Never has operating a business outdoors been a better idea. Not only can you appeal to your customers’ desire to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, but your buyers’ fears of contracting COVID-19 can be markedly reduced when you open up for business in the open air. As you contemplate your outdoor expansion, take stock of what you will require to untether your company from your physical storefront.
1. A plan.
If you have not realized it already, your outdoor operation requires much of the same preparation as any other commercial enterprise. Take whatever time is necessary to consider the following factors.
• What will your business name be?
• Where will your business be located? Affordability, foot traffic, and the availability of parking may come into play here. When considering costs, don’t forget about construction/renovation, inventory, computer hardware and software, a POS system for your credit card transactions, website, signage, insurance, and grand opening costs.
• Which customers are you targeting and what products or services do they want?
• What are your estimated startup and ongoing costs?
• What prices can your market bear? How much will you charge?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have laid a strong conceptual foundation for your new outdoor venture.
2. To be legal.
Establishing your store as a legal business does more than provide credibility. When you register as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, it protects you from personal liability should your store be sued. It also provides welcome assurance to partners and investors that your personal and business affairs are not intermingled.
3. To pay taxes.
Nobody likes to think about this, but Uncle Sam needs his cut of any profits you make. That’s why you’ll need to obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN). Get it from the IRS website, by fax, or by mail. In addition, do your research to learn about what municipal, state, or sales taxes you will be expected to pay.
4. A business account and credit card(s).
Just as is the case with indoor businesses, your outdoor enterprise needs its own bank account and credit cards. (These must be separate from your personal ones to avoid the intermingling of funds.) This distinction also makes tax time infinitely easier.
Obtaining a business credit card can also help you to thrive. It makes paying for ongoing expenses and sudden purchases easier. It will also assist you with bolstering your business credit score. That can help you in the long run if you need a business loan or are enlisting the support of investors.
5. Local permits and business licenses.
If you are taking your business outdoors for the first time, you may be unfamiliar with the rules and licenses that may apply. Check with your local city or county clerk’s office to learn exactly what you will need. Most likely, you’ll be required to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (COA), a document that verifies that all zoning laws, building codes, and government regulations have been met. If you are leasing your outdoor space, your landlord is responsible for getting a COA.
6. Business insurance.
Insurance protects your company against covered losses. Start with general liability insurance. It helps to shield your small business against many covered events and is particularly useful if you are unsure of the risks you might encounter. If you have employees, you should also consider workers’ compensation coverage, which helps to pay associated costs should an employee have an accident or become ill on the job. Most states actually require that companies have this coverage, which not only helps your workers but also defrays the potentially burdensome costs of medical interventions and work interruptions.
7. A brand and a marketing strategy.
Taking your company outdoors involves more than just a change in location. You also must find ways to get the word out to potential customers, appealing to their love of nature, as well as their excitement about the products you sell. This may require an updated logo and signage, a kickstart to your social media posts, and an uptick in participation in local events. The importance of networking with other merchants cannot be overstated.
8. Up-to-date payment systems.
It would be a shame if you went through all the effort involved in expanding your business beyond your physical storefront and neglected the need to get an updated payment processing platform. Now that your business is mobile, you no longer need to be tethered to those old-school stationary terminals and card readers. Today’s wireless equipment enables you to harness the power of your phone or tablet, an attached reader, and an app to safely and seamlessly collect money from your customers.
You should also consider offering contactless payment options. These allow buyers to make their purchases simply by waving their smartphone, tablet, or wearable device near your special NFC-equipped touchless reader. Without any fuss, payments can then be verified through your customers’ digital wallets and the funds sent within a matter of seconds.
9. A grand opening strategy.
Now that you have your legal, physical, and payment infrastructure in place, you can let your creative juices flow. No matter how thorough your preparations may have been, they will be wasted if you fail to create customer interest in your new outdoor venture. In order to make that happen, you have several useful options at your disposal.
• Use social media to generate buzz about your upcoming event.
• Entice customers to attend and bring their friends by offering discounts, prizes, and other incentives.
• Get help from other local merchants. This type of partnering will bring some of their loyal customers to your new outdoor business.
• Before the event, attend chamber of commerce meetings to spread the word.
• Advertise in small local papers, on public access cable programs, and area bulletin boards.
• If you already have a database of existing customers, promote your upcoming event in newsletters, blog posts, and targeted emails.
You only have one chance to make a first impression on your new outdoor business’s potential patrons. Take maximum advantage by generating as much curiosity and excitement as possible before your grand opening.
As you introduce your new endeavor to the community, remember that your website can function as the hub for all of your activities. You can use it to preview products, generate hype about upcoming sales and promotions and, of course, continue to market and sell the products that have made your brand famous. Take some time to refresh your site in such a way that it reflects your fresh innovations and proclaims the virtues of your new endeavor.
Taking your business outside or on the road is a big step, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. With careful planning, collaboration, and a splash of creativity, you can be selling your products outside before you know it. Why not get started on this exciting project today?