How to start a lingerie business

Meg Zimbeck:

The lingerie industry is responsible for making millions of everyday women feel like a million bucks. Starting a lingerie business can be an exciting and rewarding career for someone who is outgoing and thoroughly enjoys making women feel sexy. Plus, a lingerie business can be operated from your home or a boutique.

Ensure that this is a venture that you can afford. Sit down and evaluate your finances. Write up a business plan to help you approximate how much start-up capital you will need. Include the cost of supplies, rental space, advertising, materials and licenses. If financing is out of the question, start your lingerie business from home. Once your business takes off, you can open a boutique.

Apply for a sales tax permit and federal tax identification number. Items sold in state will be subject to a state sales tax. A permit enables you to pay your taxes easily. If you plan to attend trade shows or purchase certain wholesale goods, you must have a tax ID and tax permit. If you will have a boutique, register your business. Select a business name that is sexy, yet subtle.

Narrow down the type of products you intend to sell. In addition to teddies and nightgowns, you might sell nursing or maternity gear, seasonal lingerie, bras, bra accessories, plus size gear, sexy costumes, feather boas, body jewel, robes and slippers. Your clientele will vary greatly, so be sure to identify your target audience and cater your merchandise to them. Cheap body jewellery and art may not appeal to an older, more sophisticated, crowd. Peruse local lingerie boutiques to conduct market research on your audience.

Find a location for your boutique that is appropriate for your clientele if you don't plan to work out of your home. High-end lingerie belongs in a high-end shopping centre or near an expensive residential neighbourhood. For trendy lingerie aimed at a younger crowd, consider leasing space downtown or in high traffic shopping centres. Avoid high-crime areas no matter how cheap the rent. You want your customers to feel comfortable and safe. Your retail space should have room for at least one dressing room, a cash wrap, racks, mannequins, tables, chairs for waiting husbands, a bathroom and a break room.

Decorate your store in appropriate decor Put your best lingerie on those mannequins facing out. Whether your theme is shabby chic or Gothic, be consistent. A lingerie store should be clean and inviting, offering a warm and friendly atmosphere. Deck out your dressing rooms with great lighting and comfortable seating.

Purchase your lingerie, or materials, if you intend to design your own. Contact wholesale suppliers and visit for closeout merchandise. Be particular about your merchandise. If you expect a certain level of quality, be sure that the suppliers can meet your needs. Purchase sewing equipment, if necessary, as well as sexy mannequins, tissue paper, gift boxes and gift bags. For your boutique, purchase display cases and tables, racks, shelves, mirrors, chairs, sofas and cleaning supplies.

Purchase a website for your business. Lay out your background and vision in an About Me page. Detail your shipping, returns and terms of use policy. Then take quality images of your lingerie and put on your website. Allow users to submit reviews of their favourite products. If your business is home-based, consider selling on Etsy and eBay.

Hire a knowledgeable salesgirl that is skilled at putting people at ease. She should be fashion savvy and able to make suggestions when asked.