How to start a bootmaking business

Make your bootmaking skills shine with our guide to launching a new company.

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Crafting your own business from scratch is a dream for many. To see how the end product can benefit people's lives is a reward in itself. But to make sure your business is profitable, there are some steps you can't skip.

Read on and find out how to get the key details right to ensure your bootmaking business outlasts even your best leather.

What skills or knowledge do I need to start a bootmaking business?

A handmade boot requires excellent attention to detail; you need to have an excellent eye to notice the grain of the leather and the stretch of it. Your craft will be the creation of shoes that are not only beautiful in themselves but are also comfortable to wear.

As a bootmaker, customers rely on you to fix leather accessories, glue or nail new soles on their shoes, stitch tears on their shoes or use a machine to fix linings and outers on their leather boots. Some customers might even seek you out to come up with designs and patterns for bespoke boots.


What courses or qualifications do I need to complete?

Several places offer the opportunity to apprentice under well-renowned shoemakers. The School of Footwear offers a range of courses; you can apply for group classes which are one lesson a week for three hours over a six-, nine- or 12-week period. Applying as a private student entails a more intensive course running over three full days for eight hours per day.

McDonald Shoemakers offer a five-day intensive course for beginner students. However, their classes are limited to one student per course for a typical fee of $$3,300.

Another course to consider is a Certificate IV in Custom-Made Footwear, which typically costs around $24,000. A certificate course will teach you all about the technical and production roles in custom-made footwear.

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Name Product How many courses are available? Are free courses offered? Are accredited courses available? - Business - Business
Online Courses Australia - Business
Online Courses Australia - Business
Yes - Business - Business
MasterClass - Business
MasterClass - Business
Udemy - Business
Udemy - Business

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Equipment and software needed to start a bootmaking business

If you are a beginner, you don't need too many tools to get started. You will need to learn how to work with these basic tools and materials:

  • Shoe last
  • Sewing machine
  • Awl tool
  • Rasp tool
  • Burnisher
  • Masking tape
  • Compasses
  • Shoemaking knife
  • Reinforcement tape
  • Adhesive
  • Hammer for folding and nails
  • Pincers for lasting
  • Vegetable-tanned leather
  • Dremel drill.

Also, consider investing in software for inventory and methods of payment to streamline your business.


Name Product Price Free Trial? Available on
Sage Inventory Management
Sage Inventory Management
$13.79-$34.48 per month
QuickBooks Inventory Management
$10.34-$21.38 per month
From $29 p/m

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What business structures do I need to consider before starting a bootmaking Business?

Your business structure should meet the needs of your business. You can choose to operate as a sole trader to manage all aspects of the business. If you employ staff, one factor to keep in mind is that you're required to pay their super.

Choosing to operate as a partnership model involves two or more people managing the business together. Generally, a partnership requires drawing up a partnership agreement outlining how you will share income and control of the business. A company is more expensive to set up but is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders.

You will need to register your business, your business' name and be across GST. Read about how to set up a business without leaving your home.

Register your company with Lawpath in just 10 minutes.

To ensure your business is protected, here are a few of the legal documents you'll want to consider:

  • Skin dealer's license. This license is required if your bootmaking business involves selling, buying or tanning the skins of protected fauna. It also includes those who retail animal skins, manufacture products which contain animal skin or work in a tannery.
  • Employment contract. A well-written employment contract protects the employer and ensures that employees are treated fairly at work. This contract should outline the employee's duties and responsibilities, the initial probation period, confidentiality, a prohibition on other paid work while working for you and post-employment restraints.
  • Refund policy. This policy informs customers about your business' terms and conditions regarding returns and refunds. Some companies don't accept returns because a customer changes their mind.

If your company has a website, you'll benefit from the right Terms and Conditions wording. Another key document will be a Privacy Policy.

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How much should I charge my customers?

A handmade shoe generally takes anything between six weeks and 12 months to produce, depending on the order. Take into account the base construction techniques, selection of materials, the demand and your business' reputation when setting a price. Bespoke boots can cost anywhere around $1200 to $2800. More complex fits and orthotics can raise the cost. Knee-high boots typically can cost anywhere from $1800 to $2200. The price depends on the leather chosen, the construction detail and the complexity of fit.

Extra services offered can be customising shoes to help with medical conditions, making adjustments to remove pressure on feet and making a fit T-straps for use with leg callipers.

How do I build my customer base?

Exploring the different marketplaces for your bootmaking business will help you connect with customers through various channels. Set up handmade boots at marketplaces or a pop-up shop. You may want to explore online marketplaces like Etsy, which is a popular website for its handcrafted items.

You can point customers to your online store by raising your social media presence. Show off your customised boots by sharing pictures of your work, give customers a peek behind the scenes by posting videos and make connections with potential customers and influencers.

Create a website with content on the bootmaking business to appeal to your audience's curiosity. You might even gain loyal readers. Get comfortable with using SEO for your blog (read more in our guide to marketing a small business). Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to research the most popular keywords you can use for your handmade boots. Create an e-commerce website using the likes of Squarespace, Shopify, BigCommerce and Square E-Commerce. Some platforms may offer you custom apps and flexible selling.

Frequently asked questions

What other services does a bootmaker provide?

Besides hand-making boots and repairs, a bootmaking business can provide surgical modifications, orthotics, leather repairs, and key cutting. You can sell shoe accessories like sheepskin scuffs, giftware and shoe care accessories. You may want to consider offering other kinds of footwear for weddings, bridesmaids, small feet, narrow feet, wide feet, big feet, high heels, ballet flats and sandals.

What is sustainable footwear?

Some bootmaking businesses have shifted to using sustainable materials as an alternative to leather and petroleum-based textiles, to reduce the environmental impact. Some examples of sustainable materials include pineapple leaf fibre, vegan-leather made from cactus, recycled tires, organic cotton and more.

How do you care for suede or nubuck shoes or boots?

You only need to use a suede or nubuck cloth or a cleaning sponge to wipe the surface of your shoe. Regular cleaning removes light soiling and shiny spots. If it is a sizable soiled area, coat the area with a spray-on suede and nubuck cleaning solution, then wipe the area with a cloth—clean oil stains with a cloth, a leather degreaser and leather cleaner.

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