How to start an upcycling furniture business

Are you thinking about turning your carpentry skills into a small business? The UK woodworking industry brings in a massive £3.8 billion, so it’s a promising sector to enter. 

But if you worry about the sustainability of this type of business, an upcycling furniture business may be the way to go. With this approach, you can transform pre-loved furniture to give it a second life

Plus, upcycling can take less time to produce quality furniture and less money to run your business overall. Sounds ideal, right? 

Still, it’s okay if you’re unsure where to start. Building a small business from scratch is a big undertaking. Luckily, we can help. 

This guide covers how to start an upcycling furniture business, including:

  • Planning
  • Setting up 
  • Organising
  • Marketing 

Also see: How to set up a small woodworking shop

How to plan for your upcycling furniture business 

Starting a small business is like building a good piece of furniture. It comes together piece by piece, and eventually you finish with something more stable. 

To do this, it’s essential to create blueprints for your business. 

Do your research 

The best way to plan for your small business is through market research. It gives you essential information about the industry you plan to enter to succeed within it. 

But what can market research tell you? To start, you can uncover: 

  • Current demand and size of the industry.
  • Any relevant news, developments, or design trends. 
  • Your competitors (both big and small). 
  • Standard pricing. 
  • Your target audience and where to find them. 

This information can help you make essential decisions about your business and set yourself apart from competitors. It also lets you target the people who will be more interested in your products.

To find the best research for your business, consider looking at: 

Carve out your business model

When starting an upcycling furniture business, be sure to develop a model to steer you in the right direction.

It also helps you find a unique selling point to draw in customers. To do this, examine your competitor and current upcycling climate. What can you do differently? 

For example, you might focus on a particular rare technique or only upcycle furniture from a specific era. 

From there, consider these questions to outline your business: 

  • What kind of furniture will you sell?
  • Where will you sell it? – You might open a shop or sell online through your website or a platform like Etsy.
  • Where will you store your products and works-in-progress?
  • Where will you work on your furniture? – You’ll need a designated workspace that fits your tools. 

Assess your skills

An upcycling furniture business requires a certain set of skills. So, if you want to start this business, it’s important to know carpentry or how to work with wood safely

If you don’t have any education or experience in this field, think about taking on a course or apprenticeship first. You could earn a Level 2 Diploma in Furniture Making or Furniture Finishing Methods

Search for course options on the National Career Services website. 

Source supplies and equipment 

It’s also essential to stock up on the necessary equipment and supplies to create your upcycled furniture. 

First, consider where you’ll source your used furniture. For example, you might:

  • Go to antique shops, estate sales, or charity shops. 
  • Search eBay or Facebook Marketplace
  • Buy it off friends. 
  • Ask for donations.
  • Advertise that you’ll purchase used and damaged furniture. 

Maybe try a few methods to see which is most effective and cost-efficient. But, form a goal of how much furniture you want to upcycle each month, so you’ll know how many pieces to look for. 

As far as tools and equipment, you’ll likely need: 

  • A workbench 
  • A hand saw and power saw 
  • Screwdrivers and hammers 
  • Staple gun
  • Paint stripper 
  • A dolly (for moving)
  • Wood finishes and paints 
  • Brushes and rollers 
  • Personal protective equipment – goggles, gloves, face masks
  • Storage 
  • Transportation (that fits the furniture)

As you source these things, add them to the startup costs of your business. 

Write a business plan and budget 

As you develop your business idea, you can write up a business plan to have it all in one place. This document will guide you through starting your business and help you get funding if you need it. 

Apart from everything we’ve covered, your business plan will also cover your business’s: 

For example, your business mission might be to give damaged furniture a new life, and your key value could be sustainability. 

Your business plan will also include a starting budget, which outlines how much you plan to spend and earn from your new business. 

How to start an upcycling furniture business

Another important part of knowing how to start an upcycling furniture business is setting it up legally. Let’s go over the essential steps. 

Registering your business 

Register with the UK Government as either a sole trader or limited company to turn your business into a legal entity. 

But what’s the difference? Sole traders are personally liable for their business and its finances. In exchange, they have fewer taxes and regulations to abide by.

On the other hand, a limited company is a separate legal entity from its director (you). So, you only risk what you invest in your business. Because of this, limited companies have more taxes and regulations to follow. 

If you’re unsure which is the right choice for your upcycling business, consider your upfront and operating costs. If you plan to start small, a sole tradership might be the first step

Managing your taxes

Small business owners must also track their finances to report their taxable income. If you earn a variable income, you’ll likely submit a Self Assessment tax return to determine what you owe. 

