The glass blowing and art glass industry brought in over $3.54 billion in 2022. Projections suggest the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for blown glass will continue to rise at 7.50% from 2023 to 2030. Ongoing popularity makes now a great time to get involved with your own glassblowing business.
As you build up a body of work, having an online presence and portfolio will enable you to effectively market your glass blowing skills to prospective wholesale and retail clients across the country. With some business savvy and dedicated practice in your glass blowing craft, you’ll be prepared to capture the growth within this specialized artisan sector.
This guide will walk you through how to start a glass blowing business. Topics include designing a website for your online store, sourcing equipment, marketing tips like which social media platforms to use, and how to register your EIN.
1. Conduct Glass Blowing Market Research
Market research is essential to starting any business online or in person. It offers insight into trends in the glass blowing industry, competitors sharing your creative visions for blown glass, and details on your target market.
Some details you’ll learn through market research on growing a successful glass blowing business include:
- Catering to the giftware and decoration market shows massive potential.
- Focus on designing and selling vases, bowls, figurines, paperweights, and other unique products within your skill set.
- Capture demand from gift shops, galleries, hotels, restaurants, and individual consumers looking for unique home and venue decor.
- The made-to-order and custom glass artwork segment also presents immense opportunities.
- Platforms like Etsy continue gaining traction for handmade goods, surpassing $100 billion in lifetime sales.
- Opening your online shop can expand your customer base exponentially.
- As a skilled glass artisan, identifying wholesale opportunities with chains and big buyers can boost revenues massively once you establish a trusted brand and portfolio.
- High-end resorts, hotels, restaurants, and corporate buyers also present B2B sales avenues for commissioned glass installations and regular wholesale orders.
While glass blowing requires extensive skill development, industry growth projections confirm ample market demand. Capturing expanding consumer interest in artisan glass through multiple sales channels can help turn your glass designs into a highly profitable business built on creativity.
2. Analyze the Competition
Performing a competitive analysis is crucial as you enter the glass blowing industry to identify strengths you can leverage and weaknesses presenting opportunities. Some ways to get to know local competitors include:
- For local competitors, document basic details like location, years in business, products/services, and pricing.
- Visit brick-and-mortar to evaluate store ambiance, variety/quality of inventory, customer service, and gifting options.
- Take note of any offerings not currently aligned with consumer trends where you could fill a gap.
- Evaluate the e-commerce sites of online artists carefully too.
- Compare functionality, photography, product descriptions, branding, shipping options, and reviews.
- Sign up for competitor newsletters and monitor their social media presence; this provides visibility into promotions, new product releases, and partnerships that offer useful market intel.
- Leverage free tools like Google Trends and SEMrush to analyze industry and competitor search traffic metrics.
- See which terms drive the most queries and clicks to pinpoint where you should focus marketing efforts.
- Bookmark artist profiles on platforms like Etsy and Artfinder to learn pricing strategies for different glass products.
- Note any gaps like price points not currently addressed where your work could supplement existing listings.
While the level of competition can seem daunting, properly researching artist peers through multiple lenses will help differentiate. Match quality and aesthetics on popular items while innovating unique designs, vase shapes, paperweight symbols, etc. to stand apart.
3. Costs to Start a Glass-Blowing Business
When starting a glass blowing enterprise, properly budgeting for both initial and recurring expenses is imperative for long-term viability. Here is an in-depth look at realistic costs to incorporate into your planning.
Registering your business as an LLC will require state filing and licensing fees totaling roughly $750 depending on your location.
- Necessary glass-blowing equipment for a home studio can be obtained for $3,000-$5,000.
- With furniture, ventilation, safety gear, raw materials, and initial inventory, allot $10,000-$15,000 in total to outfit your workspace.
- Leasing a dedicated retail space for customer-facing operations after establishing your home studio will cost $15-$20 per square foot monthly.
- For a 500 sq ft shop, that equates to $7,500-$10,000 in rent per year, plus around $8,000 annually for property insurance.
- With utilities, waste services, a POS system, display materials, permits/licenses, and opening inventory for your store, plan on $30,000 to launch a standalone brick-and-mortar location.
- If opting to rent shared artist studio space through an arts cooperative gallery, membership dues span $100-$250 per month totaling $1,200-$3,000 annually.
Marketing activities also necessitate an initial budget whether operating from home or leasing. Website development, branding, professional product photography, graphic design, local ads, printing costs, and content creation will likely require around $6,000-$10,000 upfront.
- Recurring annual licensing renewals and taxes will tally around $500.
