7 Steps to Start a Self-Defense Products Business (2023)

Woman using pepper spray for self defence outdoors

Self-defense is a growing industry that is only slated for more growth over the coming years. 

Thus, starting a self-defense products business can be a smart business move, though you’ll need to select the right products that meet the needs of your niche audience in order to be successful. 

  1. Identify a Niche Audience
  2. Find a Niche Product
  3. Define Sales Channels
  4. Identify the Minimum Budget
  5. Form a Legal Entity
  6. Set Up the Shop
  7. Reach First $1,000 in Sales

How to Start a Self-Defense Products Business?

1. Identify a Niche Audience

You first need to identify the niche audience for your business, which is the unique group of people or demographic that you will sell products to. 

This is a crucial first step when selling self-defense products online because it will help you make important business decisions down the road to best fit the needs of your customers. 

The more narrow you go with your niche audience, the better because it will help you target their needs and desires more accurately. Thus, niche audiences cannot be general groups like “teenagers” or “moms” because they aren’t narrow enough groups of people. 

Here are some examples of niche audiences:

Example niche audience: Millenial women who use organic cosmetics as a means of relaxation and are Instagram influencers.
Example niche audience: Health-conscious small dog owners whose dogs are picky eaters.

Related: 7 Steps to Start a Watch Business

1.1 Analyze Self-Defense Products Niche Communities

You’ll then need to analyze a handful of niche self-defense communities online to learn more about them as you start your self-defense products brand. 

When doing this, you can learn their real-world comments, problems, and ideas that you can address with your own business.

From this research, you should get a better idea of the specific types of people who use self-defense products. Again, the more narrow you can go, the more accurate insights you’ll gain. 

This is the most important step if you want to sell self-defense products online because the insights you gain will lead you to your first sales. 

Here are some examples of self-defense products niche communities:

1.2 Find a Problem or a Market Gap

While doing research into the niche communities in the self-defense products community, you need to observe what the common problems and market gaps are that the community members voice. 

Identify specific and practical problems in the current market that you will be able to address in your own business, which will provide a good level of value to your niche community. 

Keep an eye out for comments like “I hate when…” and “How can I…”, which will lead you towards the consistent problems and market gaps where existing sellers are missing the mark. 

Potential Market Gap: there aren’t enough self-defense products aimed at men because they’re expected to defend themselves with their own hands

Potential Problem: there is a rise in assaults on college campuses

Potential Market Gap: there is not enough education for women about how to defend themselves

Potential Problem: the laws around self-defense across the country are inconsistent

1.3 Formulate the Niche Audience

So given the niche communities you’ve assessed online and the problems and market gaps they face with existing sellers, you can determine the niche audience you will target with your self-defense products business online. 

Make sure you’re targeting an audience and market problem that is big enough to provide your business with ample opportunity. Assess the current solutions out there to determine where they’re lacking or if there are no solutions available altogether. 

These are important aspects to consider to ensure you have a worthwhile business idea to pursue. 

Here are some examples of niche audiences:

  • Adult men who don’t have martial arts skills + there aren’t enough self-defense products aimed at men because they’re expected to defend themselves with their own hands
  • Young college-aged women living on campus + there is a rise of assaults on college campuses
  • Millennial women living in urban areas are concerned for their personal safety + there is not enough education for women about how to defend themselves
  • People interested in self-defense, though don’t want to get into legal trouble + the laws around self-defense across the country are inconsistent

2. Find a Niche Product

With your niche audience in mind and the problems they face, you can now find the solution to their problems that you will offer through your store. 

You’ll want to find specific products that will provide value to your niche audience in a way that current sellers are not. This step will take some brainstorming, though it’s a crucial part of becoming a successful self-defense products dealer. 

So if you want to provide self-defense products for college-aged women living on campus, you could provide a small, discreet, and feminine self-defense product that they can carry around with them to class. 

