Selling stationery is easy and the market is steady throughout the year. Why should you have an interest in a stationery business? The answer is it is a simple business, the demand is huge, and the work routine is easier to follow through. You can be your own boss at a much relaxed pace. Although the world is advancing, stationery still remains relevant. You can position your business and create a unique brand. This would be your perfect niche. Operating a stationery business in Zimbabwe is very profitable.
What you need
You need to carry out market research and have a good stationery business plan before you start this business. The stationery business has trends. There are seasons of high and normal demand depending on exactly what you want to concentrate on. It is important that you carry out a survey to understand the types of stationery that are on demand. Better yet, you can sell products that are on high demand at that particular time. It means you rotate your stationery products throughout the year to suit market needs.
Products can range from office stationery supplies, education textbooks, intellectual books, novels, writing pads, bond paper, flash disks, carbon paper, pens, pencils, rulers, diaries, covers, arch Lever Files, manila sheets, staples, punchers e.t.c. Analyze your competitors and how they do business. Understand their strategies and how you can be able to position yourself as relevant in this market. You also need to find cheap source of products. You should buy your products directly from the manufacturers e.g. exercise books manufacturers in Harare. Some of the products you can buy them in South Africa, If you are operating your stationery business outside Harare, you can buy your products from the big stationery shops in Harare e.g. Planas Stationery shop has cheap stationery products which you can resell for a profit.
After carrying out your research you need to come up with marketing tactics to network and make your stationery business known. For example, at startup you can set aside funds and offer free service stationery letters, complimentary pens, discounted packages e.g. buy one get one free. Such promotional activities draw attention and increase traffic to your website and the stationery business. You can also advertise using the local newspaper and magazines.
Create a networking platform and organize book and knowledge sharing forums and invite prominent writers and motivational speakers to come and address youths and students. You can even run these events online and organize webinar sessions. The demand for stationery products in Zimbabwe is very huge. The customers for the stationery business include school children, individuals, schools, companies and organisations.
Capital for Stationery Business
The capital you need to start the stationery business will depend on the size of your stationery business. For a small stationery shop, you can start with $5000. This money will be sufficient to cover the purchase of stationery materials, rental costs, to employ a sales cashier and cover all initial operational costs. You also need to apply for a shop license from the Local government authority/City council.
Locate your stationery shop at a convenient place. Make sure it is neat and well organized. The stationery shop should be located where there is a lot of foot traffic e.g. in the CBD. You will need to get many customers to be profitable in the stationery business. You have to push volumes up to ensure that you cover all your fixed costs, and make good net profits. Consider costs and try to minimize rental costs.
Insurance is very important. Even if your stationery business is small, risks are always there and it will come in handy when an unexpected event happens. Find an affordable cover and secure your business. You can secure your business against risks such as fire and theft.
Management and employees
The number of employees you need will depend on the size of your business. You will need cashiers, sales assistants, purchasing staff, finance & accounting staff. If you are starting small, you can start your stationery business with only 2 employees: a cashier and a sales assistant. You can then have oversight of the business and manage all other issues such as banking, getting supplies and maintaining the books of accounts. Running this business would require you to get knowledge and work on improving your management skills. Read and research as widely as possible, attend leadership courses if you can and carry out your work professionally.
Consider online stationery business
Some clients would like to purchase their stationery needs from the comfort of their home. Technology makes your life easier by expanding your client base and sales. Design a website and allow clients to purchase stationery products online. If products are to be delivered as hard copy you can do deliveries around the city. For deliveries outside your city of operation you can send via DHL. To add on, the online business helps you to market and brand your products. You will need to leverage the use of social networks e.g. Facebook, to be successful in your online stationery business.
Get the right equipment
Your stationery business may also have an element of design for example you may be designing your own paper, business cards, brochures, fliers e.t.c.. Note that this niche is fast growing and very lucrative. A computer and a printer will be necessary for designing and printing. You will also need internet access to be able to manage and continuously update the website and communicate with your clients and at the same time look up new designs. You can also offer customized receipt books, calendars, diaries e.t.c to companies.
Profitability and costs
If you try to follow through the above steps and also manage your income well, then you have no problems. The biggest challenge with such a business is that it is easier to divert funds to non business related activities. Avoid this as much as possible by opening a separate bank account from your own personal bank account. You need to be very disciplined and put stringent measures such to your account. Put every business transaction into writing for accountability purposes. You need to push volumes to be profitable in the stationery business. For a small stationery shop, you can make annual profits of at least $15 000. The costs involved in running a stationery business include rentals, salaries, purchasing the stationery products, advertising, shop licences e.t.c.
The stationery business is viable in Zimbabwe. Once you are settled consider expansion options such as opening another stationery shop in another city and even expanding your website into an international stationery site. In time you can even consider going into another line of business in order to diversify and spread your business risk.
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