- Depending on kiln usage liability insurance averages $50 per month.
- For standalone stores, POS software subscriptions like Square cost $60 per month while staffing one part-time employee at $15 per hour totals $1500 monthly.
- E-commerce sellers using Shopify spend around $30 per month for the platform plus transaction fees of 2.9% + $0.30 per sale.
- Domain registration/web hosting averages $150 annually, email marketing software costs $20 per month, and social media advertising totals $50/month once established.
- Raw materials like glass rods, color powder, tools, etc. amount to around $200 every month for a moderately active studio.
- Ongoing creation of new product lines, giftware collections, molds, and display merch will also necessitate additional capital over time best allotted from your initial sales revenue.
In total, be prepared to spend $15,000-$25,000 when launching a glass blowing studio from your home or garage. Expanding into a dedicated showroom or investing in extensive e-commerce capabilities can easily push start-up costs over $50k in total once all operating expenses are accounted for.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
To start a scientific glassblowing business, you must form a legal entity. Careful planning and market research will provide insight into the right entity type for your business model. There are four main legal business entities to consider, including:
A sole proprietorship represents the easiest and least expensive option to establish as it does not require any formal business registration. You can immediately begin operating and reporting all income/losses for tax purposes under your individual SSN. However, as a sole proprietor, you remain personally liable for any business debts or legal issues.
Partnerships allow multiple owners to share equipment costs and workload for operating a glass-blowing shop. You also gain possible tax advantages as a partnership files informational returns but earnings/losses pass through to partners’ tax forms. However, similar to sole proprietors, all partners remain personally liable for debts.
Forming a corporation shields personal assets from any business liabilities. Share distribution through stocks also enables easier ownership transfer and additional investment capital. However, the substantial legal paperwork and expense to incorporate and maintain annual filings often prove overly burdensome for small glass studios.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Creating a limited liability corporation (LLC) provides the best of all worlds for a boutique glass-blowing enterprise. As the name implies, an LLC limits owner liability so personal assets remain protected from any business lawsuits or claims. Unlike sole proprietorships and partnerships, creditors for an LLC can only pursue the company’s assets and not that of any individual owners.
5. Register Your Business For Taxes
An Employer Identification Number, commonly referred to as an EIN, represents a unique nine-digit number that the IRS assigns to business entities operating in the United States. Even as a sole proprietor without employees, every business needs to obtain its own EIN for tax filing and reporting purposes.
Applying for an EIN is fully free directly through the Internal Revenue Service and only takes minutes to complete online. Below is the quick step-by-step process:
- Navigate to the IRS EIN Assistant webpage.
- Identify if you are applying as an individual/sole proprietor or registering a business entity like an LLC.
- Specify whether you need the EIN for banking/finance purposes or solely for business tax filing needs.
- Select your business structure such as sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.
- Provide basic personal identification details including name, SSN, address, etc.
- Carefully review all entries to ensure no errors before submitting.
Once received after applying online, use your new EIN on all tax paperwork including Schedule C for sole proprietorships or Form 1065 for filing partnership returns. Having an EIN also makes opening dedicated business bank accounts simpler down the line.
Beyond federal tax compliance, check your state’s guidance on any required sales tax permits for legally collecting and remitting sales tax as a glass merchandise seller. Over 40 states levy sales tax averaging over 7% of the selling price of goods. Register for necessary sales permits directly through your state government portal.
6. Setup Your Accounting
Running an artisan studio selling handmade glass products necessitates meticulous financial tracking and reporting for long-term viability. There are a variety of ways to improve accounting and bookkeeping for your business model, including:
Investing in small business accounting software simplifies maintaining accurate books across transactions, invoices, purchased supplies, payroll, and taxes. The automation of QuickBooks combined with reporting and seamless integration features allow for efficiently staying financially organized.
Hire an Accountant
Most accounting firms offer tiered monthly service packages that can start around $200/month for basic bookkeeping like transaction categorization and sales tax prep. Add services like quarterly cash flow analysis, sales forecasting, tax planning strategy sessions, and full preparation/submission of your business income taxes.
Open a Business Bank Account
Strict separation between glass business accounts and personal finances remains non-negotiable as well. Commingling funds frequently triggers red flags with IRS auditors suspecting tax evasion efforts if unable to differentiate. Open dedicated checking/savings accounts and apply for a unique business credit card solely for all studio expenses, keep these completely separate from any existing personal bank/card accounts.
Apply for a Business Credit Card
Credit limits on business cards correlate directly with your federal tax ID number and company financials rather than your credit score. Maintaining below 30% utilization and timely payments leads to higher limits and additional employee card issuance over time. Needed application info includes your EIN, and business address/contact details.
