For sanity’s sake, the pandemic nudged many of us to explore new home-based, homemade hobbies, from watercolor to needlepoint to self-care. During the first three months of lockdown, craft-related searches increased by 63%. Nearly a year in, perhaps your hobby has flourished into a passion project and you have aspirations of creating a new business around it. If you’re destined for a craftier for-profit future and are focused on honing your craftsmanship, quality and marketing, here are 10 hot craft business subcategories to consider.
Candle sales in the U.S. are estimated at roughly $2.3 billion a year. Seven out of every 10 U.S. households have at least one candle. They are simple pleasures that make the perfect gift for just about any occasion and have become synonymous with serenity and relaxation. The retail price of a candle can range from 50 cents for a votive to $200 or more for a distinctive, artisan candle.
A good place to start honing your candle-making skills and aesthetic is with one of the many DIY kits available online. In the last three months of 2020, there was an 893% increase in searches on Etsy for candle making kits. To further elevate your candle know-how about everything from scents sense (there are more than 10,000 available) to color theory to wax and wicks, there are several virtual candle-making classes to guide you.
T-shirts are one clothing item that never go out of style and are a staple of just about every wardrobe, regardless of age or gender. T-shirts that make a statement about one’s individuality and capture moods, aesthetics, literary tastes and social activism are trending in a big way from boutiques to big box stores. They are also a great way for companies to inject personality and create interest in and promote their brands. The global market for the custom t-shirt printing industry was valued at $3.64 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow 9.7% between 2021 and 2028.
If you have a gift for creating unique graphics, identifying t-shirt-worthy humor or putting your own twist on what’s trending in pop culture, you may want to figure out a niche, test some graphics and make sure you have a design with a good quality resolution.
The value of the jewelry market is expected to increase from about $279 billion in 2018 to about $480.5 billion by 2025, with online sales accounting for about $8 billion. Jewelry makes us feel special and allows us to uniquely express our style. It’s a great business to get into if you love working with beads, stamped metal, leather or mixed media, all which have their place and value in the handmade jewelry market.
Some segments can be heavily saturated, so developing a unique aesthetic or niche offers many advantages to entering the jewelry market. For one, making jewelry doesn’t require a lot of equipment. The materials and inventory are also small, therefore don’t require a lot of storage or retail space. And, finished products are lightweight, making them easy to ship. Lastly, jewelry often has high perceived value and typically yields profit margins between 25%-75%. While building your retail-worthy inventory and capturing it with killer photography, do your research to determine where the best prospective buyers are. Scope out local fairs, markets, direct-to-consumer or on online craft marketplaces like Etsy, Artfire, or Handmade by Amazon, to name a few.
Hair clips, bows and headbands
Hair accessories are big business, estimated at $20 Billion+ and growing. They are a staple of baby, youth and teen wardrobes and therefore a stable industry to enter, provided you create a unique product aligned with style trends and safety guidelines. Today, hair clips and headbands are trending among adults, too.
“Athflow” is the emerging fashion category that is upgrading the sweats apparel uniform of 2020 to equally comfy but now flowy and sleeker basics. Think polished headbands and hair clips, stacked beaded barrettes with pretty pearls and padded velvet or silk headbands. They are 2021’s It accessories. If you have a great eye for style and the ability to turn out quality, detailed designs that feel as good as they look, this market may be your sweet spot. You can sell direct-to-consumer on your own site, on a craft-driven marketplace, or wholesale to retailers in the fashion, accessory or salon space.
The beauty of this craft business is that it starts with ingredients found in most homes.
Calligraphy and hand-lettering
There are many people who are drawn to the beauty, elegance and artistry of hand-styled lettering. In the digital age, this craft represents something more personal, thoughtful and special. If you’re proud of and passionate about beautiful penmanship, you could parlay it into a bustling business. Handwriting as artwork makes invitations, wedding vows, greeting cards, place cards, event signage and inspirational quotes extra-special.
While calligraphy is the art of writing letters with a series of strokes and is considered an extension of traditional penmanship, hand-lettering is the art of illustrating individual letters. Both techniques are forms of custom artwork and can also lead to lucrative deals with brands who wish to hire you to create logos and graphics. There are many online courses that specialize in both techniques and equip you with everything you need to know and purchase to get started.
