How to Start an Upcycling Business

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Upcycling businesses have taken off in the last few years, especially as people become more aware of sustainability and the potential of upcycling. If you’re looking for a small business idea that could really resonate with potential customers, selling upcycled products is one of the best business ideas to consider.

What is Upcycling?

Before we dive into upcycling businesses, let’s first establish a definition. Upcycling is when you take an older product and modify it into a new one. This could range from cosmetic changes such as a coat of paint and making minor repairs to more extensive changes to turn something old into something brand new.

Can You Make a Business from Upcycling?

There are many people running successful businesses based on upcycling products. Such a business is definitely possible, and it can be a great way to take something old and give it a new life by using discarded materials to create something new. There are a variety of products that can be upcycled and sold, including furniture and clothing. And the key to ensuring your success is knowing where to sell handmade items locally or online.

Why You Should Consider Starting an Upcycling Business

There are many reasons to consider starting an upcycling business, such as:

  1. Sustainability: Upcycling is better for the environment since you’re taking old items and turning them into something new rather than creating something from scratch.
  2. Save money: Small business owners are saving money by finding low-priced discarded items at local shops and thrift shops to upcycle and sell.
  3. Uniqueness: For many small businesses, upcycling is a great way to be creative and make truly unique products that customers love and keep coming back to.
  4. Easy to get started: Upcycling businesses have lower start up costs and ongoing expenses since there is no wait for products to get made or sampled. You can start looking for items to upcycle pretty much right away, so it’s easier to control business growth.

How to Start an Upcycling Business | 17 Simple Steps

If you’re thinking about upcycling as a side business, here are some steps to get you started. There are many types of upcycling businesses, so it’s really about what resonates with you. For example, you could start a furniture upcycling business, clothing upcycling business, textiles, and art upcycling business depending on your interests.

1. Research Your Competition

Before you get started purchasing scrap pieces and old furniture, it’s crucial to look at other businesses offering similar products. Look at their price points and any information you can find on online sales, shipping, and more. This will help you price products more accurately.

2. Choose a Niche

With any new business, having a niche is instrumental in differentiating you from others and staying unique compared to the rest. Some niches can include creating textured artwork from fibers and waste materials, restoring wooden furniture with a shabby chic look, embroidering on clothing, and more.

3. Create an Upcycling Business Plan

A business plan is a great way to solidify your business idea and make it more tangible. It helps you understand costs and profits better and how you plan on selling items.

Some items to include in your business plan include:

  • Upfront costs
  • Ongoing business expenses
  • Unique selling point
  • Where you’ll find products to upcycle
  • How you’ll reach customers

4. Pick a Name and Brand Your Upcycling Business

Upcycling success is based not just on your product but also with branding and marketing. Come up with a catchy name for your business to start with. Creating branding materials such as a logo, tagline, and more can help your business stand out.

5. Know Your Target Market

Before you start selling upcycled products, do some research on your target market. What are the prices they can afford, what do they value, and how can your products meet their needs? This will help you sell furniture and other products more effectively.

6. Form a Legal Entity and Register Your Business

You can form a legal entity and register your upcycling business to make things official. Depending on your situation, there are many types of legal entities you can choose from. If you’re a sole proprietor, you can operate as one or a limited liability corporation (LLC). You can also register corporate entities as if you’re planning on scaling quickly.

7. Get Your Taxes in Order

Taxes on your upcycling business will vary based on what state you’re filing from. The general rule is that you’ll need to file taxes on any revenue you’ve earned if it exceeds $600 in the year.

You may also need to pay state and federal taxes based on the type of entity you file as. But, again, taxes can be challenging depending on the type of business, so if you’re unsure, it’s always best to work with a tax professional that can guide you accordingly.

8. Set Your Prices

Now that you’ve researched your competitors and target market, it’s time to start thinking about pricing. When pricing a product, you should consider the cost of the product, including its purchase price, raw materials needed to upcycle it, the time the entire process took, and any taxes and shipping fees.

9. Consider Startup Costs and Ongoing Business Expenses

Shipping costs and other business expenses can creep up if you’re not careful. Before diving in, think about how much money you are willing to spend in the beginning to create your products and how much you’re expecting to make. Consider ongoing purchases and expenses and shipping costs as well to project how long your business can operate before it makes a profit.

10. Set Up a Business Bank Account

A business bank account helps with separating expenses and ensuring you’re able to track expenses and costs. You can also get a business credit card to start purchasing raw materials and products to help you keep track of how much you’re spending for your business.

11. Get Permits and Licences

If you’re selling upcycled furniture products like farmhouse chairs, reclaimed wood, and other types of recycled products, you may need to obtain a resale permit. You may also need a business license for an upcycling furniture business as it may require a workshop.

12. Purchase Business Insurance

Business insurance can help protect your business by covering you for general liabilities and issues. For upcycling furniture businesses, in particular, business insurance could be helpful depending on the types of materials and work you’re doing.

13. Create a Website or Choose Where You’ll Sell

You can either choose to sell through your own website or use a third-party platform to sell products. Both have their pros and cons, so you’ll need to weigh up what works best for you. If you choose to create your website, you’ll be able to pocket more of the profits. You can use basic website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify.

You can also sell online via third-party platforms through your own shop on Etsy. But before you get going find out how to start a small business on Etsy so you can optimize your digital presence on there. Amazon also has its version so it is will pay off to know how to sell on Amazon Handmade to bring in profits. Other avenues to grow your own business and sell your products can include wholesale orders with other shops and selling at

14. Buy the Necessary Equipment

Buying products to upcycle will require scouting many different sources for raw materials to find furniture and more. Some places where you can find products could include:

  • Facebook marketplace
  • Nearby car boot sale
  • Online auction sites
  • Yard sales and garage sales
  • Antique stores
  • Thrift stores

15. Sort Out Your Production Line

As your business grows, it’s essential to consider how your business will grow and what you’ll need. This could be employing staff to help out on admin tasks and assisting with making products to expand your product line.

16. Market Your Business

Marketing your business will help you gain more customers and reach your ideal customer. You can market your business through the following channels:

  • Social media platforms
  • Working with local newspapers and brands
  • Paid ads
  • Blogs and content marketing
  • Influencer marketing

17. Increase Your Profits

As you create more upcycled products and reach customers, increasing your profits should be a priority. In addition, you can expand your business by offering different types of products, bespoke services, and increasing advertising to grow your customer base.

Is an upcycling business profitable?

An upcycling furniture business or other kinds of upcycling business can definitely be profitable. However, profits will vary depending on the type of product being sold, the raw materials and cost of upcycling furniture, and where the products are being sold.

It’s challenging to establish an average profit because of the variations, but items can be sold from a small amount to upwards of hundreds of dollars and more with larger profit margins.

How does a furniture upcycling business make money?

A furniture upcycling business makes money by finding old furniture and making it into new furniture, by making it into shabby chic style, or creating unique furniture pieces with rust oleum paints, chalk paint, and more. An upcycling furniture business makes its money by selling these products directly to customers or through wholesale orders if possible.

What is the difference between upcycling and recycling?

With recycling, products are taken as is and used without really modifying them. With upcycling, the product is taken and altered to create something new.

Image: Depositphotos

Christin Hakim

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