7 Steps to Start a Sunglasses Business (1st $1,000 in Sales)

woman with sunglasses

Starting a sunglasses business is a very appealing option for anyone trying to get started with online selling. In fact, over 80% of the population wears them!

When getting started with your sunglasses shop, finding the right suppliers and identifying your target niche will be the key factors to your success. 

  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 Sunglasses Business?

1. Identify a Niche Audience

You need to identify the niche audience for your sunglass business before you do anything else. This is the unique group of people or demographic that you intend to sell sunglasses.

Essentially, you should make a list of the types of people who wear sunglasses who could be potential customers.  

Identifying your niche audience first is necessary because it will help guide the rest of your business decisions. The more narrow your aim, the better, because if you try to sell to everyone, you may end up selling to no one.

Customers like to feel like their needs and wants are understood, which can’t happen when you’re speaking to a general audience. 

Here are some examples of niche audiences:

Potential niche audience: Outdoorsmen who need gear that is durable and technical

Potential niche audience: Millennial women interested in apparel and accessories that are sustainably-made

Potential niche audience: Young consumers who like staying up-to-date with fashion trends

Potential niche audience: Men who are interested in fashion

1.1 Analyze Sunglasses Niche Communities

To learn more about the sunglasses industry, you need to analyze a number of their niche communities online. This will give you more insight into the real-world problems, concerns, and ideas they have for small sunglasses businesses.  

There are plenty of places online where you can interact with these communities, including on Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms. 

Here are some examples of sunglasses niche communities online:

1.2 Find a Problem or a Market Gap

Analyzing niche sunglass communities online will help you identify problems or market gaps that you could address with your own sunglasses shop. 

Look for consistent problems and concerns that the communities voice, or potential areas where the current market is not adequately serving. 

To identify market gaps or problems, consider the following questions: 

  • Who uses sunglasses? Why?
  • What problem is the product solving? Are there many problems?
  • What products would make their lives easier? Happier?

Take a look at some of the market gaps and problems currently exhibited in the sunglass market: 

Potential Market Gap: Outdoor hobbyists can’t find sunglasses that are durable enough to withstand their activities that still have high performance

Potential Problem: The sunglasses market is known for the use of plastics and other non-sustainable materials

Potential Market Gap: Young people don’t have a way to consistently try new pairs of sunglasses that keep up with the trends

Potential Problem: Men don’t feel like the sunglass and accessories market adequately meets their needs and interests

1.3 Formulate the Niche Audience

Consider the audience for each of the market gaps and problems listed above and how they’re trying to solve these issues with the right sunglass products. 

By doing adequate research, you can see where the current market is missing their needs, and where there is room for improvement by existing sunglasses vendors. 

As you’re formulating your niche audience around these problems, remember that it’s best practice to go as specific and as narrow as possible. This will give you a clear problem and target audience that you can properly address in your own sunglasses business. 

Here are some examples of niche audiences:

  • Outdoorsmen who need gear that is durable and technical + there aren’t sunglasses that are durable enough to withstand outdoor activities that still have high performance
  • Millennial women interested in apparel and accessories that are sustainably made + sunglasses market is known for the use of plastics and other non-sustainable materials
  • Young consumers who like staying up-to-date with fashion trends + there isn’t a way to consistently try new pairs of sunglasses that keep up with the trends
  • Men who are interested in fashion + men don’t feel like the sunglass and accessories market adequately meets their needs and interests

2. Find a Niche Product

Now you can use your niche audience and their unique problems to find a solution with the right sunglasses products. 

Find a specific solution that will help out your niche in a way that the current market has not done properly. For example, if you’re trying to meet Millennial women’s need for a sunglasses online store that uses sustainable manufacturing practices, try starting a sunglasses business that sells sustainably-made sunglasses. 

Consider some of the other great products that have solved customer problems, like Uber meeting the need for fair and transparent rides. Or take a look at HelloFresh, which solved the food waste issue by only sending customers the exact portions needed for recipes. 

