How to Start an Online Mask Retail Business
By: Drake Forester | Last Updated July 1, 2020
When You Want More
If you love sewing and being creative, then starting an online mask retail business might be a great option for you! As communities begin to reopen, the need for face protection is in high demand. With the right tools and business plan, you can begin selling masks online!
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based mask retail business today.
Not interested in starting an online mask retail business?
Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does an Online Mask Retail Business Do?
Online mask retail businesses sell partial face coverings designed to protect the wearer’s nose and mouth from dust, pollutants, and other harmful air particles, as well as help prevent the wearer from spreading potentially contagious air particles. Masks are typically made from cotton, nylon, or other light weight fabrics and may include elastic or string to keep the covering in place. Some companies will also offer multi-layer masks, washable air filters, and/or options for customization—such as a specific design, saying, or name.
Steps to Starting an Online Mask Retail Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Online Mask Retail Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
How do I get clients?
The demand for face masks is extremely high—so, attracting customers won’t be a huge struggle. Here are a few options you have for getting started:
- Advertise on social media: Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are excellent options for showcasing your work and interacting with customers. You can post beautiful pictures of your products, share them with followers, and quickly respond to questions, comments, or concerns.
- Create an Etsy shop: Utilizing platforms like Etsy make selling your products and generating income much easier and quicker than if you were to create a traditional website. Because Etsy has built-in analytics, it will automatically track your orders and show which customers are interested in your products. However, there are specific Etsy policies you’ll need to follow. For example, you must make it clear that your products are not medical devices or appropriate for children under the age of two.
- Check with local businesses: Several states and counties have issued mandatory regulations in regards to wearing masks—especially for public businesses. Reach out to local restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores—you could even create masks with specific company logos.
Currently, there are several restrictions for selling masks on Facebook, Amazon, and eBay. For example, you may advertise on Facebook, but you can’t sell. Amazon will allow you to sell, BUT you must first create a business account and go through a lengthy application process—so, it’s no guarantee you’ll get to set up shop.
How does an online mask retail business make money?
Your business will earn income by accepting and fulfilling orders received online. This might be for a single product OR multiple. You may even offer special packages—e.g. 5 for $10 or buy one, get one free.
How much money will it take to get started?
Startup costs are going to vary greatly. At minimum, you’ll need fabric and sewing machine if you don’t already own one ($300 min.). You may also need elastic or string for ear pieces, and air filters. For specialty designs, you made need to order custom fabric or pair with a screen printing service, which can easily add hundreds of dollars to initial costs.
The cost of general materials will depend on where you live and type of fabric(s) you choose. For example, cotton typically costs more than nylon; however, you’ll want to choose woven fabrics over knits since they’re a much tighter weave. Additional materials such as elastic and air filters (if you choose to provide them) will run fairly low—averaging $0.4 per yard OR $7 for 100 pieces. Keep in mind that you’ll want to build a strong inventory before going live with your business. This will allow you to get orders out quickly without becoming overwhelmed.
Etsy offers two plans for sellers—Standard (free) OR Plus ($10/month). However, there are additional fees your business will be subject to regardless of which plan you choose. For example, Etsy charges $0.20 for each item you list and a 5% total transaction fee. Most retail businesses will post pictures of products in groups rather than individually—this allows customers to see what’s available at a lower price point.
How much do online mask retail businesses make each year?
The average income of an online mask retail business is going to very greatly—especially since this is a fairly new business market.
In a recent article by CNBC.com, a shop owner in Michigan stated she started offering masks in early April. Currently, she averages 150 masks/month and charges $18 per mask—equaling $2,700 total monthly revenue. Although she established her business two years ago, the demand for face coverings has taken her company by storm. Another seller in Pennsylvania stated that prior to COVID-19, selling online was a part-time job—however, the pandemic has pushed her business into a full-time career. She averages about 250 masks/month and charges $12 to $15—about $3,000-$3,750 per month. A shop owner in Oregon stated she’s made roughly 400 masks since the end of March—each selling for $20 to $25.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to supplement your income or a full-time career, it’s possible to earn a decent income selling masks online.
How much should I charge?
Online mask retail businesses will charge a variety of prices for face coverings—depending on types of fabric and whether or not they offer air filters. On average, businesses charge anywhere between $3.99 and $25.00 per mask.
When determining your prices, you’ll want consider your materials, how long it takes you to create one mask, and additional expenses such as Etsy fees. You can also check out other shops and compare prices/materials.
Select a Name for Your Online Mask Retail Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit. Note that to operate your mask-making business under a name other than your personal, legal name, you’ll either need to start a formal business structure like an LLC or apply for a DBA (“doing business as” name).
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Online Mask Retail Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have any liability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
Starting your mask-making business with others? It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Next Steps for Your Online Mask Retail Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance. Home-based businesses can sometimes add insurance onto their homeowner’s policy.
How Do I Know if an Online Mask Business is for Me?
What’s it really like to work in an online mask retail business?
Selling face masks online is a lot of work—not only are you consistently making masks, but you’re managing customer orders, emails, and questions. In addition, you may receive some negative feedback from someone who wasn’t satisfied with their product—be prepared to read some nasty messages. Unfortunately, people tend to feel much braver when they’re online. Just remember you are providing a valuable service. Everyone needs masks—in many ways a simple face covering has become the cornerstone to keeping us all safe and healthy.
What does it take to succeed in the world of online mask retail?
In addition to having thick skin, you need to be able to communicate in a thoughtful, respectful manner. Although your feelings might get hurt from criticism, it’s important that you keep your cool. In addition, you need to be organized, excellent at multitasking, and motivated! The best online sellers understand the value of their product and focus their energy towards serving customers.
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all of your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.