Thursday, November 27, 2008


Calligraphy is a business where you use your skill and artistic talents to apply beautifully styled hand lettering to the customer's paperwork.

While calligraphy is considered an art, unlike sculpting and oil painting it is also considered an acquirable one for most people with basic ability and a desire to learn.

A person with basic artistic ability can easily learn this specialty which is in demand for a number of situations.

Every stationery store gets orders for specialized, hand-letter printing that only a calligrapher can do: wedding announcements (sometimes even addressing the cards), menus, certificates, invitations, place mats, personalized greeting cards, etc.

Orders of less than 100 or so are very expensive to have printed commercially with calligraphy type, (that look machine printed): so there is almost no competition for short-run (less that 500) orders.

Even though a printer can make a thousand copies of a hand-lettered menu in a photo-process, someone (a calligrapher) must do the original!

Few printers or stationery stores have their own in-house calligrapher; they routinely send this type of work out - often to another city or state.

Stores in your area would undoubtedly happy to have the same quality done faster and probably cheaper (counting postage) nearby!

Learning the art of calligraphy is not difficult for one with a little talent. There are countless books, and kits available at almost any book store; many under $10.00.

Basically, the fancy effect is attained with broad tipped pens that make wide vertical strokes and narrow ones horizontally.

Drawing a circle while holding the pen in the same position will yield an "O" with fat sides and skinny top and bottom. Turning the pen results in various other effects, and even more are achieved with different pin point shapes, (wider, more rounded, etc.).

The calligrapher normally learns one alphabet at a time, and adds to his or her repertoire as each new one is mastered. Some of the more ornate alphabets (fonts) understandably require more practice, but most of them are variations or additions to previously learned techniques.

To get into the calligraphy business, buy a kit, learn a few alphabets, practice until you feel confident, then put out the word that you are available.

Design and letter your own business cards (or have them printed - see next paragraph). Personally call on shops that sell products that lend themselves to your talents.

Give them your card, leave samples and an idea of your prices, so they know how to quote your service retail. If you both retail and wholesale jobs, be sure to charge full retail to retail customers or risk alienating your wholesale accounts.

This is usually handled best by giving your wholesale customers "suggested" retailed prices - and informing them (if they ask) and if you do retail, it is at these prices only (and do it!).

Here is a hint to have some fabulous looking calligrapher business cards. First, lay out your "master" 4 or more times the size it will end up.

The normal business cards is 2" x 3 1/2", so four times that size would be 8 by 14. Or, you could make it 3 times as big 6 by 10 1/2.

Print your design and copy (include logo if desired - even if you cut out and glue it onto your "master." When satisfied, take it to the local stationery store and have it reduced to the proper-size on their copier (you may have to white-out shadows or lines from a glued-on logo.

When you get to business card size (2 by 3 1/2 inches) you will be amazed at how much sharper it looks! Then, take your copy ready master to a printer have him run off your business cards.

The printer will photograph your card and use his photo offset process - which is easier and cheaper than having to set type and lay out the copy.

If there is not a good printer locally, check Sources, below. While you are at it, have him "emboss" your cards. This used to be an expensive process (and still looks expensive), but now it is simply a special ink that expands (bubbles) when heated (the printer uses a roaster). The resulting raised print effect is beautiful!

Make up sets of samples for your wholesale customers (one set can be copied for customers and you keep the originals to avoid any appearance of favoritism).

Include samples that represent the range of your capabilities and also give potential customers an idea of how to use your services.

For example, a sheet of nice, quality paper with the same message in several different styles, examples of greeting cards, decorated menus, company name logos, a fancy certificate, desk sign, etc.

Samples are suggestive - they can lead to impulse purchases. Fees for calligraphy are usually by the piece (with a letter limit), by the letter (with adjustments for size) or a combination of both, plus any additional decorations or illustrations.

The price also is affected by the amount and detail required. The calligrapher can often expand an order by suggesting the envelopes be addressed in matching script!

The easiest way to price your work for wholesale, retail, or combination of both is to quote everything retail and give your wholesale accounts a 35-40% discount from listed "suggested retail" prices.

This way, your retail prices are "up front," and you can use the same samples and price lists for both retail and wholesale customers.