Here are some of the taxes you may pay:

Also, consider reading up on Making Tax Digital (MTD), an expanding government project that digitises the tax process. 

Finding insurance 

The proper insurance coverage can protect your business from unforeseen financial trouble. For example, public liability insurance can protect you from harm or damage that your business is found responsible for. 

You may also want to insure any expensive equipment or your furniture stock. Doing so will defend you if these items are damaged, broken, or lost.

You can find some great business insurance options at Superscript.  

How to organise your upcycling business

Once you know how to start an upcycling furniture business, you’ll need to think about the day-to-day. Strong organisation is essential to running your business smoothly and making it profitable.  

Organising your day

Consider using a business management and project management tool to stay on top of everything you need to get done for your business.  

Platforms like Microsoft Office or Google Workspace help you maintain your documents, emails, meetings, and calendar in one place. 

Then, with a tool like Trello, you can organise your to-do list and break up projects to get things done more efficiently. 

See also: How to improve time management

Organising your money 

Organising your finances is also crucial to the success of your business. 

It’s essential to keep up with sales and spending, and perform bookkeeping to abide by the expectations of the HMRC. These records will help you submit accurate tax reports. 

Furniture pricing and payment  

To decide how much to charge customers for your furniture, look at similar listings and calculate what you spend on each project. With competitive prices and a clear profit margin, you can profit from your business

But you’ll also need a way to accept payment from your customers. 

Since your furniture will likely cost in the triple digits or more, people may not have that kind of cash on them. So, consider opening a merchant account to accept credit card payments.

There are some great card reader options available at Sumup

Business current account

As you earn money for your business, you’ll need somewhere to put it. Limited companies must open business current accounts for their finances, but they’re helpful to all businesses.  

With a business current account, you can separate your business finances from your personal ones. Doing so will save you time and help you avoid mixing up transactions. 

Accounting software 

Accounting software lets you track the money flowing in and out of your business to understand your finances better. The right software will simplify your financial management process and save you valuable time. 

Accounting software can automate your accounting. It offers tools like quick invoicing, cash flow insights, tax estimates, receipt capture, and expense categorisation. 

If you’re unsure which accounting software to go for, why not give Countingup a try? It’s a business current account and accounting software in one app

Countingup streamlines time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK. With it, you can save yourself hours of accounting admin to focus on growing your business.

Start your three-month free trial today.  

How to market your upcycling furniture business

Another huge part of how to start an upcycling furniture business is marketing it to grow your audience. The more people you reach, the more customers you can earn. We’ll offer some tips for strong marketing. 

The brand 

The branding of your business can help you develop a reputation that speaks to your target audience

Your brand identity is how you present yourself to the public, including your tone, design, and values. It’s kind of like the personality of your business. 

To build a strong brand, consider which colours and style can represent your business appealingly. You can then use your brand to design a logo and marketing materials. Look to tools like Canva to create these yourself.

Want to learn more about branding? Check out our article on how to create a brand identity for a small business.

The website

It’s also important to have a home for your business online. So, create a business website that helps people learn more about you

Your website should include:  

  • An introduction to your business
  • Your contact information (email, phone number, shop address, and social media handles).
  • Photos of your products.
  • Your products and prices (Maybe even an online shop!).

To learn more, check out our article on how to make your own website

Social media 

Social media is another great way to grow your audience when starting an upcycling furniture business. These platforms can help you develop your brand reputation and access people interested in purchasing your products

Here are a few social media platforms to consider using: 

  • Facebook – Share updates and photos and earn reviews for your business. 
  • Instagram – Post pictures of your furniture and shop. 
  • TikTok – Create videos of you working on your furniture and tips on how to upcycle. 
  • Pinterest – Post pictures, videos, and tips on woodworking and upcycling. 

Trade shows and markets 

To find customers for your upcycled furniture, keep an eye out for trade shows or markets. These events often let you set up a booth to get your business in front of an audience

Plus, when you attend these events, you can also bring business cards so people can find your shop or website. 

Build your upcycling business for success  

There you have it! We hope this article helps you understand how to start an upcycling furniture business and carve it into success.

Just remember, it’s important to: 

  • Plan your business ahead of time. 
  • Set it all up legally and prepare for taxes.
  • Organise your finances and day-to-day tasks. 
  • Market your products to earn customers. 

From there, you can transform your idea into a stable business. In time, you might want to consider how you can expand. If so, check out our article on creating a small business growth plan