Lessons Learned: Taking An Online Business Offline
|March 4, 2013||Posted by Guest Author under How To Start A Business||
In a past life, I managed a yoga studio. So, when I decided I was ready to take my small business start-up from an online-only platform and open a storefront, I thought to myself “you’ve totally got this.” Granted, I did manage to get through it and get things set up successfully, but a lot of unexpected curve balls were thrown my way during the process. Since then, I’ve been asked for advice on just enough occasions that I figured I’d write down my best tips for getting a small business storefront up and running.
Simplify Everything You Can
Plenty of tasks and hurdles ahead will be complicated and out of your direct control (see: permits, etc.) so make the thing you do control as simple as possible. For me, accounting is a challenge. I understand it, but I’ve never had a knack for it. Some of the best advice I got when I started my business was to be relentlessly cautious about co-mingling personal and business spending.
The last thing I wanted to worry about was the IRS swooping in and auditing me, so I had to find an easy way to separate finances and keep accurate records. I decided to use a business credit card to do my spending so I could simply use the online and monthly statements for record keeping. Because of all of the benefits offered to small-business owners, I went with a business American Express card. You get the purchase protection, extended warranty, fraud protection, partner savings and the list goes on. I must have logged onto their OPEN forum twice a day for weeks, asking questions and getting really good advice from actual business owners.
Find and Use Resources
My love letter to my credit card company (something I never expected to write) brings up another good point. Don’t be an island, and don’t let pride get in your way. Opening a business is tough. Use any and all resources to start a business at your disposal to help ensure your success. Join the local US chamber of commerce (Canadian chamber of commerce), go to networking events, introduce yourself to other local business owners and find out what the current hot issues are and how they might affect you. See what your service providers can do for you and take advantage of it. Look for low-interest loans, grants and other incentives for small businesses.
Some of my favorite resources are (in no particular order):
SBA.gov: Home to the U.S. Small Business Administration. They have resources that range from generic tutorials and information to tax advice to local and national loan and grant information. Bookmark this one.
Canada Business Network: Canadian government services for entrepreneurs.
Openforum.com: There are plenty of forums to talk with other business owners, but this one is clean, well-moderated and easy to navigate. They have articles divided by topic, options for RSS feeds and you can engage with experts on a variety of topics.
My Local Chamber of Commerce: I can find out about networking events, keep up to date on important proposed legislation or zoning updates and find out when new businesses are opening. Information is power. I like to stay informed.
The best advice I can give on getting a brick and mortar business up and running is this: research, research, research. Become an expert on local codes and permitting procedures. Get references galore before you choose contractors. Make sure the bargain fixtures you’re interested in will stand the test of time. It’s far better to go the extra mile and do it right initially than it is to re-do just about anything. Remodeling and construction will always take longer than you want. Build delays into your plan and budget so you’re not starting off behind the eight ball, so to speak.
Lastly, don’t get so caught up in the paperwork and procedures that you forget to make your storefront reflect what your brand it all about. First impressions are powerful and important to consumers. Make them feel welcome with lighting, color choices, fixtures, signage and music.
Now go out there and get ’em! You can do it!
A former yoga teacher and studio manager, Gina decided that her calling in life was in designing clothes that are hip and durable for yogis on the mat and off. She also loves reviewing yoga clothing and equipment for magazines.