For most of us in the home decorating field, retail or wholesale, there are additional products or services we can add to our existing businesses with minimum start-up costs. How can you pick the add-on that will best increase your sales within your budget for expansion? Why should you consider adding a new dimension to your business? There are several good reasons to consider such a step.
• Additional profit. Of course, this is a major consideration
for any business owner, but the increased profit must make the start-up
costs and additional work worthwhile. Several of the product and
service lines available to us do not require a huge investment.
For instance, hard window treatments can be a great addition to
the soft custom treatment business. The start-up investment can
be minimal. While most companies do charge for sample books, coupon
programs sometimes can be used to defray the initial sample costs.
The prices can vary widely from as little as $10 for a mini-blind
color sampler up to $200 and more for a pleated shade sample book.
Research discount programs offered by product suppliers and check
into coupon programs that may be available. Be aware that hard treatment
companies issue new sample books regularly, so the sample expense
Drapery hardware is another great add-on for wholesale or retail
• Make the most of your existing clientele. As an existing
business, we have a ready-made clientele for our products. If our
clients are happy with us for their soft treatments, it stands to
reason that they will want to use us for hard treatments also. It
also reduces their hassle in dealing with several suppliers. On
the wholesale level, even if you receive only overflow business
at first, the relationship can build as you nurture the client.
With your existing database, you also have a built-in mailing list
to announce your new venture. And don’t forget, cultivating
a good database is one of the best ways to keep and increase your
• A second line can be used to even out the seasonal bumps.
Most of us can deal with the occasional lulls in our businesses,
but for some the seasonal aspect of the business can severely affect
the overall picture. In my own workroom, one chilly summer can drastically
affect my income for the year. Having more than one source of income
can be a lifesaver during slow times. For instance, offering a drapery
cleaning service on-site is a great addition for a window treatment
business. When times are slow, people do not replace draperies as
often, and cleaning is a viable option.
Some consumers like the security of a scheduled maintenance program
for large purchases. If you sell the idea of a regular cleaning
service as treatments are sold, the residual income for maintenance
is locked in from the beginning. Also, when cleaning window treatments,
additional business such as repair and replacement can be generated.
• Keep your company in the client’s eye. If your
clients call you for more than one thing, your chances of being
called before your competitor increases. Your company is in your
client’s sphere of consciousness more often.
A yearly postcard reminding the client of a tentative date for cleaning
is bound to have a good impact on your schedule. Have some attractive
business cards made on magnetic stock. Offer these with every consultation.
People do use them, and it will help keep your name in front of
your clients. Offer spiffs for customer referrals to your existing
• A new direction can maximize use of employees. Many
a successful business has been started to create a summer job for
high school- and college-age children. A landmark restaurant in
my town for three decades originally started as a summer project
for a teacher’s high school children. Sometimes we have under-utilized
employees. An in-house installer can be a drapery cleaning expert
WORK YOUR NETWORK
Use your contacts throughout the custom home furnishings industry
to find out which companies have better sampling programs, salespeople
and policies. Which companies are easy to deal with on claims?
Talk to installers to find out which products have the best bracket
systems. With service companies, again, check references and talk
to other dealers. How much tech support will be available to you
once the investment is made? Take the time to make an informed choice
and you will be protecting your investment upfront, as well as assuring
yourself that your investment will pay off as planned.
Anita Boetsma is a professional designer who owns and operates a full-time
design center and furniture store with her husband in Culver, IN (see
D&WC, July 2002, page 20). She is the instructor for the “Window
Treatment” and “Upholstery” Career Professional™
programs at the Custom Home Furnishings School, Swannanoa, NC, and
is a featured speaker for its Custom Home Furnishing Industry Educational
Conference. This article first appeared in the November 2004 issue
of SewWhat? Magazine.