Here are some examples of products that are offered to meet a certain audience’s needs: 

Example niche product: yoga lovers who are interested in sustainability + yoga mats made from recycled materials

Example niche product: Female millennial fashionistas who are interested in keeping up with the latest trends + clothing subscription boxes

Example niche product: high school students who are getting ready to take college entrance exams + ACT prep books

2.1 Analyze the Competitors

If you recognize that you’re facing a lot of competition with your self-defense products online store, you should actually take this as a good sign rather than be discouraged by it. This means that there’s money to be made in the market. 

To identify your competitors, do a simple Google search for the products you plan on offering to see who the top sellers are. With this, you can actually learn from the competition to see what they’re doing right and where they could make improvements. 

If you plan on selling self-defense products for college-aged girls, here are some of your top competitors: 

2.2 Unique Selling Proposition

Every self-defense products shop online needs to identify its USP or unique selling proposition. This describes the unique features of your business that sets you apart from your competition, so it’s often what you do better or how you offer more value than your peers. 

Be as specific as possible because your USP is how consumers will be able to compare your self-defense products with other brands without having them actually in front of them. 

Based on the competitors we listed above, here are their USPs: 

  • Defender Ring: “Everyday Protection”
  • She’s Birdie: “We envision a world where women are safe”
  • BlingSting: “So cute, it hurts”

2.3 Choose a Product

Based on all the research you’ve done, it’s time to identify the actual products you’ll offer in your self-defense products store. 

Remember to select the product that offers a real solution to the problems your niche audience is facing. Plus, you’ll need to differentiate yourself in a way that puts you above the competition. 

Here are some examples of self-defense products that meet the needs of the niche audiences in this market: 

  • Adult men who don’t have martial arts skills + there aren’t enough self-defense products aimed at men because they’re expected to defend themselves with their own hands + easy-to-use self-defense products for men
  • Young college-aged women living on campus + there is a rise of assaults on college campuses + discreet and feminine self-defense products for women

2.4 Find Suppliers

You need to find the right suppliers from the beginning to ensure you’re providing your customers with the best products and also getting a good deal to stay profitable. 

When you need to source self-defense products to sell you can consider wholesalers and manufacturers, online marketplaces, and even in-person trade shows or markets.

You should do a thorough review of your suppliers, like requesting samples, getting references from past customers, and seeing what their minimum order quantity is. 

With this research, you’ll find the right supplier for your business. For some extra help when looking for a supplier, visit the following resources:

3. Define Sales Channels

You’ll need to think through how you’ll actually generate sales for your self-defense products company.

There are many different sales channels out there, but each situation is different, so you’ll need to pick the channel that’s right for your business. 

Some stores will have access to people or resources who can help you market your products, while other store owners won’t have as many resources available to them. 

So, think through all the connections or resources you have at your disposal to market your brand and make a sales plan accordingly. 

You may even choose to promote your brand through free channels in the beginning, like on your social media pages or by word of mouth. 

Here are some examples of potential sales channels:

  • Your personal: Facebook friends, Instagram followers, colleagues, schoolmates
  • Paid advertising: Google ads, Facebook ads, Tiktok ads, Twitter ads, Pinterest ads
  • Marketplaces: Amazon, Etsy, eBay
  • Communities: Facebook groups, Reddit, Quora, forums
  • Other: Blogging, Craigslist, promoting in the real world (e.g. schools, workplaces, malls)

4. Identify the Minimum Budget

Many people think that they’ll need a lot of money to get into self-defense products, though this is generally not the case. If that were so, almost nobody would be able to open a self-defense products shop. 

Instead of thinking about how much money you’ll need to fund your business over the long term, consider how much you’ll need to reach your first $1,000 in sales. Once your business starts making money, lenders will be more willing to fund your business with a strong proof of concept. 

So, if you plan on selling each self-defense product for $30, and it costs you $15 to source, you’ll need to sell at least 34 units, which would cost you $510 to get started, plus any other costs you incur for marketing or shipping. 

4.1 FFF and Personal Money 

You may choose to fund your self-defense products shop with personal or FFF money, which stands for friends, family, and fools.

Thus, if you don’t have the cash yourself to fund your business, you may want to ask those in your social circle to make an investment in your self-defense products business. 