It also saves your wholesale accounts the trouble of figuring out or making up their own retail price lists - it makes it EASY for them to sell your products.

A potential problem area in this business is getting the instructions and/or copy wrong. One misspelled name or price can ruin the whole job!

To be safe, keep clear copies of all orders, and have any doubtful job orders initialed. While doing the job you have ANY doubts, don't guess: call the customer for clarification!

You may also have to experiment with different types of erasing systems and products. Always do this on test scraps first for different combinations of paper and ink, to avoid ruining something in which you have invested several hours of work!


DICK BLICK CO., Box 1267, Galesburg, IL 61407-1267, 800/477-8192. Wholesale art (including calligraphy) and sign supplies. Old, well-respected company; good prices.

THE KELSEY CO., Box 941, Meriden, CT 06450, 203/235-1695. Wholesale printing and related (including calligraphy) supplies. Old, reliable company; excellent prices.

JERRY'S ARTARAMA, INC., 1105 Hyde Park, New York, NY 10040-8182, 718/343-4545. Wholesale art supplies. Large company.

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC., 31 E. 2nd St., Mineola, NY 11015, 516/294-7000. Good source for discount reference books; many on calligraphy related subjects, plus clip-art and stencils.

ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards ($11.50 per thousand, raised print) and letterhead. Will print from your copy ready design (cut or whole card).

PUBLISHERS CENTRAL BUREAU, Box 1187, Newark, NJ 07102-1187. Discount reference (etc.) books,

QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd., Lincolnshire, IL 60907-4700, 312/634-4800. 312/634-4800. Office supplies.

NEBS, 500 Main St., Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office supplies.

WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg., Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short run business cards and stationery with no choice of colors or style, but good quality for the price.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Make, buy and sell needlecraft products such as pillows, crocheted or knitted items, quilts, sweaters and bedspreads. There is a huge market for these items -- and even larger number of people who make them. The trouble is that the qualifications for creating these beautiful items (patience, TLC, close attention and years of practice) are quite different from what it often takes to successfully market them!

Many people have a great deal of difficulty selling their needle handiwork. Even when they do, they often don't even get back the cost of the materials. To make money in this area you must FIND and then ASSAULT the market!

When you sell only to friends and neighbors, the "market" quickly becomes saturated and only lowering your prices even more seems to stimulate sales. Unfortunately, human nature is such that most people will pay a decent price only for something made across town by someone they don't know.

Some people view an item made by someone they know (other than family) as "home made" -- a substitute for the real "store bought" thing. But when they buy an item that was crafted by a total stranger, it is "handmade" -- something exquisite (Ah, human nature!).

This explanation does not make much sense, but it unfortunately rings true in too many situations. Even so, it does NOT mean there isn't a good market for YOUR hand made products.

With a little imagination, your items can be marketed tastefully, or better still, SHOWCASED. Compare a homemade quilt hanging on a clothesline beside Grandma Brown's house to a HANDMADE QUILT (same quality) featured in a store window with a pleasing background and a couple of spotlights to show off the beautiful color patterns and intricate stitching!

Think of a clever name; have your own labels made; take some good color pictures of your product, then prepare a brochure or "flyer" (one sheet ad) showing it in its most favorable light.

Draw attention to its detail, fine work, durability and describe how it will become a HANDED DOWN HEIRLOOM in the buyer's family.

Put light colors on dark backgrounds (and vice versa) for contrast in your ads; print (calligraphy would be even better) little cards to "announce" the product in its setting. Tell about the fine materials used and the meticulous work involved -- show your products as the valuable, hand made treasures they are!

Show only a few products (even one) at a time to avoid a clustered or oversupplied appearance, which tends to cheapen the effect, whether the medium is a store window or a brochure.

Use as much skill and planning to present your products as do to create them! How about little tags or folders with something like Aunt Martha's Hand Crafted Pillow Covers, "each one created with loving patience and care?" Doesn't that sound more interesting than "Do you want to buy some pillow covers I made?"

You can advertise your products in the newspaper, magazines, or through bulletin boards and clubs. You can offer finished goods, or take orders for them to be made in a choice of sizes and colors.

