Today’s blog was submitted by Edgington Studio Co-Founder, Keegan Zacharie. Edgington Studio is a cut-and-sew apparel manufacturing studio based in Wheeling, WV.
For most people starting a new business, there is one key question on their minds: how am I going to afford all of this? Costs, both expected and unexpected, are an unfortunate reality for these newcomers. However, entrepreneurs are nothing if not creative, and there are plenty of innovative ways to keep expenses to a minimum as you set out on the path to success and financial independence. Today, we would like to share a few of our own adaptations with you in the hopes that it will serve you well in your journey. We will focus on five new business cost hacks here: making your internet affordable, getting more bang for your buck in office furniture, getting your supplies for the best possible price, creative approaches to production and shipping, and keeping utility costs low.
When we started here at the Studio, setting up the internet was one of our top priorities. After all, it’s the primary way to connect with customers and showcase our products and services in a world kept at home by COVID. It’s reasonable to think that the price for a business internet setup with a national provider would have been similar in price to that of a home setup since both use similar amounts of data. How wrong we were! The national provider wanted three times the price on a monthly basis, and a three-year commitment for the mandatory contract. This would have been an astronomical cost for our fledgling business, and it was upsetting that they would try to take advantage of entrepreneurs this way. After trying to negotiate with them, we quickly realized an alternative was necessary. How could we have quality internet at an affordable price? The solution: a WiFi hotspot! By using one of these devices (we opted for a ZTE Velocity 2 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot, though there are many options out there), we freed ourselves from the need for expensive internet contracts. Now we not only get fast and affordable connection speeds through Consumer Cellular but we also have the freedom to take our internet with us: stick the hotspot in your pocket and bring your business WiFi anywhere! This one decision has saved us close to $100 a month since our business began. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s no alternative: set yourself up with a mobile WiFi hotspot as soon as you can!
Once you’ve settled on your place of business, it’s time to fill it up with furniture! Well, perhaps not “fill it up”, though at the very least you will need the basics for your new office: chairs, desks, production/packing tables, and possibly more depending on the nature of your work. For us, we needed quite a bit, so it was important to avoid breaking the bank when it came to getting the basics to start things off. Our fix for this potential pitfall was shopping locally in the resale marketplace. Why buy brand new desks from big box stores when there are so many used ones available nearby? Through local business contacts, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and print ads, we were able to source nearly all of what we needed at spectacular prices. Don’t forget: furniture is usually easy to clean, remove scratches from, or put new coverings on, so keep an open mind about your purchases!
No matter what kind of business you run, supplies are essential to keep things moving along. With all of the retail choices these days, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to source your needs from. Your best bet is to do price comparisons on those items you will have the greatest need for on a regular basis. After doing a great deal of this ourselves, we can confidently say that having Amazon Prime for your business is not only a great deal but pays for itself incredibly quickly. You might think that specialty online stores offer the best discounts of all, though after accounting for shipping costs, Amazon still managed to beat the competition. Whether you’re considering buying boxes from Uline, a bluetooth speaker from Best Buy, or even tissue paper from a specialty supply company, you will often find at the end of your search that Amazon has the best deals of all. Even better, many of the vendors on Amazon with the best prices are US-based, thus allowing you to buy American and buy cheaply at the same time! There were some noteworthy exceptions to the Amazon-is-cheapest rule that we found, and they were often in very specific circumstances, such as sewing and fabrics supplies being the best deal by purchasing them in person at fabric shows or JoAnn’s Fabrics with the aid of coupons. Lastly, don’t forget to look for discounts in the most unusual places: we found out about and received a young entrepreneur discount for our West Virginia state business filing fees. There’s savings to be had almost everywhere if you take the time to look!
Once you’re set up and ready to produce and/or ship your products, even more costs join the party. The best way to address this is by making your search for better, cheaper options an iterative process rather than a one-time thing. You may have found the best deal on your production elements today, though that could change tomorrow. It’s always wise to set up a regular time on your calendar to review what you’re paying in an effort to save even more. At the Studio, we previously did our best to take advantage of the great shipping rates of USPS and felt confident we were getting a great deal by buying our shipping labels directly from them. However, once we did our usual “monthly checkup” of looking for better alternatives, we discovered Pirate Ship, an official USPS partner that not only offered significant discounts, but allowed us access to USPS Priority Cubic rates which we could use in conjunction with 100% free boxes from the postal service (see our article here on how to master the art of shipping). Making yourself and your business a little bit better every day is a surefire path to success, and we are confident you’ll see the same kind of changes we did once you get started!
The last item on our exploration of cost-saving measures for your business is that dreaded category that quietly takes away from your bottom line every month, yet you can do very little to stop: utilities. Those bills for water, electricity, gas, and more come in reliably every month, and you often only have a single choice for each service, so what’s an entrepreneur to do? Your best bet is to do your best to conserve what you use and batch activities to reduce utility costs. Since you can turn down the heating or cooling when you aren’t at your office or business and just allow the temperature to normalize (within reason, don’t want frozen pipes after all!), this makes an assessment of your “most productive hours” extremely important. If you find yourself and your staff dragging through your mornings yet highly productive in the afternoon, why not alter your hours accordingly to get the most use out of the day and utilities? If you make an effort to concentrate your work into your most productive hours, you can save both time and money in the process. Sometimes gaining insight into your own habits can be a profitable endeavor in itself!
We hope you’ve gained at least a few ideas from today’s exploration of keeping things affordable for your business. After all, profit is the difference between your sales and your costs, so keeping a close eye on both is essential to success. Until next time, we wish you the best of luck in the wild world of entrepreneurship, and keep making things better every day!