How to build a retail shop on a DIY budget. #1 Intro "When, Why, Where, How"


If you are an experienced retail shop owner,  operator (hell even worker) than this blog will definitely NOT be smart enough or sophisticated enough for you to read.  But if you are a brand new shop owner or a prospective shop owner or someone who thinks it might be fun to own a shop one day, than some of my recent experiences in building my own shop out may actually be useful for you.

First off, I am an artsy fool first and foremost.  I love making Accessories and Gifts for Men because I think it is fun to design THINGS and PRODUCTS.  I think it is fun to then make those designs into real things and eventually to produce a bunch of them.  When people actually buy them it is like a little slice of heaven.  It is as gratifying as having someone request to hear a song you wrote, like genuinely requesting to hear it, not out of kindness and not out of obligation and not because they are your mom or your sister or your aunt, in fact, for it to count it almost must be a stranger.

I am NOT an MBA with a great brain for data that puts the "potential net revenue generated by disrupting a neglected market sector" in front of wanting to make something cool.  I just like to make shit thats cool. Or that at least I THINK is cool.

WHEN my business grew too big to be operated out of my living room, when I could no longer invite people over for meals because the dining room table was a cut and sew table, when I could no longer get my bike out of the garage because it would disrupt my fulfillment center, when the lines between kitchen and stockroom began to really blur, I knew it was time to move to a new space, even if it cost a little extra money each month.  

WHY would a guy who knows nothing about operating a retail floor open a retail floor? I wouldnt. I didnt initially plan to have a retail shop, in fact even now it is more of a byproduct of my needing a space to design, store and fulfill orders than a concious new part of my business.  I figured it would be foolish to have a space downtown filled with my best newest product, and not have a way for people to simply walk in and buy it.  And so I was not saved from falling into, nearly falling into and narrowly avoiding the hundreds of pitfalls that new business owners and shop owners brush up against everyday. 

WHERE I chose to put the shop was based on a number of factors.  I wanted low overhead. Most of my business is wholesale and online so I didnt want to be paying $3500 for a 450 square foot space in a hot retail part of town.  I knew I needed about 750 Sq Ft and I didnt want to pay more than 1000/month.  My line of accessories is made up of bowties, neckties, pocket squares, suspenders, belts, wallets, scarves, cufflinks, lapel flowers and a few other products in development.  One of the great things about all of these products is that they dont take up all that much room.

I saw a space next to a bar that seemed to have a similar asthetic and certainly a similar demographic to my customer. I now sublet from them.  Knowing that real potential customers would be in the area was important to me since, though I ultimately wasnt relying on the retail portion to be the money maker, I did want to be able to build a customer base and if nothing else use the shop as a marketing tool to this targetted audience to drive online sales.

HOW did I know how much space I needed? I designed the entire layout of the work space months before I looked at spaces.  I used Sketch Up to do a full fledged 3D rendering. I highly suggest taking the step to do this.  You can use the free version and still use thgeir 3D modeling library to insert 3D models of shelving units, desks, chairs into your model.  All to scale so you can really get an idea of how much space you need.

This also give you a nice printable sheet that you can show to potential landlords, contractors, banks, loan officers, investors... to show them your vision.  Its always nice to have a road map.  Even if you are off the page for much of the journey.


NEXT TIME on How to Build a Retail shop on a DIY Budget #2 "Signs signs, everywhere signs".