One way to advertise inexpensively is to offer a sample of your work as a prize in a community drawing or contest, or for a charity auction (just make sure there are not several other similar items -- too much competition ruins the effect for everyone).

Another technique is to rent a window in a vacant store or one that will lease space or accept a commission on sales made as a result of the display.

Check on fairs and shows on subjects where renting a booth might be an excellent way of meeting potential customers. The "trick" here is to have a "free drawing." People that stop by your booth can register by filling out a small form and keeping the numbered stub. The "price" you realize for whatever you give away is a list of names and addresses of people who were interested in your products.

Now, you can send them brochures and "special offers"! A stall at a flea market may or may not be advisable, depending on the clientele (some are great for auto parts, but no good at all for hand made tablecloths).

Call on stores in your area that might handle products like yours -- ask them to buy yours, or at least take them on consignment (if they do and they sell, switch them to outright purchases later).

If you have or can produce a good quantity of your products, contact a mail order house to see about selling to them, or paying them a commission on sales they make for you.

Regardless of which sales system works out best for you, once you have established a satisfactory "outlet", immediately start making plans to buy other (non-competitive) products of equal quality (or take them on consignment), attach your label and add them to your "line."

You can specify exact products, color combinations quality -- what it takes to qualify for your label -- which is necessary to maintain your reputation and enables other products to be sold through you.

If you are considering mail order sales, place a few "test ads" in smaller publications to learn which type of ad works best for your product.
You need to learn the best wording as well as the best potential market, so keep careful track of which ads are answered by whom (use a box number suffix, suite or department number).

Spend a little time in the library to find magazines that would be a good place for your advertisements, and in others that advertise supplies you need (trade magazines).

When writing to any commercial supplier, always use letterhead paper. The easiest way to do this is to name yourself (use the same name on your product labels).

Order at least a minimum set of letterhead paper and matching envelopes for contacting suppliers.

In this business, as well as any other, records are extremely important. A person who can create quality handmade items is one who should have no trouble keeping neat and accurate records! In the beginning, a simple single entry ledger might be best (unless you are experienced in this area) -- because it will serve as a sort of "diary" as well as business record.


GOODFELLOW, Box 4520, Berkeley, CA 94704. Catalog of toys and handmade home merchandise. Good place to advertise your products. Write for details.

ANNIE'S KNITTING PATTERNS. Box 398, Chestertown, NY 12817. Knitting pattern book, design graphs. Buys and sells.

JAN KNITS Box 315, Ingamar, MT 59039. Knitted sweater kits; garment kits. Buys and sells.

SHELBURNE SPINNERS, North Avenue Extension, Burlington, VT 05401. Knitting kits, Hanspun yarn. Buys and sells.

KITS, Box 182, Madison Lake, MN 56063. Knitting kits. Buys and sells.

DAN NEWMAN CO. 57 Lakeview Ave.,Clifton, NJ 07011. Logos and name tags.

ENJOY MACRAME NEWSLETTER, 3817 N Vermillion, Danville, IL 61832. Newsletter for macrame enthusiasts.

HAND DANCER NEEDLEPOINT DESIGN, Box 480, Northville, NY 12123. Needlepoint kits, buys and sells.

HOOK AND NEEDLE. 31 Broadway, Rockport, MA 01966. Needlepoint kits, buys and sells.

HANDWORKS, Box 545, Smithtown, NY 11787. Needlepoint canvasses. Buys and sells.

JAN'S NEEDLEWORKS, Box 689, Old Bethpage, NY 11804. Needle mug kits; needlework footstool kit; buys and sells.

NEEDLEWORK PORTRAITS, Box 9, Green Farms, CT 06436. Needlepoint portrait kits - from photographs. Buys and sells.

NEEDLEWORK TIMES, Box 87263, Chicago, IL 60680. Newspaper for needlework enthusiasts.

NATIONAL QUILTING ASSN, Box 62, Greenbelt, MD 20770. Publishes PATCHWORK PATTER, magazine for quilting enthusiasts.

THE TREADLE WORKS, 118 Westridge Drive, Portola Valley, CA 94205. Amish design quilting kits.

