Many of us likely have a trophy or award sitting proudly on a shelf at home or work as a reminder of an accomplishment and its celebration. It might be an acknowledgment of academic achievement or your sports team winning a tournament. It might be for being a star in the latest school theatre production, for being named employee of the month, for showing exceptional leadership, or simply for being an all-around super person to work with.
In short, the trophy industry will very likely always be in demand, and owning a trophy shop can be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs with an artistic eye and an interest in sports and other competitive activities. To help you get started, this guide will provide the key information and steps needed to get your trophy business up and running.
A trophy shop specializes in creating and selling trophies, plaques, medals, and other types of awards for sports teams, schools, businesses, and events. At a trophy shop, customers can choose from a wide selection of trophy bases and have them customized with engraved plates, figurines, and design elements specific to the type of award. The shop may also sell related merchandise like ribbons, certificates, and display cases.
To start a trophy business, you’ll need retail space, equipment like engraving machines, design software, and inventory. Building relationships with local teams, schools, and organizations will be key to driving sales. You’ll also need to manage ordering trophies and supplies from wholesalers and manufacturers and have strong customer service and design skills.
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The trophy business industry is a niche market that thrives on the human desire for recognition and achievement. While the market is covered by long-established shops and online stores, opening a trophy shop can be profitable if you can differentiate yourself from the competition. The key to success lies in understanding your target market and stocking the right types of trophies that appeal to them.
The trophy business is evolving with technology and changing consumer preferences. One significant trend is the shift toward online business models, as the cost of rent and declining market demand make it harder for local shops to survive. Another trend is the growing demand for personalized products, and advancements in 3D printing and laser engraving are providing new ways to customize awards.
Steps To Start A Trophy Shop
Step 1: Research the Market
One of the most important steps in starting a trophy shop is researching whether there are enough customers to support it. Though it’s not an exact science, market research can illuminate your path, helping you make informed decisions.
The first task is to look at key demographic data for your area from census records and city websites. A higher number of families, youth sports teams, schools, businesses, and organizations can indicate stronger trophy and award order potential. Reach out to youth sports leagues and schools to get a sense of their existing relationships with trophy vendors and their satisfaction level.
Next, analyze the competition to see what you’re up against. Search online directories and drive around your city to identify existing trophy shops and awards providers. Note their locations, products and services offered, prices, years in business, marketing methods, and strengths and weaknesses. This will reveal direct competitors to understand how a new trophy shop could compete and fill unmet needs. For instance, if existing trophy shops have limited hours, high prices, long turnaround times, or lack customization options, this could be a way to differentiate your shop.
Not only is this research helpful in determining whether there is enough demand for a new shop, but it can also help find other opportunities outside of trophies to fill in your community. You may see there are people wanting personalized gifts, plaques, or corporate swag that isn’t being offered that a trophy shop could easily fill.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
After verifying that there is a market in your community for a trophy shop, writing a business plan for is the next step to cover. It might seem like a lot of work or an academic exercise, but it’s a step you don’t want to skip because this document serves as your roadmap, marking out the journey ahead and providing a clear vision of your destination.
But perhaps the most valuable role of a business plan is that of a reality check. Starting a business is a journey filled with excitement and optimism but also uncertainty and risk. Your business plan provides a grounded, realistic view of what lies ahead, including a picture of the financial feasibility of your business. By doing this in the planning stage, you can identify potential financial hurdles and plan accordingly. This is far better than discovering the shortcomings of your business idea after you’ve already invested time, effort, and resources into getting off the ground.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Source Funding
The next step, which can be a big hurdle, is funding. If you’re wondering how to get the money to open your trophy shop, you’re not alone. Funding is a necessary yet challenging aspect of getting a business off the ground. Below are common sources of funding for a trophy shop.
Personal savings: Your personal savings will serve as the first source of funding. This may not cover all the startup costs, but it’s a starting point. If your savings aren’t enough to get started, there are other outside funding avenues to explore.
Bank loans: Securing a loan from a bank is a traditional route to funding a business. Banks will expect you to have skin in the game, meaning they want to see you’ve put a substantial portion of your own money into the venture. It’s common for banks to require that you cover at least 15% of the project costs out of pocket. If a bank deems the loan risky, they might want to secure it with an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan guarantee to reduce their risk.
Friends and family: Borrowing from friends and family is another possibility. It’s important to treat it as formally as any other business deal, with written agreements outlining the terms of the loan.
Microloans: If you’re unable to secure a traditional loan or if your funding needs are smaller, microloans are an option. Some organizations that provide microloans also offer business training, which can be an added bonus.
Step 4: Register the Business
Before you can open your doors and welcome your first customers, you need to set up the legal aspects of the shop. This involves several key tasks, from choosing your business structure to registering your business name and obtaining necessary licenses and permits. While the process may vary depending on your location, there are general steps that apply in most cases.
Business structure: The first task in registering your trophy shop is to decide on the business structure. There are four different types of structures: sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, so make sure to do your research before deciding on which one to choose.
- Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the easiest and cheapest business structure. It is owned and operated by only one individual, and there is no legal distinction between the business and the owner. However, the owner is personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
- General partnership: A general partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship but with two or more owners. Each partner is personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. This structure provides liability protection for the owners, but can be more costly to set up and maintain.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC is a flexible business structure that provides liability protection for its owners, but is easier to set up and maintain than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: A trophy shop owner will need to obtain general business licenses and permits, which will vary based on the state and town where the shop is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations may include a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and Occupancy Permit.
Step 5: Acquire & Set Up the Shop
Once you’ve researched the market and decided to open your own trophy shop, it’s time to focus on the key operational steps to launch your business. Careful planning and preparation in the startup phase can set your trophy shop up for smooth day-to-day operations down the road.
