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Business 102: Model for a Small Maille Business
Article © MAIL User: Brucifer

Business 102: Business Model for a Small Maille Business

It’s one thing to make chain mail and make it well, but it’s an entirely different thing to have a successful business in selling it. I came up with the idea for writing this article after seeing many posts on just this sort of thing. There are a few things I’d like to discuss in this business model including, inventory, business planning, location, and advertising.

Location – Location is probably the area that can be the most widely varied. Yes Ren Faires and Gaming Cons would seem like a logical place to set up a booth or rent booth space, but have you considered the not so obvious places? Craft shows, concerts, lifestyles clubs, even at the beach and of course right here on the internet (Ebay is a good place)

Advertising – This is such an easy thing to do if you have product that really stands out. Whenever you go out wear your maille. Wear your belts, ties, bracelets, necklaces, wallet chains, shirts, skirts and so on. It’s something that doesn’t have a lot of exposure otherwise, yet is different enough to attract a lot of attention. You would also want to think about getting business cards printed up with contact info. Business cards from a professional printer aren’t that expensive or you can make your own with a color printer at home.

Inventory – You need to have inventory if you’re doing a trade show booth, You can’t possibly take orders for the small stuff. I suggest that you make as many small pieces as you can in different varieties, including: necklaces, bracelets, hand flowers, wallet chains, belts, decorative hip belts, ties, pouches, juggling balls, and so forth. Anything that is small that you can sell for $20 to $60 with plenty of profit built into it. That’s not all though, you need to decide what ring sizes you’d primarily like to work with for clothing. Make a few patches of weaves that you will offer as well as a few different garments, 1 or 2 coifs, perhaps a skirt, a vest, a halter and maybe even a bikini and bra set for display purposes only. DO NOT TRY TO MAKE AN INVENTORY OF CLOTHING. It’s too costly to make and entirely too time consuming. You can probably make 30 or 40 necklaces in the time it takes you to make a vest and at $30 to $50 a necklace you can see that you really would rather be selling them.

Business Plan – This should already be quite apparent at this point. Make lots of small stuff and sell it. Small items are where the profit is. I’ve seen people say they would want to get $400 to $500 for a vest or shirt. Well 10 good quality necklaces could easily yield that kind of money with far less material cost and far less labor involved. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make and sell these items but you should charge a premium for them and take them on a custom order basis. If someone wants a stainless steel mini skirt with ¼” rings that’s great!!! Charge them $350 - $500 for and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If they think it’s too much just don’t accept the order and spend that 20 or 30 hours you’d have spent on the skirt making necklaces and bracelets and sell them instead. Don’t compromise the value of your product to try and get a big order. That big order will actually lose you money in the long run. Only take a big order if the customer is willing to pay for it. Also get 50% up front on big orders to pay for materials and your lost time on the order. If the customer backs out then you can always sell the item to the next taker for a reasonable price.

Remember that every piece you make is custom, hand-made and unique. You’ll never see another one exactly like it!!!

I hope that this article is helpful to anyone thinking of making a go of making and selling chain mail for a living. I wrote this article based on my personal business and retail experiences. I have worked in the retail sales industry for the last 12 years as a sales person as well as a sales manager and feel that these methods are actually quite valid for pretty much any type of small specialty craft business.

Please enjoy.
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