Do you long to ditch the day job, work for yourself, and pursue your hobby or passion full time? Matt Stevens of ParrotDog (pictured) quit his job as an accountant to open his own brewery. How cool is that?
The good news is that getting up and running is now easier and more affordable than ever. Gone is the need to invest millions in capital investment, stock, staff or rent, before you have even made your first sale.
The rise of the small business is set to be the next seismic shift in retail. Nimble, local businesses, offering goods both in store and online, and an experience that simply cannot be had elsewhere, will succeed.
This is great news for small and start-up businesses. The barriers to entry have fallen dramatically. Reaching your first customers and making your first few sales has become easier than ever. And the tools that enable businesses to do this, which once used to be available only to companies with seriously deep pockets, are now more affordable than ever.
There has never been a better time to start your own business. So read on, get inspired, then get out there and follow your dreams.
Here are our 5 easy steps to get started in retail, DIY-style.
1. Go to market
Testing that there is a market for your product is the single most important thing you can do before launching a business. But we’re not talking expensive telephone and door-to-door surveys.
The tremendous popularity of local markets or Buy, Swap and Sell sites offers new businesses an opportunity to test their products and reach their first, often lifetime, customers, for a modest investment of time and money.
Take your business to your local craft fair or farmers market and you will learn quickly how savvy buyers from larger retail chains scout for new products and trends there.
2. Go wholesale
Approach like-minded local businesses about stocking your products. Connect with retailers in your area who support local manufacturing and services.
3. Go online
Selling online has never been easier than it is today. You can create an online store in minutes, using hosted apps like Shopify, MagentoGo or BigCommerce. You can do it DIY with an off the shelf template, or hire a designer to bring out a particular flair.
Selling online is about more than just attracting customers to your branded website, it’s about getting your product in front of new customers, on as many channels as possible and online market places like Ebay and Etsy. Managing your products and inventory across mulitple channels is inexpensive & easy, using web based tools like Bizelo and Stitchlabs.
But don’t just expect your products to sell themselves. Get the word out on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Create a blog, post and share content. Start following brands you love on Pinterest. And invest in Google Adwords.
4. Go mobile
Don’t wait for your customers to come to you – go and find your customers. For much less than the cost of setting up a brick and mortar shop you can buy and fit out a mobile retail boutique.
5. Go brick & mortar
The last piece on the puzzle. If you have already established a successful business online and other channels, then the risks to opening a traditional brick and mortar shop are minimised, and the investment justified. But you can still apply the same start-up and DIY ethic to this step.
Start small. Test an area by hosting a pop up shop in an empty rental. Get to know the shoppers in that location. Go off the beaten track. Rentals off the high street are significantly lower because of reduced foot traffic. But if you have already established a solid brand online, and in other channels, your customers will come to you.
Most importantly, don’t waste money on IT infrastructure you don’t need, especially before your first customer has even walked in the door. Forget about servers, local networks, copies of Microsoft office. All you need to get up and running is a good internet connection, an iPad and a subscription to online point-of-sale (POS) software solution like Vend.
About Nick Houldsworth
Chief Marketing Officer at Vend. Husband. Father of three. Beard grower. Mandolin player. Tuesday drinker. Love helping retailers the world over grow great businesses.