Are you a new small business owner or do you dream of being one? Have a great idea for a business but a little intimidated about where and how to start? Maybe we can help.
Where would we be without the entrepreneurs who have had the courage to follow their dreams? My little town, White House, Tennessee, would not exist without them. Oh, we have grown big enough to have a Wal-Mart and a Kroger. Heck, we even have more than three red lights now – but the backbone of our town is small, locally-owned businesses. We have a gourmet sandwich shop, a doughnut shop (only open in the mornings), the locally-owned Ace Hardware store, two small garden centers (where I find the best plants) and a score of other businesses that make up our community, neighbors and friends.
I was thinking today about all that is involved in owning a thriving small business. A small business owner needs to be an expert in their field, as well as interior decorator, purchasing agent, human resource expert, marketing guru, accountant – your basic chief cook and bottle washer! Daunting? Yes, but there is help out there.
SCORE is an invaluable resource for the small business owner. “SCORE, mentors to America’s small business, is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small business start, grow and succeed nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).”
When I owned a little backyard nursery there were several effective techniques I used to build a strong customer base. I never underestimated the power of the local paper. Our little local-shopper publication always gave me ample returns for my advertising dollars. Another powerful tool, an ever-growing mailing/emailing list of all my customers allowed me to notify them in advance of all sales and specials. I used the list to send invitations to pre-sale events, just for them. I used the list to give my customers additional value, by including helpful hints and tips in my email newsletter. That additional value built customer loyalty. Email newsletters are inexpensive (or even free), and very effective.
Partnering with other local businesses was very effective and mutually beneficial. I set up shop at an after-hours event put on by our local antique & gift shop. I displayed my plants in their merchandise, answered gardening questions, shared ideas and gave the store a percentage of my sales. It was good for their business and mine; it gave their customers additional value, added interest to their event and made additional revenue, and I walked away with additional sales, positive exposure and a large number of new entries for my mailing list!
A gift store in Texas created a lot of suspense and excitement that led to a hugely profitable sale. They actually closed their store for a week and papered the windows. Their staff wouldn’t give up a clue, and they advertised heavily. Over the week they revamped their store, redecorated, changed the floor plan, and stocked all their shelves with all new product lines. When the much-publicized reopening day arrived, customers waited in a line a block long just to get in! Sales were record breaking.
Local clubs and organizations are always looking for guest speakers. So position yourself as the local expert in your field and accept all invitations to speak. Ask the guests to sign in to be entered into a drawing for a fabulous door prize and added to your mailing list – no one will refuse!
Honestly, it all comes down to customer service. Profit by adopting the Nashville Wraps’ philosophy: “Have what you sell, do what you say and treat others like you want to be treated.” And I’d add one more thing: “If you don’t have it, find it!”
In my next post I’ll discuss merchandise display.