Jim, Your questions are well stated and obviously you have done the
research to bring you to this point.
First I would ask “who is my audience”. If you live in a high
traffic area with lots of people, then a storefront makes great sense.
Cases and lighting can be done rather inexpensively as used ones will
suffice nicely. Everyone knows somebody, which is how we got our
cases. Our retail business generates about $300-500 gross a month.
Christmas is usually around $2500. Since we only take 40 percent,
this is not enough to live on which is why the school drives the
income pump. We are now phasing out a lot of the jewelry which doesn’t
move to supplies for the school - sawblades, solder, metal, etc.
If you have your studio at home, I would suggest creating a space
which is really separate from the rest of your house. I have had my
studio in my basement, a studio which was a 30 minute drive and my
present studio, two miles away. The latter is the ideal situation.
When I am at home, I don’t think about work (well not too much, the
computer is there!), but when I am at Metalwerx, then it is all
business. Another consideration is insurance. You can get an
insurance rider for the compressed gases and if you decide to go the
home route, investigate this thouroughly. You can deduct your studio
from your taxes, but come time to sell, you must pay capital gains on
that portion of the house. I am partially deducting my office and my
spare bedroom at home for business purposes. The spare bedroom is for
faculty who stay at my house during workshops. Security is another
issue, which again, I would talk to your insurance agent.
With regard to the square footage, it seems to me, that no matter how
large your space is, you will always fill it up. Efficiency is the
name of the game here. When we moved from our little 450 sq ft retail
space to our cavernous 1800 sq ft space, I thought we would never fill
it completely. Hah! Now we are searching for 3500 sq ft because the
business is growing so fast.
Although having a retail section is great exposure, it is a total
time sump. If you have somebody in place to talk to your customers,
answer their 80 million questions, help with their decisions, etc.,
don’t expect to get any work done. Care and feeding of a retail space
is like a small child. Inventory has to be moved around regularly or
it gets stale. Glass has to be cleaned several times a day because
every person who comes in, leans all over it. When a customer comes
in, pieces are dragged in and out of the cases, it never stops.
If you have a solid customer base, I would spend my time building and
cultivating new customers. If there is anything I have learned over
the years, selling jewelry and classes is about 20 percent product and
80 percent marketing. The competetion is so strong out there for
selling jewelry, and we were lucky to find a niche market and offered
something that nobody else has. Lots of people sell jewelry, but who
really in their right mind would build a school with world class
instructors. This job consumes me, but I love each and every day.
I wish you the best of luck. I was so glad to have Orchid in place
when I started my business. This forum of caring and supportive
people is what has made Metalwerx where it is today. Stay in touch.
Ask questions and bug everyone. And let us know how you are doing and
where to find you if you do decide to do the retail route.