7. Obtain Licenses and Permits
When preparing to open a hot glass shop designing and selling your creations, properly registering with state and local agencies ensures full legal compliance from day one. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.
One of the first permits needed relates to zoning laws and restrictions on operating a manufacturing enterprise from a home studio. If not zoned for industrial use, your residential property likely prohibits firing a kiln. Verify zoning specifications through your city planning office and optionally apply for a home occupation permit if eligible as a glass blower.
For those leasing or buying dedicated retail space, apply for a formal business license with your city clerk’s office before opening up shop. Monthly rents often dictate license expenses ranging from $25 into the hundreds in metropolitan areas. Verify license needs with your local municipality directly.
If ever hiring employees down the line, your state government requires registering for workers’ compensation insurance coverage within a set timeframe after staffing up. This protects both employers and employees in the event of a workplace injury. Premium costs average around $500 annually for the glass industry niche.
For any commercial space with customer access, the fire marshal necessitates approving building safety systems before opening. Schedule an inspection to verify sufficient emergency exit signage, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, alarm functionality, and compliance with maximum occupancy regulations.
8. Get Business Insurance
Operating a glass-blowing studio creating delicate works of art carries substantial inherent risks that make insurance coverage essential. Without policies shielding your assets, a single accident could spell financial ruin for your creativity-fueled endeavor.
Scenario one involves a kiln explosion from an electrical malfunction destroying your entire workshop and months of custom orders. Repair costs could easily exceed $100k without protection.
In another incident, a novice assistant inadvertently shatters a $25k commissioned sculpture right before client pickup. Lacking insurance means personally footing the bill.
If a postal delivery truck smashes your retail storefront, immediate repairs could run $250k. Paying this from personal savings may prove impossible.
Comprehensive business owner’s insurance packages these risks into one affordable policy. Core coverage includes:
- General liability for 3rd party injury/property damage
- Commercial property for studios, tools, merchandise
- Loss of business income
- Employee injuries
Policies range from $500 to $1500+ annually depending on location/scope. Boost security via an independent insurance agent who compares rates across top providers like The Hartford, State Farm, etc. Consider add-ons as well like cyber risk, commercial auto, and umbrella insurance.
9. Create an Office Space
Operating a glass-blowing studio necessitates administrative work spanning marketing, order management, accounting, and customer service. While day-to-day production remains on-site, securing formal office space aids professionalism when handling backend business tasks. Below are suitable options with ballpark pricing.
Utilizing a spare bedroom or basement for paperwork proves cost-effective as a home office. With a dedicated desk, computer, phone line, filing cabinets, and supplies you can handle daily administrative obligations. Lacking separation from household distractions may hamper productivity. Expect to invest around $2,000 upfront for basic furnishings and electronics.
For working amongst other entrepreneurs, coworking spaces like WeWork provide convenient access to office infrastructure for $300-$500 monthly. Turnkey amenities like WiFi, printers, conference rooms, and front desk staff enable managing sales calls and client meetings.
If opting for a standalone retail showroom, utilize a back area or manager’s office for catching up on paperwork, buying supplies online, etc. during store downtimes. If already paying overhead this space essentially comes “free” when not selling.
10. Source Your Equipment
Launching a glass blowing studio requires extensive specialized equipment for shaping molten glass into artisan ware. From kilns to finishing tools, here are top sources to cost-effectively source essential supplies as a startup.
New major tools like annealers, glory holes, and furnaces often exceed $5,000 yet ensure flawless functionality out of the box. Leading retailers offering premium lines include GlasPro. Expect to invest $15,000 for a fully outfitted new small studio.
Buying quality secondhand gear drastically reduces upfront capital needs. Scout deals through artist groups on Facebook and Craigslist. Specialty sites like Classifieds connect sellers clearing space with buyers hunting discounts on used equipment. eBay also lists well-maintained accessories as studios dissolve.
Seeking to minimize ownership costs? Numerous arts nonprofits like Public Glass and working studios rent equipment for nominal monthly fees, enabling small test runs before committing. These range from $200-$500 monthly for a single furnace setup.
Leasing via specialty financiers like One Main Financial secures gear bundles matching new quality without huge upfront capital investment. Approval hinges on personal/business credit history with payments spanning 12-48 months. Ownership transfers upon lease completion.
11. Establish Your Brand Assets
Distinguishing your hot glass studio from the growing pool of artisan competitors necessitates strategically branding your business. From logos to websites, locking down unique visual assets builds recognition and trust with prospective retail and wholesale buyers seeking your wares.
