Do you have an interest in providing sports teams, corporations and other organizations with trophies and other awards? A trophy business could be for you. Starting a trophy and awards company can be done quickly and fairly easily with the right plan.
Incorporate your company. Choose an official business such as a corporation, Limited Liability Company or partnership. This will create a separate entity with its own tax status. Because you will be buying wholesale products and selling trophies to retail clients, you will be taking a significant amount of risk and likely be required to pay sales tax. You will also have a considerable amount of expenses. As an LLC, you can protect your personal assets and provide a solid tax shelter for your business income and debts, which is often not possible as a sole proprietorship (see Resources below).
Apply for a business license. Most states and many cities require retail businesses such as a trophy retailer to be licensed. Contact your state and local governments and obtain a business license application package. The business licensing process varies from state to state and can be fairly detailed (see Resources below). Contact an attorney if you get stuck or lack the time to tackle the process on your own.
Choose a business model. There are many ways to sell trophies and awards. Brainstorm with your team about the best way to go about serving your market. To sell to your immediate market, a storefront and a workshop are ideal. Find a space with enough room to install a showroom, service counter and area to work. If you wish to sell to a much broader customer base, a drop-ship business model is often suitable, especially if you are cash-strapped. With this type of arrangement, you simply sell out of a catalog or from a website and customers receive their products directly from your supplier’s warehouse (see Resources below). Keep in mind that if you wish to focus on personalized customer service and provide quality merchandise, choosing a storefront in your local community will be your best option. If you wish to operate as a price-driven volume seller, bypass the expenses of a storefront and operate as a online seller or drop-shipper.
Choose product lines. Most organizations and sports teams look for quality, service and a fair prices when shopping for trophies. Some customers will want cheaply-made products while others may seek custom-made, solid metal awards. Do some market research to find out what your target market is likely to buy. Ask around, mail out surveys—whatever you can do to find out how to serve your market. To be safe, have a wide variety of inexpensive awards and higher-end products to properly cover the needs of each market sector.
Sign up with wholesalers. There are many trophy wholesale companies out there (see Resources below). Contact them and go through the necessary process to become a registered dealer. You may be required to use a company credit card or pay a deposit before suppliers will issue you credit.
Develop a marketing system. You will be most successful selling to clients that will buy large quantities of trophies at a time. Call on schools, sports leagues, large corporations and government agencies—anyone that commonly gives awards to employees or players. If you do a good job, these companies will keep coming back to you. It’s also a good idea to sell personalized awards and engraved products such as business card holders, name plates and desk sculptures. This will attract a steady flow of walk-in business and referrals. Join your Chamber of Commerce.
Write a strong business plan. This will be your guide to properly running your business on all fronts (see Resources).
Focus on service. Delivery, free repairs and volume discounts are all ways to keep customers happy.
Build a website. Trophy customers often like to browse on their own before placing orders. In addition to your showroom, build a site with photos and a product catalog.
Carefully price your merchandise. There are hundreds of online trophy and awards discounters and liquidators with little or no overhead, able to undercut their competition. Be as competitive as possible. Sell quality, not low prices.
Register with your local tax office before opening.