HARRIS PUBLICATIONS, INC. 79 Madison Ave.,NY 10016. Publishes QUILT magazine.

COVERED BRIDGE FABRIC WORKS, Box 884, Flagstaff, AZ 88022. Good Feelings quilting kits. Buys and sells.

HOMECRAFT SERVICES, 1441 Atlantic, Kansas City, MO 64116. Embroidered quilt designs. Buys and sells.

QUILTS AND OTHER COMFORTS, Box 394, Wheatridge, CO 80033. Quilt kits, pillow kits, quilt patterns and supplies. Buys and sells.

WORK DESIGN, 8916 York Rd.,Charlotte, NC 28224. Latch hook rug kits. Buys and sell.

CRAFTSMAN STUDIO. North Street, Kennebunkport, ME 04046. Rug hooking equipment, hooked rug designs. Buys and sells.

SEW BUSINESS 2100 N Central Rd.,Ft lee, NJ 07024. Monthly publications: ART NEEDLEWORK and QUILT QUARTERLY $15 yr. each.

JANA ASSOCIATES, 49 Longview Rd.,Staten Island, NY 10304. Closeouts: beads, doll eyes, felt pieces, etc.

CREATIVE PRODUCTS, Box 584, Lake Forest, IL 60046. Free subscription to businesses (write on letterhead). Good place to look for sewing product information.

NEEDLE & THREAD MAGAZINE, 4949 Byers, Ft Worth, TX 76107. Also publishes NEEDLECRAFT FOR TODAY.

HOUSE OF WHITE BIRCHES, Box 337, Seabrook, NH 03874. Publishes STITCH N' SEW and WOMEN'S CIRCLE - as the National Friendly Homemakers Club. Both quarterly -$6 yr.

C.M. ALMY & SON, INC. 37 Purchase St.,Rye, NY 10580. Yarns, even weave cloth, ecclesiastical supplies. Buys and sells.

LAURA'S CREATIVE STITCHERY, Box 291, Bountiful, UT 84014. Pillow kits, quilting kits, patterns. Buys and sells.

ROMNI WOOLS & FIBERS, LTD., 3779 W. 10th Ave.,Vancouver, BC, Canada. V6R 2G5. Spinning wheels, carding equipment, weaving looms; Buys and sells.

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC. 31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11051. Discount books, clip art, stencils, etc.

QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolinshire, IL 60917-4700, 312/634-4800. Office supplies.

NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office supplies.

SWEDCO, Box 29, Mooresville, NC 28115. 3 line rubber stamps - $3; business cards - $13 per thousand.

ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards (raised print - $11.50 per K) and letterhead stationery. Will print your copy ready logo or design, even whole card.

WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short run business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality but no choice of style or color.

Monday, November 10, 2008


If you are planning on beginning a business, your best bet is to start out part-time while you are still earning a full-time income at your present job. If you are like most people who are existing from payday to payday -- you don't have a lot of money to invest in a full-time business. No need to worry! Just use your favorite hobby as your business base and grow from there! There's no telling where you'll be at 2 or 3 years down the road. Perhaps you can even tell your present boss to "take that job and shove it." Wouldn't that be great?

Using your present hobby or favorite pastime as your business base has many benefits. Why? Because ANY business you decide to become involved in should be doing something you LOVE -- something you believe in -- something that you would work at NO MATTER what income it would generate. This will give you the stamina to see your business through the beginning hard times and times when there is more work to do than you can handle. We all know the feeling of doing a job that we hate to do. There is no way we can give it 110% of our abilities because we procrastinate getting through it and just want to get it over with. That's why it is vitally important to dearly love the product or service you have chosen to build your business around.

Do you like cooking? Start a recipe newsletter for others who like the same thing and sell your recipes by publishing a simple booklet. Do you enjoy making crafts? Sell them through mail order (be sure and mark up the price for shipping and handling). Do you enjoy working on cars? Print and distribute flyers in your neighborhood listing your prices. Offer a coupon discount for the customer to use on their first auto repair job. Do you enjoy writing? Write a small booklet or how-to manual and sell it through mail order or to multi-level enthusiasts. Do you enjoy computer programming? Write a program and sell through shareware groups or even to mail order computer owners.

