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How to Start a Stationery Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Stationery Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$2,250 - $15,600

Revenue potential

$60,000 - $300,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$40,000 - $210,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Declining

Commitment

Flexible

In our digital age, it’s hard to believe that paper stationery is still in use – but it is!  The stationery industry is worth nearly $6 billion in the United States alone. If you like to be creative and have an eye for design, your own stationery business could capture a slice of that market and put some cash in your pocket. You don’t have to have equipment to print it at home – you can outsource the printing while you just create your designs digitally.

It won’t be as easy, however, to design a stationery business. You’ll need to prepare yourself by doing a little homework first. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide has everything you need to know about the nitty-gritty details of the stationery business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a stationery business has pros and cons that you should consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Low Startup Costs – A computer and software are all you need
  • Flexible Hours – Work at home on your time
  • Healthy Profits – Low expenses, high-profit margins

Cons

  • No Room for Error – Customers want it done right the first time
  • Declining Market – The stationery industry has been in decline for years

Stationery industry trends

The stationery industry in the US is worth nearly $6 billion but has been in a steady decline for the last decade. However, a multi-billion-dollar industry still offers tremendous potential.

Industry size and growth

stationery industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

stationery industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the stationery industry include:

  • Floral scented stationery is increasing in popularity, presenting an opportunity for stationery businesses to utilize scents as add-ons to products for additional revenue.
  • Stationery with embellishments attached are trending. Embellishments include anything from a decorative paperclip to a flower made of fabric. This is another additional revenue opportunity

Some challenges also exist in the stationery industry which include:

  • Digital stationery, cards, and invitations are growing in popularity, presenting a challenge for paper stationery businesses. This could, however, be an opportunity for a tech-savvy entrepreneur to start a digital stationery company.
  • A large part of the stationery market is invitations, and with some events and parties still on hold due to social distancing concerns, the stationery market is suffering

How much does it cost to start a stationery business?

Startup costs for a stationery business range from about $2,200 to $15,000. The high-end includes a computer and equipment to set up your own printing operation. This kind of investment will save you the cost of outsourcing your printing. The low end of the cost range assumes that you already have a computer and will not do your own printing. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your stationery business if you do your own printing, including: 

  • High-quality laser printer
  • Letterpress
  • Quality paper
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100 - $300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Stationery Design Software$500 - $1,000$750
Computer$0 - $2,000$1,000
Miscellaneous embellishment supplies$200 - $500$350
Printer and paper to print yourself$0 - $3,000$1,500
Letter Press$0 - $5,000$2,500
Total$2,250 - $15,600$8,925

How much can you earn from a stationery business?

Stationery business earnings forecast

Stationery prices run from $200 to $1,000 for a stationery package, with an average of $600. If you outsource your printing, your profit margin should be about 70%. 

In your first year or two, you could work from home and sell 100 packages in a year, bringing in $60,000 in annual revenue. This would mean over $40,000 in profit, assuming that 70% margin. As your brand gains recognition, sales could climb to 500 packages a year. With expected annual revenue of $300,000, you would make about $210,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a stationery business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Entering a competitive market that is in decline
  • Having the skills to create great custom designs

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a stationery business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

A successful stationery business combines a deep understanding of its market with creative and high-quality products. Your business plan should reflect these elements while staying adaptable to changing market trends and customer preferences.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research stationery businesses in your area to examine their products, price points, customer reviews, and what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. The stationery industry thrives on creativity and personalization. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a sympathy note stationery business.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry such as weddings.

Look for unmet demands, like eco-friendly products or unique design aesthetics. Understand what makes your business idea stand out and capitalize on that uniqueness.

What? Determine your products and services

Decide on the range of products you’ll offer. This could include custom-designed stationery, office supplies, bespoke wedding invitations, or artistic supplies. Consider also offering related services such as custom printing, graphic design, or personalized gift wrapping.

You’ll need to design stationery packages to offer, such as a save the date, invitation, and thank you note package. You can also design some embellishment add-ons to increase your revenue. Tailoring your services to the needs of your target audience will make your business more appealing.

How much should you charge for stationery?

Prices for stationery packages range from $200 to $1,000 or more. Your ongoing costs will be printing and miscellaneous embellishment materials. You should aim for a profit margin of about 70%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use our profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price point. Remember, the price you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will depend on what you decide to specialize in. If you specialize in weddings, your target market will be people in the younger range, as well as their parents. Overall, your market is likely to be primarily women.

Conduct market research to understand their preferences, spending habits, and where they typically shop for stationery. Tailoring your marketing and product range to suit their specific needs will help attract the right customers.

Where? Choose your business premises

Your location should align with your target market’s accessibility. For a physical store, consider foot traffic, visibility, and proximity to complementary businesses. If your focus is online, invest in a user-friendly website and robust e-commerce platform. Also, consider a location that facilitates easy shipping and receiving if you plan to sell products online.

