How to Start a Promotional Product Business

Custom pens are an affordable promotional item.
Custom pens are an affordable promotional item. (Image: Cup o' pens image by hoselx from

Starting up a promotional products business can be a lucrative way to earn money and be creative at the same time. From simple pens and pencils to tote bags, custom leather goods and apparel, virtually any item can be customized today. With the growth of promotional products suppliers online, you can easily find companies to supply products that you can customize and resell to your customers.

Things You'll Need

  • Investment capital
  • Internet access
  • Website
  • Suppliers
  • Prospects

Sign up to be a promotional products distributor. This is the easiest way to get started in the promotional products business. More than 3,500 suppliers are registered with the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). Applying for a distributor license with the ASI gives you instant access to wholesale pricing on thousands of promotional products that you can resell. For a fee, you receive a distributor number and access to ASICentral, the database of promotional products and suppliers.

Develop your business plan. As a distributor, you now have access to your fixed costs for products you choose to sell. Make a list of the items you plan to sell and your financial goals. Outline who will perform job tasks associated with your promotional products business. For instance, who will do the graphic design? Will you have a store front, or just an online presence? Are you going to specialize in a certain industry, such as promotional products for restaurants, or will you try to be a one-stop shop for all things promotional?

Advertise your business and the products you offer. Using simple web-building tools, create a website with an online product catalog with pricing by quantity, based on your markup and pricing schedule. If you have a storefront, fill it with samples of your products. Give potential customers pens, post-its and other useful items that will remind them of your business.

Sell! The hardest part about starting a promotional products business is attracting and maintaining customers. The competition in this industry is fierce. Network with small businesses in your area. Join your chamber of commerce, or another networking group, and get to know other members. Offer specials and introductory rates to attract new customers. Also, work with fellow business owners to trade services for promotional products.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create promotional packages for new businesses by pairing products like pens, stationery and other items.

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