This can be a great option for small self-defense products businesses when they’re just starting out, as they may not be able to qualify for other traditional forms of financing just yet. 

Be sure to make an agreement with the person lending you money, as you don’t want to put a strain on your personal relationships because of it. 

4.2 Bank Loans

Businesses that want a traditional form of financing may apply for bank loans, though this may not be the right fit for all self-defense product stores in the earlier stages. 

Banks tend to be risk-averse institutions, meaning they don’t like to take big risks and bet on businesses if they don’t feel confident that they’ll be paid back. 

In order to apply, you’ll likely need a loan proposal, business plan, financial statements, and other documents to consider your application. Upon approval, you will receive a lump-sum payment that will be paid back monthly for a predetermined period. 

4.3 SBA Guaranteed Loans

SBA-guaranteed loans are a version of bank loans that are easier to secure for businesses in the early stages because they are backed by the guarantee of the Small Business Association (SBA). 

They generally come with better interest rates and terms because the SBA is dedicated to helping small businesses get the funding they need. Plus, banks are more likely to make these loans because the SBA will pay them back if the business fails or defaults on their payments. 

The SBA has certain requirements for who can apply for funding, like running a small for-profit business in the USA, among others. Qualifying businesses can shop around for a bank that offers these loans, submit an application, and receive the funds upon approval. 

4.4 Government Grants

Government grants are a free source of funding for businesses, though the availability and requirements for such financing will vary greatly. 

Because of these qualities, government grants are not a reliable source of funding for small businesses; however, they can be worthwhile to apply for because they don’t need to be repaid. 

Government grants are usually offered to fulfill some sort of economic policy, so recipients may need to meet certain requirements like operating in a certain region, using certain suppliers, or being part of a certain demographic.

Plus, the application process can be quite lengthy, so don’t expect to access this funding quickly. 

4.5 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is growing in popularity with online sellers, especially with the rise of platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. These platforms allow start-ups to receive small amounts of funding from a large number of public investors. 

This may be a better fit for businesses that are already established or have garnered some sort of public interest because these platforms can be quite competitive. 

It’s easy to get started on these platforms by making an account and setting up a campaign. Once you’re satisfied with the amount you’ve raised, you can end the crowdfunding campaign and withdraw the funds. 

Forming a legal entity around your self-defense products business is an important step in making your shop legal and staying compliant with regulations. So even though this step may be intimidating, there’s a lot to celebrate at this point. 

After you make your self-defense products small business legal, you’ll be able to hire employees, pay your taxes, and go live with your store.

Plus, forming a legal business structure like an LLC can provide you with personal protections as a business owner. However, there are other business structures you can choose from as well. 

5.1 Business Name

It shouldn’t take you too long to come up with self-defense products business names, though you should make a thoughtful choice that will resonate well with your niche audience. 

It’s been noted that online stores with names that are shorter and easier to remember to perform better, so keep this in mind as you’re brainstorming self-defense products shop names. 

You may want to incorporate your niche audience, products sold, or market into the name to make it more memorable. However, you can always change the name later on if you wish. So, don’t overthink this step too much. 

5.2 Choose a Business Structure

There are a number of different business structures you can choose from when starting a self-defense products business, each with its own perks and drawbacks.

Most online sellers will choose to form an LLC because of the risk protections it provides business owners, though we will cover each of the options available below: 

  • Sole proprietorship: the business and owner are one entity; all profits are passed on to the owner, and they will also pay all losses and liabilities
  • Partnership: same as a sole proprietorship, just split between two or more parties
  • LLC: the business and owner are separate entities; the profits can be passed on to the owner, but they will not need to pay the losses or liabilities of the business
  • S Corp: not a legal structure but a tax classification; profits are passed through to the business’s shareholders

5.3 Register for Taxes (EIN) 

You’ll also need to set up your EIN, and employer identification number, in order to open up a bank account, pay employees, and ultimately, pay your taxes. 

You can easily register for an EIN for free on the IRS website, though you can also do this by mail.

At this time, you will denote what your tax year is, which determines when you’ll pay your tax obligations each year. You can choose either the calendar year or any other twelve-month period throughout the year. 

