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Opening A Shop Or Business On A Budget Part 1: Planning & Branding

12:03 PMKathryn Curling

If you are reading this because you are starting or opening a business, then yay! Congrats to you! It's scary and it takes a lot of guts and risk to start a business, especially one that you are investing lots of time and money into. I have tons and tons of respect for business owners after my recent adventures into the business world. This is from what I personally have learned. I do NOT have a business degree nor have I had any business training apart from the Intro To Business class I took at community college. I'm speaking from personal experience in my own adventures. All businesses are different and obviously require different skills and preparation.  I'm sure there were lots of things that didn't pertain to my situation or that I completely bypassed. If you have any additional advice please comment below. Spread the knowledge!

I'm just starting out with my new brick and mortar shop & studio Gypsy Beard Studio, and as a designer specializing in branding, marketing and advertising, I've been able to use a lot of my own personal skills in the creation and marketing of my business. I've worked with many businesses over the past 7 years to help create their branding, web sites and help their businesses get off to a great start. But it's a completely different adventure when its your own business.  I do however, know a lot about creating a powerful brand, how to define and reach your target demographic and how to market your business through social media and old school advertising.

Aside from running Gypsy Beard as an Etsy shop, I have no experience in the retail field. I wasn't anticipating opening a store, I happened to come across a building that was out of a dream for me. It was incredibly cheap rent and located in downtown on a busy road. And on a whim, with no money saved up and no preparations made, I signed my life away ( well a 6 month lease anyway) with no clue what I was doing.

Getting Legal
The legal and permits/licenses side was something new to me. Check with your county clerk's office to see exactly what you need to do since each state and county's requirements differ.  File for a tax ID number or whatever the required permits for your state and county. I already had a tax payer ID for my design and vintage business so luckily I didn't have to mess with that again.  If you are moving into a brick and mortar shop you'll probably have to file for a Certificate of Occupancy. My landlord requires that I also have liability insurance. These were all either free or very inexpensive to do as well as hassle free.

If you are thinking of starting a business, I'm assuming that means that you have a product or service already. In my case, I just opened a vintage clothing store that is also a design & art studio. Because I had been selling vintage on Etsy for quite a while, I had a fairly huge inventory already built up. As a freelance designer, I already had a computer, a great camera, printer etc. If you do not have the basic necessities to start your business get to hunting! Buy second hand machines and equipment. Craiglist, pawn shops and thrift stores are great for this. I purchased my iMac on craiglist a few years ago and I LOVE it. Office furniture is another easy thing to find on craiglist or second hand. Look for businesses going out of business that are liquidating all of their left over furniture, appliances or even inventory.

The next step is to create a brand.
 A brand is a combination of things that make up your business' image. A logo, color scheme, typography, style etc... can all be a part of your branding. I was able to save money because I could create all my branding and website myself. Hire a designer (like me!) or if you are creative you can create your brand yourself. Start with a Pinterest board and gather images, photographs, logos, colors, textures and designs you feel represent your business. If you are creative or feeling up to the challenge, download a trial version of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and get to making yourself a logo! You cannot expect a designer to work for free. They have bills too! But shop around and find someone that understands your business and shares your passion without eating all of your budget.

There are tons of great free or cheap tools to create a web site yourself like Wordpress Wix, Squarespace and Shopify or you can hire a professional (like me :-D ). Even if you only create a basic site with a service like Squarespace, you can always hire a designer later down the road once your income is more consistent.   I do not recommend jumping in with a company like Vista Print or Yellowbook. You'll wind up with something very generic and be stuck in a contract that is ridiculous. I can't tell you the number of clients I've had that have come to me distraught because they are stuck in a contract with a company and paying tons of money for something they hate.

Marketing and advertising should ABSOLUTELY be a priority when it comes down to where to budget your money. You could have the most fantastic product in the world, but that means crap if you do not have a web presence or you have a terrible marketing strategy.

With that in mind, take advantage of all the free advertising and marketing you can. Particularly,  create a Facebook page,  Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram account for your business if you haven't already. Be cohesive with your social media URLS and brand whenever possible so that customers can more easily recognize and fine you. For example if the name of your shop is "Feathers & Arrows"  your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter urls should all be :, etc etc. You should use the same logo and color schemes over all of these platforms. The vibe or voice you use when posting should also remain consistent. I like to pretend that the person speaking through my social media channels is a very intelligent, chic, free spirited, traveling hippy girl, because ideally that is my demographic and also a little bit of my alter ego. I recently learned the power of Instagram and wrote about it if you are curious where to start with Instagram.

My last advice for the planning and branding state is this: Don't be afraid to ask for help, and do it often. 
When I began planning for my business and for my grand opening the very first thing I did was create a Go Fund Me account. Now you may be on a bigger scale with your business where you may consdier having investors, but I know I didn't want to go that route. That intimidated me. Now, I didn't get rich off of my fundraising account, but I managed to raise a couple of hundred dollars that I didn't have. It never hurts to ask. I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received from other local businesses and groups when I spoke to them about donating items to be sold or given as door prizes or goodie bags at the grand opening.

 Most people are glad to help others out, especially when it gives them a little bit of exposure as well.
 I managed to get a free cash register, chairs, and some free labor from my dad in building my retail counter.

Looking back now, I should've asked for more help.  The worst thing someone could've told me was no. All in all I feel that I learned a lot in the process. I feel very blessed to have been able to receive the help and donations that I did. I'm definitely still learning each and every day as the shop evolves and grows but I'm excited for the direction everything is moving. I plan on sharing tips for throwing a grand opening on a budget with you soon.

If you have any questions please ask and I will do my best to answer them for you. It's exciting and intimidating starting out, especially if you are on your own. If you are looking for someone to help establish your brand let's talk!

much love,

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