Yes -- just about anything you love doing can be magically transformed into a business opportunity for you. Some items may only sell well in your neighborhood, while some products and services do well in mail order. If you decide to sell through mail order, all you need to do is write a simple ad and have it typeset. Start out with a smaller 1-inch, 2-inch or 3-inch ad. Ask the customer to send a "first-class stamp" or "$1.00" for more information. When they write you, include a 8 1/2x11 sheet detailing your prices. Make sure you have a small order form to make it easy to order your product or service. And of course -- include a cover letter stating that you appreciate their inquiry and look forward to doing business with them in the near future. You'd be surprised how many sales have been lost because a business didn't take the time to write a cover letter and personalize the mailing.

Also, start educating yourself by reading and researching other home-based businesses. Before I opened up my business I read national publications like "Small Business Opportunities," "Entrepreneur," "Home Office Computing," and "Spare Time Magazine." Although there were some full page ads in there filled with hype (claiming to make me $1 million dollars with a sheet of paper) -- the articles are excellent. Don't spend more than $3 for information in the beginning of your business because if a company is legitimate you should be able to call them and discuss the opportunity over the phone with them. Businesses that claim to put you in business overnight should never demand a large amount of money from you. On the contrary -- legitimate businesses have nothing to hide and will not charge you more than a few dollars in postage to learn the "whole" story behind their claims. Instead -- use these publications, as well as books from the library on starting a business to further your knowledge of the world.

Another good move on your part is to invest a few hours by attending a meeting that is sponsored by SCORE from the Small Business Administration in your area. It's free -- and the valuable information you obtain from actual people who have been in business before is something that will be extremely valuable in the months ahead. Just call the SBA to find out more information.

Yes -- it's that easy! Of course, this is only the beginning. As with any hobby, it will take time (probably many months) to realize a profit but think of it this way: Most people that have a hobby know they have to spend money to take part in their hobby. It only makes sense to invest money in advertising your hobby to others so you can eventually make some of that money back in sales for your own business!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Create and market your hand-made candles. This business, along with its closely related cousins soapmaking and plastercraft does not automatically progress from the hobby to business stage without a good deal of planning and effort.

The volume sellers must compete with cheaper, less stylish mass-produced and often imported products. But, with perseverance and ingenuity, it can be done!

Candle making is a highly versatile craft -- one that encompasses unlimited opportunities for creativity. Candles can be dipped, molded, rolled, fused, layered, sculptured or any combination of processes. They may be colored (dyed, painted or tinted) within and without;; they can be scented or can have embedded materials such as beads or shells, coated or whipped (foamed).

An illustration of candle making ingenuity and versatility is hot yellow-orange wax poured over small ice cubes. When the ice melts and the wax sets, it leaves cavities that look like Swiss cheese!


a place to work (it is too dangerous and messy for the kitchen),

adequate storage space for materials,

a relatively cool place to put finished candles (they will sag in hot temperatures),

utensils to melt and blend the waxes, molds and wax additives.
Startup supplies should include wax (sold in sheets or slabs), colors, stearic acid, temperature gauge, double broiler, a heating medium, molds and mold accessories (wick, lead, clay, etc.).

Equipment and supplies to get started at the crafts level should run in neighborhood of $200 from a professional supplier like Pourette (see Business Sources).

The candle making process is not complicated, but does require time and attention to detail for safety reasons as well as product quality.

Melting wax is highly volatile and can catch fire easily (this is why double broilers are used)if one isn't very careful. In the standard molding process, raw wax is melted and brought to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

During this time, certain additives such as stearic acid, colors and scents are added. Meanwhile, the mold is cleaned and sprayed with release (silicon). A wick inserted from the bottom and tied to a stick across the top and the hole in the bottom sealed with clay.

Note that the top of the mold equates to the bottom of the candle, and vice versa! Heavy lead wires (weights) are wrapped around the bottom of the mold.

The mold placed in a convenient position to receive the hot wax. When the wax is ready it is slowly and carefully poured down the side of the mold to prevent bubbles from forming.. The mold is filled to the top.

The remaining wax is kept at ready temperature and used to refill the hollow that forms as the wax shrinks, a natural result of the cooling process.