2.1 Analyze the Competitors

If you notice there’s a lot of competition in the market for sustainably-made sunglasses, don’t be discouraged. Take that as a sign that there’s a good opportunity to make money in the market.

Do a simple Google search to find your competitors by looking up “sustainable sunglasses for women”. From there, you can learn from your competitors by analyzing them and seeing what’s working for them, or where they’re currently missing the mark.

Visit their websites and see how they do their messaging, how their sites are laid out, and the specific offers they make to new customers. 

Take a look at three of your main competitors in the sustainable sunglasses for women space: 

2.2 Unique Selling Proposition

Having a USP, or a unique selling proposition, helps differentiate your brand from your competitors. Essentially, it’s how you solve your customers’ needs better than others on the market selling sunglasses online. 

Consider what attributes of your brand make it superior to other options. Do you have a better new customer offer? Are your goods made with a certain manufacturing standard or certification? Are your sunglasses made from a higher percentage of recycled materials? These are all important aspects that you could incorporate into your USP. 

Here are some of the USPs of your competitors: 

  • Waterhaul: “From waste, to resource.”
  • Ozeano: “Plant-based, handmade Australian sunglasses.”
  • MITA: “This eyewear is made from recycled materials.”

2.3 Choose a Product

Combining your niche audience, their problems with the current market, and your USP, you can identify the actual products you’ll offer as you open a sunglasses shop. 

Make sure your chosen product will solve the issues they’ve had and will do so differently than other sellers have tried in the past. 

Here are some examples of products that meet the problems of the target audiences for sunglasses: 

  • Millennial women interested in apparel and accessories that are sustainably made + sunglasses market is known for the use of plastics and other non-sustainable materials + sustainable sunglasses made from recycled materials
  • Young consumers who like staying up-to-date with fashion trends + there isn’t a way to consistently try new pairs of sunglasses that keep up with the trends + a monthly subscription that sends you a trendy pair of sunglasses 

2.4 Find Suppliers

Finding the right suppliers for your sustainable sunglasses brand is crucial because you need to find one who will meet your manufacturing needs and standards. 

This is something you need to prioritize from the start, as selling low-quality sunglasses could harm your reputation as a new sunglasses small business. 

Do a search for sunglasses wholesalers, and try to find vetted reviews of their products. Request samples if possible and find out other important information like minimum order quantities they have. 

For some extra help discovering suppliers for your sunglasses business, take a look at the following resources: 

3. Define Sales Channels

You need to think through how your sunglasses shop online will actually generate sales. There are many sales channels out there, but given that each store will be selling different products to different audiences, the specific channel that’s right for each business will vary. 

Some store owners have access to certain resources or people who can help them advertise their business, or maybe you even have personal experience of your own. 

In either case, you need to map out how you’ll bring in sales for your sunglasses business from the very beginning. 

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)

Related: How to Start a Tea Business?

4. Identify the Minimum Budget

Many people think you need a lot of money to start a business, but this is often not the case. If that were true, almost no one would be able to open a sunglasses shop!

Instead of thinking of all the money you’ll need to start a sunglass line over the long term, consider how much cash you’ll need to spend to reach your first $1,000 in sales. 

As you start to make money selling sunglasses, lenders will be more willing to provide you with capital once you have proof of concept. 

Say you’ll sell each pair of sunglasses for $20, and it costs you $12 per pair to source. You’ll need to sell 50 pairs to reach this sales goal, which will cost you $600 in total.

Add to that any other marketing expenses or shipping costs, and you’ll have the total amount you’ll need to reach this first milestone. 

4.1 FFF and Personal Money

Personal and FFF money, or friends, money, and fools, is a way you can fund your sunglasses business by receiving money from those in your network. 

If you can’t bootstrap operations on your own, consider reaching out to those in your life who may be interested in being an investor of yours. Make sure the terms of the loan and any repayment schedule are clearly laid out so as not to put a strain on the relationship. 