You want a place where people can easily see and walk into your store. Locations near schools, venues where events happen, or busy offices can be ideal because they are often in need of trophies and awards.
Once you’ve got your location, it’s time to think about how your shop will look inside. It’s not just about fitting everything in; you want your customers to walk in and be wowed by the trophies you have on show. This means setting up your displays in a way that catches the eye and makes everything easy to find. Also, make sure you have enough room for all the equipment you’ll need, like engraving machines, and for the trophies and other items you’ll have in stock.
You’ll also want to begin setting up accounts and developing relationships with reputable trophy manufacturers and wholesalers. Having reliable access to the supplies you need to make trophies is important. Look for the speed of shipping, as this can help minimize the amount of inventory you have to keep on hand.
Step 6: Hire Staff
Bringing on employees is often the next step in starting a trophy shop. While the owner can fill all roles, typically, you’ll be looking at hiring staff to reduce the workload. As you prepare to become an employer, there are some legal requirements to handle.
First, you’ll need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, which is like a Social Security number for your business. Next, it’s important to verify that all employees are legally allowed to work in the U.S.; this is done using Form I-9. Also, when you hire someone, you need to report it to your state so they know about the new employee for tax and legal purposes. Most states require you to have worker’s compensation insurance, which covers injuries that could happen at work. And last, it’s important to understand labor laws that cover things like minimum wage, overtime pay, and breaks.
Step 7: Prepare to Open!
As you near the finish line in your journey to open a trophy shop, there are some additional details you’ll probably need to square away. Every shop will have unique requirements, but these are some of the common tasks you should consider completing before opening your doors.
Business insurance: Look into various types of insurance to protect yourself from liabilities and other risks associated with running a retail business.
Setting up bookkeeping: Set up accounting software and systems to handle daily transactions, taxes, and financial statements.
Opening a business bank account: Keep your personal and business finances separate by opening a bank account specifically for your trophy shop.
Pricing strategy: Figure out how to price your trophies. Take into account your costs, what the competition is charging, and how much your target customers are willing to pay.
Grand opening: Last, plan for your grand opening. This could include special promotions, a launch event, or other activities to attract customers to your store.
Common Questions When Starting A Trophy Shop
How much does it cost to start a trophy shop?
Although the business of making trophies is pretty straightforward, one of the major challenges of starting a trophy shop is having sufficient start-up funds available for outfitting a store and inventory. On average, however, you could be looking at around $75,000 to $150,000 in initial expenses. Let’s break down these costs for a more detailed look at where your money will go.
Business registration: Filing fees for licenses and setting up a business structure will be $50-$500.
Retail space: The first month’s rent and security deposit could range from $3,000-$10,000, depending on location and size.
Equipment: Engraving machines, polishers, and saws can cost $10,000-$30,000 for quality used options.
Design software: Investing in design programs like EngraveLab or Sandcarved will be around $200-$1,000.
Initial inventory: Plan at least $10,000 to stock a variety of trophy bases, plates, and materials.
Store build-out: Factor $5,000-$20,000 for displays, counters, lighting, flooring, and storage shelves.
Business insurance: General liability insurance will likely run $1,000-$2,000 annually.
Marketing: budget $2,000-$5,000 for initial logo, website, signs, and promotional materials.
How profitable is a trophy shop?
For a moderately successful individual trophy shop in a mid-sized market, annual revenue may be in the range of $250,000-$500,000.
Pricing in the industry is largely driven by materials, labor, and customization. For example, a 6-inch trophy with a resin base may wholesale for $12 and retail for around $20. More premium materials like crystal may wholesale for $45 and retail at $75. Offering engraving and custom design work, a shop may be able to generate an average of $40 in revenue per trophy sold. If a shop sold 625 trophies per month at $40 each, the shop would generate $300,000 in sales.
Factoring in business costs like rent, payroll, insurance, and other expenses, the shop may incur about $200,000 in total annual expenses. With $300,000 in annual trophy sales revenue, and $200,000 in expenses, the estimated annual pre-tax profit would be approximately $100,000 for the example trophy shop.
Profit margins in the 15-20% range are common in the industry. Of course, profitability potential depends greatly on the shop’s local market, reputation, and operational efficiency. But this provides a realistic snapshot of the earning possibilities and economics.
What skills are helpful in running a trophy shop?
Understand your industry and your community: As a rule of thumb, a trophy shop owner who stays aware of industry trends will be better able to ensure the shop stocks the products and offers items and services that will be most in demand. It is equally important to be engaged in your local community. Understanding what events and community milestones are on the calendar and who is involved in organizing these will be a huge advantage.
Retail experience: Previous experience in the retail industry will serve a trophy shop owner. They’ll have a better idea of the tricks and challenges of managing a store, understand pricing, stock taking, and attractive product presentation, for example.
Engraving skills: Although there are no specific educational requirements for engravers, having the technical skills to engrave, etch or print the desired design on a specific material is certainly a plus. You will need a steady hand, dexterity, and the ability to control machines. A sprinkle of creativity will be of benefit.
Customer service and interpersonal skills: This is a very important skill and one you need to enjoy. A shop owner who can provide a memorable customer experience and sound professional advice is far more likely to achieve good sales results and create customer loyalty. Don’t forget that many trophies are passed on from one recipient to the next, creating the opportunity for repeat business that you can plan for.
Management experience: Previous experience in hiring, training, and managing employees will be beneficial for any shop with staff. Having a good understanding of accounting practices and negotiating supply contracts will also be valuable skills.
Marketing talent: Your shop will require a solid marketing strategy and branding efforts to get people through the door, especially during the start-up phase. If marketing is not your forte, this is a skill that you can easily hire out.
What is the NAICS code for a trophy shop?
The NAICS code for a trophy shop is 453998, which is broadly classified under All Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.