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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Boutique Basics: Compliance


You have a passion for sewing and love to create super cute outfits for your kids. You are good at it! Then your friends begin requesting that you sew for their kids too, and your family suggests that you could open a boutique and start selling. It's so exciting!  

Does this sound familiar at all? 


That's exactly how it was for me, and we hear it often in our patterns group too. So...

If you could do your favorite hobby every day and get paid to do it, why not go for it?  It sounds like a dream job!  And it very well can be. If you're like I was, though, it can be hard to know how to get started. For that reason, I'm excited to help point you in the right direction; not by telling you to run to the store and buy five bolts of all your favorite fabrics (although that can come later), but by giving you the basics on how to get started as a legitimate boutique. You deserve it! Whether you're hoping to sell one order a month out of your home, or several outfits per day online, you will want to take the proper steps to keep your customers happy and yourself protected. 



We are going to refer to this topic as "compliance." Compliance basically means that you are following the rules. (Learning the rules isn't as fun as sewing, I admit, but it is important to keep you sewing for a long time.) I learned most of what I know about compliance from the CD Compliance Group on Facebook, which you are very welcome to join, and I highly recommend you do. They started out as a discussion group for cloth diapers (hence the CD name) but it has expanded to include all sorts of handmade items. There are helpful discussions going on there every day. Misty Henry is the head admin on the page and she seems to know everything there is to know about compliance. She has provided a lot of the info for today's blog post and you will soon be a huge fan of hers. (Trust me.) So let's get down to business! 

Used with permission: www.facebook.com/cruzbysheenawhitlock
Basically, to become compliant, you are mostly concerned with safety compliance, as determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They regulate any product that is made or sold to someone other than yourself. Their main job is protect consumers. However, by protecting consumers, they are also protecting your business from issues that would come about if your consumers were harmed.  This means that aside from business compliance (registering with the government, paying taxes etc.), you also need to have safety compliance -- that is, tags and documentation showing that all of your supplies have undergone proper safety testing.

  Yes, that means that everything that goes into your creation has to be proven as safe. Your fabric, buttons, ribbon, snaps -- everything has to have documentation stating that they have been tested. That's not as impossible as it might sound. For example, I easily found this info on the Kam Snaps website, and all I have to do is email them for their certificate. Some materials (such as 100% polyester) are exempt from testing, but for everything else you need to have written records from the source of whomever tested it. 


Believe it or not, just because a fabric is sold at a big name fabric store, that does not mean that it is approved by the CPSC. The store is simply providing a supply. It is your job as the creator of the final product to prove that it is safe for your customers. This may all sound overwhelming, but it is very doable. And in order for you to be a legitimate boutique, you need to do it! (And you will feel like a rock star when you get there.) 


Thankfully, we don't all have to figure it all out on our own as we go. Misty has broken it down into simple steps for us and explained what they mean. Rather than trying to re-write everything she has already written, I got permission from Misty to link to her pages. Be sure to thank her, because these helps are amazing!

First of all, you will need to start by registering your business with the government and the CPSC. You can learn how to do so by clicking here to access Misty's instructions.  Follow the steps that apply to the type of items you want to sell. (This link also tells you where to go for info if you are selling in Canada or the UK.) 





By the end of those steps, you will be filed with your local, state, and federal government, and ready to pay taxes. You will also be registered with the CPSC - very important. And you will have an EIN# and RIN# if necessary, as well as your SBM# (small batch manufacturer number). Don't worry, all of those are described very well in the link above.


Used with permission: www.facebook.com/pookieprincessdesigns
Once you have the appropriate paperwork filed and numbers obtained, you can begin gathering safety compliance info on your products. I wasn't sure where to start on this myself, or if I had to throw away all my old supplies and start from scratch. (Please, no!) But of course Misty came to the rescue again. If you're a fan of funny memes, you're going to enjoy the next few links!  Misty gives us a "Follow Me" series that takes us from start to finish of safety compliance in real life. Enjoy:





There, wasn't that fun?  If you were like me and just looked at the funny memes the first time through, you might want to go back and read the info between the photos. It's very important. But I still can't resist sharing one more: 



And finally, here is the master list of files that Misty has put together for the compliance group. There is a ton of info there, all explained in normal-people language. I want to give a big thanks again to Misty for sharing her knowledge and resources with us. Safety compliance is a subject we can't just ignore (it won't go away!), and I love how she has made it doable for all of us.

I still highly recommend that you find your way over to the CD Compliance group at some point, to get clarification on any questions you might have. The other members there can help you through any roadblocks you might come to (they have been there before!), and they can also help point you in the direction of supplies that they already know are compliant. 

Photo used with permission by Abigail Sutton
https://www.etsy.com/shop/abigailsuttondesigns
As you get started with your business adventure, we also have several other Boutique Basics blog posts that you will find helpful. From branding your boutique, to pricing helps, and ideas for cute packaging, there's a lot of info there! We have been in your shoes and we love sharing what we've learned!  

I hope that this blog post has helped you become more aware rather than discouraged. You can achieve your dream of opening a boutique! And it will be so worth it to become compliant. Anything worth doing is worth doing right!  

 It's time to make your dream a reality and start sewing for fun and profit! 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen  

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