This is best for those just starting out who don’t have formal documentation like a business plan or sales history to provide to traditional lenders. 

4.2 Bank Loans

Bank loans are a traditional form of financing for those who want to sell sunglasses online. With this method, you can shop around with banks to see who offers the best terms and rates. 

Upon approval, you will receive the funds in a lump-sum payment to use in your business, then begin monthly repayments until the loan is paid back, plus interest. 

Banks are traditionally risk averse, so they like to lend money to businesses that have a proven track record of a successful business. So, this may not be the best option for those starting out given the qualification requirements of bank loans. 

4.3 SBA Guaranteed Loans

SBA-guaranteed loans are a specific type of bank loan where the Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide their guarantee to the lender.

This helps more small businesses secure this traditional form of financing, as the banks appreciate that they’ll receive payment from the SBA should your business fail and you are unable to make repayments.

There are certain requirements to qualify for an SBA loan, including running a small, for-profit business based out of the United States. 

You’ll need to shop around to find a lender that will offer SBA loans, fill out the application, and upon approval, you will receive a lump sum of funds to utilize in your business. 

4.4 Government Grants

With government grants, you can access free money for your sunglasses business online that doesn’t need to be paid back. 

The availability of government grants and their qualifications will vary, so it’s important to keep an eye out for new government grants that arise that your sunglasses business could qualify for. However, the application process can be lengthy. 

Even though this is a free form of financing, grants are often funded to support a certain economic objective throughout the country. So, grant recipients may have to meet certain stipulations like sourcing from a certain supplier, operating in a certain region of the country, or hiring a specific demographic. 

4.5 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding to support opening a sunglasses shop allows you to receive small investments from a large number of public investors. This is possible through one of the major crowdfunding platforms like Indigogo or Kickstarter, so all you need to do is make an account to start. 

These crowdfunding platforms tend to be quite competitive, so it may require some public awareness or marketing spend in order to make the campaign successful. In any case, once you’re done with the campaign and ready to access the funds, you can make a withdrawal to help fund your sunglasses business. 

You need to get your sunglasses business legally registered in order to make things official. This is the prerequisite to paying your taxes, securing external financing, hiring employees, opening a bank account, and more.

This is an exciting step, so even though the legal processes and terms can be daunting, this should be a rewarding stage for starting your sunglasses business. 

Many sellers will opt for the LLC structure based on the risk protection it provides sellers, though there are a few other steps that you should take care of at this point, which we’ll cover in more detail below. 

5.1 Business Name

You need to brainstorm some sunglasses business names, though you don’t need to overthink this step too much. Be thoughtful and come up with something memorable, though it’s important to note that the stores that tend to perform the best have names that are short and easier to spell and pronounce. 

So, try not to overcomplicate this step and just come up with some sunglasses shop names that incorporate the products you sell or your niche audience. Pick a good enough name to start out with, as you can always update it later on if you change your mind. 

5.2 Choose a Business Structure

There are a few options of business structures available to online sellers, including sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and S corp, among others. 

The LLC business structure tends to be the best suited for online sellers, as it will provide you with the most protection from risks should something adverse happen with one of your products. 

Let’s look at each of the options you can choose from: 

  • Sole proprietorship: the business and owner are not separate legal entities; the owner receives all profits and owes all liabilities of the business
  • Partnership: Same as a sole proprietorship, but split between two or more people
  • LLC: The owner and the business are two separate entities; the business owner is not liable for the business’s losses or liabilities
  • S Corp: Not necessarily a legal structure but a tax classification where the business’s profits are passed directly to shareholders

5.3 Register for Taxes (EIN)

You also need to register for an EIN, an employer identification number with the IRS. This is required before you can open up a bank account, pay your taxes, or hire employees, though it’s quite simple to do. You can easily request one online at the IRS website, or you can file for one through the mail if you’d prefer. 

At this time, you’ll also denote what your fiscal year will be, which determines when you’ll pay your taxes. This can either be the calendar year or any other 12-month period throughout the year.

