How to Build a creative business

How to Build a creative business

I’ve always wanted to start a really creative business of my own. I love arts, crafts and books so I’m thinking about floral design, a quilt shop, a bookstore or an art gallery. How do I decide which one is right for me?

Creative Urge

Dear Creative,

This is one of the hardest choices in starting or buying a business. Most people have many talents and interests. How can you possibly choose just one?

Several of your choices could be combined to create a business that reflects who you are. You could own a quilt shop that sells books and magazines on quilting, for example. Or, perhaps, an art gallery that only sells pictures of books about floral design while sitting on quilts? However, we think it would be very difficult to attempt them all, and you would be so unfocused that success would be unlikely.

One of Cindy’s favorite memories is a store up in Frisco, Colorado that was a Chinese restaurant, Laundromat, Video Store and Car Wash. It may have seemed like a good combination to the owners and it actually managed to stay in business a couple of years. The Laundromat, car wash and video store had a strange kind of synergy, but we seldom saw people buying food there.

Consider that a business, like cows on a dairy farm, always needs feeding and care. It will need work even when you’re tired and have already worked 12 hours that day. Which of the four possible businesses that you listed is the one thing you can do, day in and day out, and never get tired of? The historian Joseph Campbell always recommended: “Follow your bliss.” Which business is your “bliss”? Answer that, and everything else tends to fall into place.


At the same time, business is a stern taskmaster! If you do not make a profit, you cannot stay in business. Can you answer this question: Which of your choices will give you the best chance to make a profit?

If you can’t answer it right now, or aren’t sure of the answer, begin with finding information about the place where you want to have this business. Can you draw enough customers locally to succeed? If you’re in a tiny town far from tourism areas, any of these choices will make success very tough. If you’re in an area that has a lot of potential buyers, either residential or tourist, the next step is to scope out the competition for each of these businesses.

Some competition is good-you can tell by their traffic whether there are enough interested people around to make a business work. You can also scope out the competition’s strengths and weaknesses. If you can find that your competition has a lot of unsatisfied customers, you’ve got a real opportunity. You may find that the competition with unhappy customers is running it as a hobby (you’re not planning on doing that, are you?). Consider making an offer to buy any local competitor that you’d like to emulate. An existing business comes with huge advantages, not the least of which are the existing customers and cash flow. You get to improve, not prove, the business.

Have you ever heard the reference to “Fred’s Junkyard and Croissants”? Fred was just a little too unfocussed, a lot like the Chinese Menagerie owner above (one business from column A, two businesses from column B). Remember to stay focused in whatever you decide so your energies are not spread too thin for success.

Bottom Line? Our recommendation would be to take care of your bottom line. Choose something that you love, will make you money, and make it fast enough that you don’t have to run at a loss for too long after you start.

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