There has always been a demand for embroidery; however in 2021, embroidery is already showing its popularity on products from hats to handbags to earrings. Companies also continue to have their logos embroidered on clothing and accessories, allowing their remote employees to represent their company spirit and unity in a more casual way a la polo shirts and tees. You can start small with hand embroidery, like sewing patches, appliques and fine-stitched details onto items. You can also sell your designs to others to incorporate in their products.
Although labor-intensive, hand-stitching is inexpensive and requires only hoops, good needles and thread. It is also portable so you can do it anywhere, and it allows for creativity, precision and control that can’t be achieved with machinery. Garment sewing is best achieved with the efficiency of a sewing machine, which requires a much larger investment, but allows you to digitize your designs or select from thousands of pre-made designs in a way that handiwork cannot. Due to its intricacy and one-of-a-kind appeal, embroidery of all types can command significant earnings, ranging from $10 per piece for hat work to $30 for a shirt or hoodie logo.
Enhancing one’s home environment in fresh and uplifting ways has never been as big a theme as it is now. The possibilities to capitalize on this pandemic-produced phenomenon are endless. There are several trends that lend themselves perfectly to artisans and crafters. If woodworking is your specialty, custom-made charcuterie boards, both big and small, are a huge trend for creating all different types of food spreads. Once you’ve cut and shaped the board, you can monogram or engrave it for even greater marketability. Another option for woodworkers is creating and painting farmhouse-style signs and picture frames. These are all ways customers are adding warmth to their interiors and creatives are adding to their profits.
If fabric work is more your thing, fabric-covered planters are expected to add life to living spaces. It’s a craft that can turn into a real conversation piece and requires only a great eye for unique textiles and solid cutting, wrapping and gluing techniques.
Ritual baths are big in 2021, and bath bombs — those fun, colorful and great-smelling fizzies that turn bathwater into a multi-sensory spa-like experience — continue to be big sellers in the body care category. They cost as little as 25 cents each to make and sell for $3-10 each. They are loved by all ages and have great appeal in their ability to bring a little novel fun to the monotony of at-home living, working and schooling. The beauty of this craft business is that it starts with ingredients found in most homes: colloidal oatmeal, baking soda, cornstarch and epsom salts. Add to that some citric acid and aromatherapy or essential oils, and you’ve got the beginnings of a bath bomb business.
Consumers are increasingly seeking clean beauty products with non-synthetic ingredients. This important consideration can lead to more sales when your bath bomb recipes can promise the use of good-for-you and good-for-the-environment ingredients that are free of harmful additives or toxins. In keeping with this sentiment, great eco-friendly packaging is another consideration for your brand.
If fabric warehouses make you feel like a kid in a candy store, you possess basic sewing skills and you’re good with scissors and embellishments, designing and producing decorative pillows might be the craft business you were destined for. Accent pillows allow people to update their decor in an affordable and easy way. For pillow lovers of all ages and interests, they add panache and personality to the beds, sofas, floors and outdoor spaces. There are many ways to get creative and define your brand, like creating personalized photo pillows, embroidering designs or adorning pillows with pom poms or pop-art. Creativity is key: perhaps you’d be inspired to craft a travel-inspired collection that captures the spirit of adventure. This pillow buyers’ guide is sellers’ food for thought and will school you on everything from size and texture to shape and fill.
Vinyl stickers have become a fun way to add a touch of style to just about everything, adorning water bottles, walls, tech devices and school lockers. They are imaginative and whimsical, and anything that one can dream up and sketch can be converted to a sticker.
The most profitable revenue stream for selling hand-drawn stickers is to market custom design work to businesses and event organizers. Find out who is opening a new restaurant or store in your neighborhood and pitch them on a custom sticker to help to brand and promote their business. Work with party planners to use your design work on gift bags and other special occasion swag. Connect with home organizers to sell packets of your hand-drawn organizer labels. Having the artistic ability and customers is key, but stocking up on materials and mastering the printing process will be essential to quality production success.
CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.
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Published February 17, 2021