Even if you’re not familiar with the term “upcycling,” you’ve most likely seen examples of it, whether it was a birthday gift or a pinned image on Pinterest. Upcycling refers to taking an existing item that is no longer being used (like an old high school banner) and making it into something else useful (like a tote bag). It’s an incredibly popular (and environmentally-friendly) movement, and it’s also a great idea for a crafty entrepreneur who wants to start their own online store.
If you want to make upcycled products to sell online, the first thing you need to do is figure out what the heck you actually want to create. While you should choose something that you’re passionate about, you should also consider the following tips.
Think about labor and material costs. Maybe you have a great plan to create intricate, engraved jewelry trees out of old silverware… but you discover that it takes you ten hours and $50 in materials just to make one. At that point, you’d have to sell the item at an extremely high price just to make a profit—and you’re not likely to find buyers willing to spend $200+ on a jewelry tree. Make sure you’re choosing something with relatively inexpensive materials that you can easily produce in large quantities.
Think about what materials can be reworked. Some materials are going to be easier to upcycle than others. For example, there are all kinds of things you can make out of old cotton t-shirts, but when it comes to something like an old CD, you might be limited to making coasters and dangling items to scare birds. Choose a material that you think you’ll be able to work with, but also don’t be afraid to try harder-to-use materials if you have an innovative idea for how to rework them.
Think about how to make your product more personal. The entrepreneurs at Project Repat have found success making customers’ old T-shirts into personalized blankets. Consider projects that will allow you to rework another person’s materials—it may be a little trickier to coordinate, but you’ll have fewer material costs and you’ll be able to give the customer something that’s more meaningful to them.
Think about teaming up with other crafty individuals. If you have a friend who does a lot of upcycling for fun, you could talk to them about teaming up to sell online. They could handle the manufacturing side while you could handle marketing and customer service.