1. A Brick and Mortar doesn’t have to put you in debt!

Everyone is looking for the next big idea and the next great start up. A lot of people I run into actually have some pretty awesome ideas! The problem is, they don’t have the money to get their idea off the ground. Some entrepreneurs spend years raising money before they get to open the doors of their business. I can’t even imagine that. (Impatient much?!)  I do realize that there are many business models that require an upfront cost. For example, most franchises require thousands of dollars up front and I’m not saying they are a bad option. However, this advice is for those of you that have an idea for a brick and mortar that is your own, that has the ability to be scaled. For instance, I wanted to open a fitness studio/gym. I was very aware of the need for it in our community and was fairly confident that I could get people excited about it. The advice I received about the next step blew my mind. I was told to either start pitching to investors or go to the bank with a 20 page business plan (I hadn’t written) and get a $50,000 loan. Uhhh, no thanks! Instead of freaking out, I prayed. Then here is what I decided to do – I started immediately teaching classes at a park, I invited EVERYONE. Next, I started doing some in-home personal training sessions, and sharing the stories of my client’s success all over the place. Then, about a month later, I moved into to a small martial arts studio that was as thrilled to have my rent money as I was to have their space 3 nights a week. The owner actually gave me the first month for free to see if I could get some interest and after that we worked a deal out where he received a cut from my revenue. That was 2.5 years ago. We “opened” at that small studio with 12 members. Fast forward to today and we now have our own 4,000 square foot facility with 130+ members and we have broken even or turned a profit monthly for the last 2.5 years – that is unheard of in start ups. It’s because we scaled ourselves and we were okay with safe, slow, and steady growth. Oh, and we still have no debt in the business. Don’t be afraid to start small. Super, super small.

2. Word of mouth isn’t just the greatest marketing strategy…

it’s the ONLY marketing strategy for a brick and mortar start up. The second your doors open, your focus is no longer on product, staffing, finances, or any other day-to-day business functions. It’s time to delegate those tasks or take care of them after business hours because your #1 focus is now on your community and your customer. You must go above and beyond. You have to give the best advice, the greatest service, and the kindest smile. You will learn their name, you will learn their kid’s names, and you will thank them for choosing your business to visit… even if they walk out without spending a dime. Word of mouth is everything. EVERYTHING. Especially for the she works His way woman! Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1.

3. Under Promise and Over Deliver.

This is one of the biggest differences between an online business and a brick and mortar. Online products are typically easier to duplicate and it’s as easy to have 100 customers as it is to have 20. Not in a physical business though. This is where I see a lot of start ups crash and burn before they ever get off the ground. I have mentored several business owners in the last two years and one in particular dealt with this exact thing. She had mass marketed and wasn’t prepared for what happened in her opening month. She invited EVERYONE and guess what? EVERYONE showed up. You would think that was a good thing, right? Not in this case. Her product was in high demand, but she was unable to deliver. Rapid growth isn’t something we can predict, but it is something we can prepare for. If I had sent out flyers for a free week of classes at my studio when we opened in our new location to all 30,000 people that lived in my community, I would have set myself up for major failure because if only .0025% of them had shown up, I’d have been maxed out in space. So how do you prepare? Here are 2 ways: 1. Refer to #2 in this blog and go for a more grass roots marketing feel in the beginning. Then, let your overly impressed customers do the rest of your marketing. 2. Have a plan. Say I did send out all of those flyers and 150 people showed up for class with room for only 75. I would have prearranged a 2nd space and brought in a 2nd trainer ready to take the overflow customers. Or I would have offered a waiting list to add them to and had free water bottles on hand to send them away with. As a business owner/entrepreneur you must prepare for anything, and if you’re one of the ones with a brilliant idea, you should definitely prepare for rapid growth.

Somer Phoebus, Executive Director & Catalyst Queen

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