Get a Business Phone Number
Acquiring a dedicated business phone line via providers like RingCentral ups perceived legitimacy over relying solely on personal mobiles. Call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and toll-free numbers enable projecting professionalism when engaging clients.
Design a Logo
Brand marks like slogans, color palettes, and logos fuel familiarity. Have variations like black/white, and horizontal/stacked layouts to allow flexibility across mediums like business cards, packaging, catalogs, and websites. Services like Looka offer affordable DIY graphic design including AI logo generation.
Print Business Cards
Print collateral like postcards and brochures should share cohesive formatting, fonts, images, and messaging. Online print shops like Vistaprint handle affordable flyer/postcard production with volume discounts available. Custom interior signage and branded apparel reinforce your unique identity as well.
Get a Domain Name
Secure website real estate through a dedicated dot-com domain from registrars like Namecheap. Opt for .com over alternate extensions; easily communicable names; and strong security provisions like multi-factor authentication. Redirect former domains to your primary site.
Design a Website
Building out website pages, galleries, and e-commerce functionality can be managed through user-friendly platforms like Wix with sleek premade templates available. Those lacking web design experience may prefer hiring a freelancer via Fiverr to handle technical aspects.
12. Join Associations and Groups
Expanding your glass blowing knowledge and customer base requires regularly engaging with industry peers. From local guilds to national online groups, surrounding yourself with fellow artisans yields collaborative growth.
Joining associations like the Glass Art Society and The Stained Glass Association of America provide discounted insurance, technical guides, juried competitions for recognition, and online marketplaces to sell work. Annual member fees average under $100.
Attending hands-on demonstrations and browsing the wares of fellow creators in person remains invaluable. Sites like Meetup index upcoming creative conventions and classes across mediums like the SOFA Chicago art fair.
Facebook also hosts numerous niche glass-blowing communities filled with advice for business operations, technique troubleshooting, and inspiration on what sells. Top examples include the Hand Blown Glass Art and Glass Blowers United group.
13. How to Market a Glass Blowing Business
Distinguishing your glass studio amid the sea of emerging competitors requires assertive and multimedia marketing once it opens for business. Pairing word-of-mouth traction with digital/traditional promotions expands reach exponentially.
Satisfied buyers eagerly share beloved brands with friends/family when properly incentivized. Offer 10% off their next order for every new customer sent your way. Simple yet personal calls to action like “Share this vase with a decor-loving friend!” posted to social media also facilitate organic amplification.
Modern platforms present immense opportunities to directly connect with those most likely to purchase your glass artistry. Top digital tactics include:
- Google Ads targeting local art buyers and tourists
- Facebook/Instagram posts showcasing new collections. Could increase the number of customers that would want you to create something for them.
- Collaborating with influencers on custom pieces to bring exposure for your business.
- Launching a “Day in the Life” vlog-style YouTube channel. This could potentially attract travel agencies that may be interested in showing off your business to tourists they take on vacations or news crews that would like to do a report on glass blowing.
- Guest blogging for interior design sites like Apartment Therapy
- Leveraging geo-fencing mobile ads when conventions hit the town
While digital aims at volume, traditional marketing facilitates deeper community integration for those nearby. Effective options incorporate:
- Booth/free classes at local craft fairs
- Donating pieces to charity galas for program inclusion
- Chamber of Commerce networking events
- Fliering local cafes and shops with discounts
- Sponsoring NPR podcasts like Glass Inc.
The most effective marketing strategies blend digital discovery and conversions with tangible community engagement. New customer acquisition necessitates promoting across mediums to determine what resonates best with your audience.
14. Focus on the Customer
Delivering exceptional customer service remains imperative within the glass artistry industry to drive referrals and repeats from your clientele. Each buyer interaction represents an opportunity to create vocal brand advocates.
The hands-on nature of inspecting and purchasing one-of-a-kind pieces necessitates stellar in-person assistance. Train staff on individual product stories, custom order options, and proper packaging techniques, and have rounding sheets to gather client feedback.
Exceeding expectations also pay dividends online. Respond quickly to product questions and custom quote requests via email/chat. Follow up on shipments to ensure safe arrival with an easy exchange guarantee. Seek reviews upon delivery with a comment card and promotional offer for their next purchase.
Appreciative clients happily tout beloved small businesses to friends interested in similar wares. Your customer service efforts essentially fuel free word-of-mouth marketing. Going above and beyond to thrill buyers leads to more leads.