Importantly, if you’re operating as a sole proprietor, your SSN can be your EIN for tax purposes. 

5.4 Bank Account & Credit Card

Once you have an EIN you can set up a business bank account, which will keep your business finances separate from your personal finances, which can be very helpful during tax season. 

There are many financial institutions across the country, like banks and credit unions, that offer business bank accounts, so shop around to find which will offer the best new customer deals and serve your business’s needs best. 

You will likely need your EIN, articles of incorporation, and other documents in order to open an account. Once it’s open, you can ask the bank about their credit card options so you can actually make purchases for your business. 

5.5 Insurance & Accounting

Getting an insurance policy may not be the first thing you think about when selling self-defense products for a living, though it can be a worthwhile investment. 

Having insurance like a business owner’s policy or worker’s comp policy can provide you with protections as the business owner should anything adverse occur from your facilities or products.

There are many business insurance providers out there, so shop around to find the best deals for your business’s needs. 

Additionally, you may want to consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help keep your business finances in order and meet all filing deadlines and financial obligations. If this isn’t in your budget right away, consider bookkeeping software where you can track these details yourself. 

5.6 Permits & Licenses

When opening a self-defense products shop there are permits and licenses you’ll need at the federal, state, and local levels.

You’ll want to take the time to research the proper filings you’ll need to make in order to operate legally and not face any penalties for missing required permits. 

An example of some of the federal permits you’ll need to include DBA and OSHA permits, and you may need additional licenses at the state and local levels, which will depend on where you live. 

In order to find out what you’ll need, consult with your local county or Secretary of State’s office to get an up-to-date list of your required permits. 

6. Set Up the Shop

Now it’s time to set up the actual transaction engine of your business–the website. This is where your customers will go not only to make sales but to learn more about your brand, get a feel for your brand voice, and see what your company’s mission is. 

So, you’ll want to create a website that accurately reflects what your store is and who you are, though this doesn’t have to be too complicated. 

Feel free to test out a different copy, designs, and layouts to see what resonates best with your audience, and don’t be afraid to make updates to your site as you go forward and learn more about your customers. 

6.1 Define the Pricing

As you’re setting up your website to sell self-defense products online, you’ll need to set the pricing for your products. 

This may seem like a complex task, though it can actually be pretty straightforward. Consider the profit you’d like to make on your store, and mark up your products accordingly. 

So if it costs you $15 per product to source, and you want to earn a 40% margin, you will need to sell each unit for $21. 

Don’t sweat the pricing too much, as you can always adjust them later on as you monitor customer demand and cash levels, given your current prices. 

6.2 Create an Online Store

Making an online store is actually much simpler than you may think. You don’t have to be a software developer in order to create a good online store, you just need some of the digital tools available to online sellers today, like Shopify. 

It’s easy to get started on Shopify by creating an account and connecting it to your domain. From there, you can upload product photos and add product titles, descriptions, and other details that are customized to your brand. 

There are plenty of other helpful tools on Shopify to help you manage your store, like an inventory tracker to help you re-order stock as needed. 

6.3 Order Inventory

The last thing you need to do before going live is to order inventory for your store.

You don’t want to order too much that you’re sitting on unsold stock for months, but you also don’t want to order too little that you quickly run out of customer favorites. 

We suggest ordering enough stock to fulfill your first $2,000 in sales. This will give you a good base, to begin with, and you can always re-order later on as you run out and make more sales. 

So if you’re selling each item for $21, you’ll need to order at least 96 units to begin with.

7. Reach the First $1,000 in Sales

Once you’ve gone through each of the above steps, you will have a well-thought-out business selling self-defense products. At this point, your only goal should be to reach your first $1,000 in sales, nothing more. 

The easiest way to hit this sales milestone is to sell self-defense products to those in your immediate circle, like friends and family. This tends to be effective because these are people who already have trust in you and will be confident to purchase a completely new product. 

You may consider other free ways to promote your products at this point as well, like marketing your self-defense products business on Instagram, Facebook groups, Reddit, and any other place online that offers free promotion for new businesses.

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