stationery business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Stationery Business Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “stationery” or “custom stationery”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Stationery House” over “Wedding Paper Divas”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Provide a brief overview of your stationery business, highlighting its focus on offering a range of high-quality, unique stationery products for personal and business use.
  • Business Overview: Describe your business’s specialty in selling a variety of stationery items, including custom-designed cards, office supplies, and unique writing tools.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of products you offer, from personalized paper goods to luxury writing instruments and specialty papers.
  • Market Analysis: Evaluate the demand for stationery products, identifying target customer segments such as professionals, students, or craft enthusiasts.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your store to other stationery businesses, highlighting your unique offerings, such as bespoke services or locally made products.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting customers, including digital marketing, in-store events, and collaborations with local artists or designers.
  • Management Team: Highlight the expertise of your team, particularly in retail management, graphic design, and customer service.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the operational aspects, including inventory management, supplier relations, and in-store or online sales processes.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financials, covering start-up costs, pricing strategies, and revenue projections.
  • Appendix: Include additional documents like supplier agreements, product catalogs, or market research data that support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider finding and hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to stationery businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your stationery business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose an LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your Articles of Organization and be on hand to answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Your best bet is to finance the business with personal funds to stay out of debt. Your next best alternative is probably friends and family financing. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a stationery business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level licenses and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your stationery business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You can use industry-specific software, such as CSDT, GoFrugal, or Lasting, to manage your inventory, billing, printing workflow, and purchases.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Developing a website is a crucial step for your stationery business, acting as a digital storefront to showcase your products and services. Utilizing website builders specifically designed for e-commerce can be a cost-effective and user-friendly option, allowing for easy integration of shopping carts, payment systems, and product catalogs. Alternatively, hiring a professional web developer might be a worthwhile investment for a more customized and distinctive online presence.

High-quality product images, detailed descriptions, and easy navigation are essential. Implementing effective calls to action (CTAs) such as “Shop Now,” “Buy” or “Sign Up for Discounts” can significantly enhance user engagement and drive sales. Additionally, optimizing your site for search engines (SEO) will improve visibility and attract more potential customers.

Marketing

If you’re starting a stationery business, effective marketing is key to your success. Here are some practical strategies:

  • Social Media Marketing: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to showcase your products. Post high-quality images, engage with your audience through stories, and use relevant hashtags to increase visibility. Collaborate with influencers or bloggers who cater to your target audience to widen your reach.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list from your website visitors and use it to send out newsletters, exclusive offers, and updates about new products. Personalized emails can significantly increase customer engagement and repeat purchases.
  • Content Marketing: Start a blog related to stationery, offering tips, trends, and ideas, like how to organize a workspace or creative uses for your products. This not only helps with SEO but also establishes your brand as an authority in the stationery field.
  • Networking and Partnerships: Attend trade shows, craft fairs, or local business events to network and build relationships. Partner with other businesses such as event planners, local craft stores, or educational institutions for cross-promotion opportunities.
  • Customer Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage your customers to leave reviews and share their experiences. Positive testimonials can be powerful tools for attracting new customers.
  • Paid Advertising: Consider using paid ads on Google or social media platforms to target specific demographics. Tailor your ads to highlight what sets your stationery apart, such as unique designs, quality materials, or eco-friendly options.
  • Loyalty Programs: Create a loyalty program to encourage repeat business. Offer rewards, discounts, or exclusive products for returning customers.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your stationery business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your stationery business could be:

  • Custom stationery with a floral twist
  • Affordable wedding invitation packages
  • Luxury custom stationery for all your important messages

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a stationery business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in stationery for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in stationery. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

It’s unlikely that you will need employees for your business. However, if you ever need to hire an assistant, free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. 

You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Stationery Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

A stationery business is a great opportunity to make substantial money working from home. You just need a computer, some software, and an eye for design. Even though the industry is declining, it’s still worth $6 billion, and you can still take advantage of that market and get your share. 

You’ll also have some fun letting your creative juices flow!  You’ve gotten off to an auspicious beginning by loading up on information, so go start designing your way to success!

Stationery Business FAQs

How profitable is the stationery business?

Since you can run a stationery business from home, you’ll have high-profit margins, about 70%. Stationery package prices range from $200 to $1,000, so even if you sell 1 package a week, you can put some money in your pocket.

Do people still buy paper stationery?

Yes, they do!  While it’s true that the industry has been in decline it still brings in $6 billion in the U.S. alone, so opportunities still exist. Many people clearly still prefer paper invitations and notes over less personal digital invitations. 

What can I sell in a stationery shop?

In a stationery shop, you can sell a wide range of products such as writing instruments (pens, pencils, markers), notebooks, notepads, journals, planners, diaries, sticky notes, adhesive tapes, paper clips, staplers, folders, organizers, calendars, art supplies (paints, brushes, sketchbooks), greeting cards, gift wraps, and other related accessories.

What is the future of stationery industry?

The future of the stationery industry holds both challenges and opportunities. While digitalization and online communication have impacted the demand for certain traditional stationery items, there is still a strong market for stationery products due to their tactile nature, personalization options, and creative appeal. Additionally, there is a growing trend of bullet journaling, calligraphy, and other art forms that drive the demand for high-quality stationery supplies.

How can I differentiate my stationery business from competitors in the market?

Curate a unique and diverse selection of stationery products that cater to different customer preferences and trends. Offer exclusive or limited-edition items, collaborate with local artists or designers, or provide customization options to create a personalized experience for customers. Emphasize product quality, durability, and sustainability by sourcing eco-friendly and ethically produced stationery. 

How can I attract customers and promote my stationery products effectively?

Start by understanding your target audience and their preferences. Utilize social media platforms, particularly visual-oriented platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, to showcase your products, share creative ideas, and engage with your audience. Collaborate with influencers or bloggers who align with your brand values to reach a wider audience. Participate in local community events, workshops, or fairs related to arts, crafts, or education. 

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How to Start a Stationery Business