5.4 Bank Account & Credit Card

Opening a business bank account will help you keep your business and personal finances separate. This is important to stay organized with your business’s bookkeeping and accounting practices, especially when it comes time to pay your taxes. 

Most major banks will offer business banking services, so shop around to find which has the best terms and new customer offerings. You may need to provide your articles of incorporation, EIN, and other documents to be approved. 

Additionally, you’ll need a business credit card to source sunglasses to sell and make any other business purchases, so this is also a good time to apply for one through your bank.  

5.5 Insurance & Accounting

Getting business insurance may not be the most obvious step as you’re starting your sunglasses business, though it can provide you with some great protection as a business owner. 

Some of the most common policies that online sellers will consider include general liability insurance and worker’s compensation service. Again, this is a good idea for personal protection should anything negative occur from your products. 

Additionally, you need to invest in a good accounting platform or bookkeeper service to help you keep your business’s finances in check. In doing so, you can make sure you’re meeting all your financial liabilities and will be well prepared for the tax season. 

5.6 Permits & Licenses

Getting the right permits and licenses at the federal, state, and local levels will make sure you’re legally allowed to do business and sell sunglasses online. This step may require some paperwork and some research to ensure you have all the right documents needed. However, you can’t overlook it as you could face penalties and fines should you fail to have the right permits. 

Some of the required permits you’ll need include your DBA permit, OSHA permits, and any other licenses you’ll need at the local level. For best practice, check with your local municipality and the Secretary of State’s office where you reside to make sure you’re staying compliant. 

6. Set Up the Shop

Now you need to get the actual transaction engine of your business up and running–your website. While this can seem overwhelming to those selling sunglasses for a living who aren’t web developers, it actually doesn’t need to be that complicated. 

Keep in mind how your competitors laid out their websites, and take some of those ideas to incorporate into your own website. Again, consider who your target audience is, and craft your messaging to speak to them.

Creating the right layout and copy for your site that customers respond well to will be a trial-and-error effort, so don’t worry about nailing it too much on the first try. 

6.1 Define the Pricing

Again, this is an area that you don’t have to sweat too much about getting right on the first try. You need to come up with prices to sell sunglasses online profitably, though you can always revise later on as you monitor your sales performance and customer feedback. 

To set the prices on your website at first, keep in mind the margin you’d like to earn. If it costs you $12 to source each pair of sunglasses and you’d like to earn a 50% profit, you’d need to mark up the units to sell at $18 each. 

6.2 Create an Online Store

Starting an online store is actually much easier than people may think. Especially when utilizing one of the platforms available to e-commerce sellers today like Shopify, it becomes even easier. 

Start an account with Shopify and connect your domain to get started. From there, you can design the shop as you’d like. You’ll need to add product titles, descriptions, and photos for each pair of sunglasses you’ll sell. 

You’ll also need to load up how much inventory you have for each product on your site so it can properly be denoted as out of stock once you’re sold out. Plus, there are many other capabilities on Shopify to help make it easy for online sellers to manage their stores. 

6.3 Order Inventory

Lastly, you need to order enough inventory to fulfill your first $2,000 in sales. There is always a risk that you don’t order enough and run out of stock early, or that you order too much and are sitting on unsold units for a long time. So, this is a good level you can start off with. 

If you are selling your sunglasses for $18, you’ll need to order 112 units to start off. Going forward, make sure you monitor your inventory levels to reorder from your sunglasses dealer as needed. 

7. Reach First $1,000 in Sales

After following through each of these steps, you should have a well-thought-out sunglass line. 

As you start to sell sunglasses, your only goal should be to reach your first $1,000 in sales. The simplest way to achieve this is by selling to friends and family.

They already have the trust and rapport with you to try out your products and will likely become repeat customers if they enjoyed their purchase. 

There are plenty of other ways to promote your business for free during this time as well, like advertising your sunglasses business on Instagram, Reddit, Facebook groups, and any other places online offering free promotion slots.

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