Friday, May 07, 2010

Thinking About Starting A Stained Glass Business

I got an email the other day. It was from a fellow who was laid off and thought he might start a stained glass business. He was asking for advice and wondered if we ever gave free stained glass classes. It was hard to answer his email because it seemed so silly, having never even built a stained glass panel, he's considering starting a business in stained glass. Do people look at stained glass and think, "That looks like a pretty easy thing to do?" or do they see us at the farmers market each week with our displays and thousands of dollars invested in labor and glass items and think, "Well if they can do that, I could too?" My answer to him follows:
We charge for our stained glass classes because it costs us to teach. There are supplies and materials that we use up during a class. The cost for a class session is $150 and that includes over $50 worth of supplies and materials including a glass cutter ($20) safety glasses ($4) copper foil ($15) sharpie pen ($2) flux brush ($1) fid ($3) zinc outer bar ($6) 1 lb solder ($18)and then most of the glass for a first panel measuring 12 x 12. We also let you use our equipment, grinders, tables, soldering irons, etc. Plus there are cleaners and chemicals that we furnish. We also have to buy extra insurance in case someone gets hurt and we have to heat and cool the place.

So, while it's true that we make a small fee after the cost of class, it's not much. We used to charge less for classes, but found that we were losing money and even though we enjoy teaching, we just have to make a profit or at least break even. You can read about our classes at

We do have many lessons at
Visiting there and reading all the articles will teach you a lot about stained glass. And finally, we sell a video at
which will teach you the basics. We worked with several other folks for five years on the beginning video and share the profits with them, so even that video can't be free.

Make sure and read the article at
and start in business slowly. Stained glass is one of the hardest businesses you can try and last year we only made $5000 for the year. That's $5000 for two people working full time so $2500 for me and $2500 for my wife. That works out to $1.20 per hour. I'm not exaggerating. You should consider stained glass work as a hobby, under no circumstance will it make you a decent living without years of trial and error. Ask yourself some hard no one doing stained glass in Tooele because it's not appreciated there or is it because it's hard to make it as an artist. LDS employment offers free business advice. They will help you with a business plan and it's free to anyone who wants their help, you don't have to be LDS for the help. They will help you to get realistic about planning a business.
People don't believe you when you give advice on business matters, articles I've written on business are as follows:
I tell the story of how a difficult client robbed us of joy for some time.
I explain some of the happy stress of running a business
I tell of the student who broke me and caused me to give up stained glass completely for over a year.
I give some ideas on how one may market stained glass.
I discuss pros and cons of bartering in business.
I discuss in detail the "eyes open approach" to entering a stained glass business.
I discuss dealing with the adversity and discouragement of running a business.
I explain my philosophy that competition doesn't really exist.
How long should I bend over backwards to satisfy a client?
I tell of the feeling of having a good day in business.
I explain that the majority of folks just don't appreciate stained glass.
What are worthy artistic goals?
I complain about teaching classes.
I express how little we know about running a stained glass business.
I answer the question Should I Start My Own Stained Glass Business.
I tell of a mistake we made.
I explain about fighting to stay alive in economic tough times..this was before the bubble burst..we were struggling during the BOOM, ha.
I explain our open about art philosophy.
How health is important to us.
I give our formulas for pricing stained glass.
How the Internet keeps changing on us.
This article is another installment on how to market stained glass.
I teach because it can lead to happiness.
After all that, people still look at you with disbelief when you tell them that it's a struggle to run your own business. They are sure that you're lying to them, trying to keep them out of the game. They don't see the fact that you've been late on your house payment over half the months of the last year. They don't believe that you often only made $15 a week at the farmers market and that was all you made for the entire week and that the end of the summer you had to pay sales tax on it. They won't believe the despair you've felt as artist friends and gallery owners gave up and took menial jobs to get back on their feet. They don't believe or even imagine the number of times you've almost thrown in the towel and given up. And they especially don't believe us when we write articles and give lectures and we are positive about today and tomorrow..because it's told to us that we must be constantly positive and surround ourselves with positive affirmations to draw good things towards us. They believe our PR and won't/can't believe our reality.