During this process the mold is frequently placed in cool water to speed the cooling process (the reason for the lead wire). If the candles meant to be hollow (like hurricane candle),, the still molten center is poured back as soon as the sides cool to the desired thickness (about 1/2 inch). When cool, the candle is removed from the mold, the wick trimmed and any final touches made.

Molds can be solid plaster of pairs,metal or metal shells, or flexible plastic. The flexible plastic and metal molds are the most popular. It is difficult to make your own molds for many projects. Most anything can be used for a mold -- from hollowed out wet sand to paper cones.

To make a flexible rubber mold, coat the subject with the commercial silicon formula and paint on successive coats (after each coat dries) of compound until the desired thickness is reached.

Allow your mold to cure and then simply peel it off and start making casts. The procedure for using most molds is similar except that some need to be fastened together (2 or more parts and some need to be supported (in sand, plaster or even water).

There are unlimited variations that can result in strikingly different and very impressive candles.

One is dipping a partially formed candle into vats of different colored wax, then peeling back layers with a knife to reveal the contrasting colors and textures.

Another is filling a cavity in damp sand with wax, which yields a candle with a sandy surface.

One "secret" technique was discovered by accident. A rubber mold was made of a wooden statue purchased in the Philippines. The statue had been made by aborigines who used shoe polish for a "stained" finish.

The heat from the mold curing process caused the shoe polish to break away from the wood and mar the smooth finish. The resulting mold imparted a pitted or frosted type surface to the molded candle -- not desired (and expected) smooth shiny surface.

The candle maker made several black candles and applied bronze. "rub and Buff" and the results were fantastic. The candles looked like they were made of solid bronze and sold like wildfire!

The way to get started is to order supplies and begin as a craft or hobby. Get your wax from as close to home as possible to save on freight (you will need about 50lbs. to start).When you feel confident of your ability and have a pretty good idea of the market, you are ready to consider becoming a business. Make up some samples, take some pictures and sell.

The difficult part is marketing ( due to competition from commercial, import and hobby candle makers). Some suggested techniques are:

Concentrate initially on a few items that you can produce expertly on a fairly large scale for wholesaling to gift stores. Examples: Anniversary or hurricane candles.

Develop an "original" candle or series and market them as exclusives, either wholesale or retail. Examples: Statue of local hero, school emblem.

Visit local retailers and ask what they could use at what price; plan your production with their responses in mind.

Set up a display (rent a window in a vacant store) to show candles you have to offer; include a sign with your number or address.

Organize candle making classes, charge a fee and sell not only the finished products but supplies as well.

Rent a booth at a good flea market each holiday season and "test" the market and sell of any remaining stock.

Have professional pictures taken of your best work, make up a catalog or send the pictures and descriptions (of candles you can mass produce) to catalog houses.
Anyone who works with candles just a few weeks will automatically come up with numerous original ideas and variations.

That is one of the beauties of this craft -- it almost forces you to be creative! Whether you produce a low volume of exquisite, high quality candles or a high volume of easier to produce candles, big ones or little ones is entirely up to you.

One candle may be highly profitable if it is a work of art. Note that candle making does not restrict you to wax only. You can sell other items that are decorated or complimented by candles, such as driftwood centerpieces with candles.

Soap making is very similar to candle making in that they are both molded, colored, and scented.

In fact, many of the molds and ingredients are interchangeable. Plaster craft is also related (the same molds can be used, so long as they are thoroughly cleaned).

For ceramics you use totally different and much more expensive) equipment, though many of the artistic skills are very similar.

The most glaring potential problem area in candle making is the danger of fire from the wax. Don't even THINK of melting wax without a good double broiler and fire extinguisher handy.

If the wax were to boil over, splash onto an open flame (or red heating element) a very serious fire could result. Anytime you are melting wax, make sure it is watched CONSTANTLY and that it is not allowed to get too hot.


POURETTE MFG. CO.,6818 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, 206/525-4488. Candle and soap making equipment and supplies. Old, reliable company.

CAROLINA SOAP & CANDLE MAKERS, Southern Pines, NC 28387. Line of wholesale candles.

