According to the federal government, more than 75 percent of wedding industry workers—planners, caterers, flower arrangers, dress designers, store owners—are self-employed. With the average wedding dress costing more than $1,000, opening a bridal boutique may seem like a sure thing. Boutique owners can make excellent salaries, but only if the business succeeds.
There are no specific salary figures for bridal boutique owners, but fashion boutique managers as a group can earn as much as $100,000 if their store takes off. The Career Bliss website profiles two stores online and found the owners of one averaged between $70,000 and $92,000—annual income can vary depending on the store's profits—while another successful store's owner made between $46,000 and $56,000. Your income when the store is starting out may be much less.
As the owner of the store, it's up to you how you want to be paid. You can treat yourself as an employee and pay yourself a regular salary, or pay yourself off the top, claiming a share of the profits after all the bills are paid. Before you start your business, it might be worth calculating how much income you need to live on, then using that as a basis for how much you'll be paid the first year or two. That frees you up to put the rest of your profits back into the boutique.
Unless you're an overnight success, money may be very tight the first two or three years you're in business. You may actually lose money during this period, because of start-up costs—setting up your store, buying dresses and equipment, paying for a business license—and salaries for your other employees. Income may be low until you build a reputation. Before you open your store, you need to be sure you have enough cash reserves that it can run in the red for a while.
One way to get an idea of what your store could earn is to sit down and write your business plan. Based on your knowledge of your local wedding industry, figure out what it will take to make your store a success—the gowns, the staff, the location—and how much everything will cost. Research the market thoroughly and figure out how much your store is likely to bring in, not just next year but several years down the road. This will give you an idea of how much you might be able to take out of the profits without hurting business.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.