multiple bead stores? Established stores, if well-run, have many advantages over newcomers. During the bead store ‘boom times’ of the past decade, many people opened shops in areas that already had enough or more than enough bead stores to serve the local population. During the past few years some of those newer shops have shut their doors, and in the current economic slump, more will fail.

7. Be cautious of wholesale suppliers that advertise “one-stop shopping” for bead stores. No single company has everything you need, and those which claim to do so are more interested in their profits than they are in your long-term success. Take your time, do your research, and get references before you trust people with your hard-earned money.

8. Barry is not the only person in the country offering this sort of training, although he’s been doing it much longer than anyone else. We suggest that you talk to everyone and make sure you ask for references (the more the better) before you decide who to work with. If you can’t find other people doing the training and would like to compare what they offer and cost, let us know and we can point you to them.

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