If you want to start your glass blowing business, you can expect the largest expense to be the space, the furnace, and annealer. Set a budget for your rent, utilities, equipment and raw materials. Hopefully, you’ve obtained experience and already have the basic tools. Figure as much as $40,000 to get started and check out some used equipment before you make a final decision. You may be able to go with a used product for the short term so you have time to raise more capital.
Be sure you know the requirements for your state business license. The last thing you’ll need is a licensing problem.
Because of the risks associated with the business, which we’ve already discussed, liability waivers may be worth considering if you’re going to offer memberships to other local glassblowers.
Also, check into the benefits of incorporating your business, versus those of being a sole proprietor or limited liability organization. Very briefly:
• Sole proprietors are exactly that, single set ups that require no paperwork to start working. You also file your taxes for yourself with a Schedule C for your business earnings. The business risk for you here is there is zero separation between you and your business. So, if a lawsuit rears its ugly head, you will be held personally accountable.
• A limited liability company (LLC) will provide the separation from yourself; however, it will require more documentation, license, registration and permits. Our government does not count a LLC separate for tax considerations. That means that all profit and loss go directly to the LLC member(s) and they become responsible for the contributions to Social Security and Medicare.
• Your safest bet is to establish a corporation for the following reasons:
o Separate tax status for personal versus business
o You issue stock to all owners either privately or as a public organization and the required documentation sets clear expectations for all owners and shareholders. (You can be a solely owned corporation as well and own 100% of your stock.)
o It’s a more credible establishment and you can acquire funding as a business, rather than an individual
o There are some tax benefits as well and you gain greater ability to maintain privacy over your business and personal affairs
• A “S” corporation gets you the same protection as a corporation but is more akin to a LLC in that the owners may report their share of profits and losses from the company on their individual tax returns
We suggest speaking with an accountant or another tax specialist to be sure you understand all the implications for your unique circumstances. They will also likely be able to advise you on a status of freelancing versus establishing a more formal business name and structure.
In closing, there are some blown glass conventions and expositions across the nation. They offer sales and learning opportunities. If you are already in the glass business or thinking about entering the field, keep your eyes and ears open for trade shows that are glass oriented or smoking oriented. If you want to specialize in bongs, both may be appropriate options for you. There are also some professional industry organizations to consider because they recognize sellers and offer educational opportunities.
• The Glass Art Society (GAS) is another resource, and they offer an annual convention as well. Their site provides an extensive listing of organizations and publications by country
• The American Scientific Glass Blower Society (ASGS)
• Glass Blowers group is a place for contemporary art glass blowing and glass casting
• Olympic Color Rods offers links to schools and organizations for glass blowing
The benefits of joining the mentioned organizations and attending conventions and trade shows include:
o This is how you will build a network and become better known in the glass community
o You may also find someone you want to work with on either a full-time basis or a single project
o Fine art glass experts are a tight community, so be sure you mix with the folks you meet at these trade shows
o The other benefit in this area will boost your marketing efforts just by word of mouth. If you specialize in certain areas, your name and the level of your quality and reputation will travel quickly
The next time you see a blown glass piece of art or smoking device, think of it as a piece of our history and our culture as well as a beautiful work of art.