K & L CANDLES, Box 322, Warren, RI 02885. Line of religious and 250 other types of candles and related products.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


"I really didn't know much about stained glass, only what I'd seen in gift shops," said Hal Williams, owner of Eagle Mountain Stained Glass Studio in Ridgecrest, California. So it was back in 1976, with "zero artistic background" that Williams and his wife Mary decided to take a class on stained glass at the community college. At that time they were both working as paramedics in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had extra time between shifts on the job.

Soon they became good friends with their instructor who owned a stained glass studio. By the end of the year, Williams was hired on at the studio as an apprentice. He stayed there for the next two years, learning most of what he would need to know to start his own business.

Then Williams moved to Houston, Texas, and started to work in his own studio part-time while holding a full-time job in the steel business. when Williams was laid off, however, her and his wife decided to move back to their hometown Ridgecrest, California -and start a stained glass business full-time. "Mary knew people here, but I didn't know a soul," says Williams. "But since I'd had some sales experience, I just started knocking on doors.

Williams started a large studio at his home and worked out of it for quite some time. He gained more experience and training by attending various seminars and workshops around the country.


"All I had was the bare necessities - my hand tools and a bench," says Williams. Eventually, for about $100 Williams purchased a glass grinder used to grind glass down for precision fitting. Next, he bought a diamond band saw for about $700. This he used for tricky cutting such as 90 degree angles and cutting that cannot be done by hand - it gives the glass worker a professional cut. To round out his studio, Williams bought a glass kiln for $2,000. The kiln is used for glass painting and fusing. It is a necessity when one is restoring the windows of old churches, which Williams has done. "Most of these tools are not necessary when just starting out, but they do save a lot of time for the professional," says Williams.

Initially, Williams made a large purchase of glass, lead, solder and other supplies because he felt it was necessary to keep these supplies on hand and ready. Since Williams was making so many time-consuming trips to Los Angeles for his materials, he decided to purchase a month's supply at a time. A month's worth of supplies costs him between $1,000 and $1,500.

Other essentials for Williams office include a work table (which he built himself for under $100) and a bench equipped with a built-in light. He uses this bench to trace patterns onto the stained glass pieces.


"Taking everything into consideration, if you are really creative, you can start up for about $2,000," says Williams. "That is if you start with a home studio." When you are building the stained glass business from scratch, one of the first things you should do is check your competition. This will tell you exactly what supplies to carry. It is obvious that if you don't have a wide pallet of colored glass to choose from, you will lose your business to the guy that does.

If you do have competition, be sure there's enough consumer interest to justify your new business. To attract customers to your shop and widen your customer base, offer to teach what you know. Williams went to the local college to offer to teach his skills in stained glass, which they cordially accepted. He is licensed and now teaches twenty-five students a semester.

He also approached local housing contractors and explained that not only could he provide excellently crafted stained glass, but he could also install it and do any necessary repairs on the job. This appealed to them because it would save a considerable amount of money. Their first contract was for stained glass work on twenty-five new houses. Williams created stained glass for front doors and side-lights. Popular colors are various hues of blue, mauve, and desert shades for floral, animal, or desert scenes.

Williams has a regular business license to do stained glass work, but if you also do the installation, work yourself you must have a contractors license.


"Proper bidding, I think is very important in stained glass," said Williams. "If you underbid, you are going to eat it, and if you overbid you are going to lose the job." Williams started out bidding very low so he could get the jobs and prove himself. As time went on he raised his prices, but he is still lower than his competitors. Now he is well known in his area, and gets a lot of good jobs.

Williams makes approximately $3,000 a month on custom work and the sales of supplies, a figure which does not include his contract work and teaching. Williams also has a gift shop in his downtown studio. "To make a decent wage you have to charge a decent price," says Williams.


Although he gets excellent exposure at his street-front location.. Williams still advertises. He has tried radio and newspapers, but finds that he gets the best results from the local swap sheet. He also carries a large ad in the Yellow Pages. Word of mouth has also been a very important advertising factor.

"We listen to what the customer wants, show him what we can do, and do the job right," says Williams. The Williams may expand even further someday, if they ever get the time, but right now their prosperous stained glass studio is keeping them very busy.