Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Small Business - Finding customers

One of the ways I promote my business and sell my products is by setting up a craft booth at summer festivals.  The candles don't fare too well in the heat, but my fragrance oils sell pretty well.  If you are in Ohio, I highly recommend the Englewood festival, the pork festival and the sauerkraut festival.  I also like the Spring Valley potato festival.  I've done quite a few others, but these were my favorite last year.  It's a lot of work to take all of your things somewhere, set up a booth, hang out all day in the heat, then take everything down and get it back home.  But if you're just getting started, it's a nice way to bring in some money.  And it also gives you some experience working with customers and observing how they react to your items.  You can tweak your products or presentation a little bit over time and see what works best.  This is especially important if you would eventually like to rent a space in a shopping center or something.

Personally, I plan to eventually open a shop.  I would prefer to buy a second house in a commercial zone to use.  There are a lot of rules in shopping centers and there can be a lot of extra charges.  If you do decide to rent, be sure to look at your lease very carefully.  In particular you will want to look for something called common area charges, or CAM.  These are your share of expenses for the landlord to maintain the parking lot, sidewalks, landscaping, etc.  When I worked for a commercial real estate company, I worked very closely with CAM charges.  They can amount to a very high amount of extra expenses that you may not have been prepared for.  I will write a post about CAM charges, and about items that you may want to negotiate into your lease to make it affordable.  If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to email me.  Trust me, it's better to know.  I know that a lot of the big corporate landlords can sneak in language that makes things confusing, or that the leasing agent may gloss over or misrepresent.  So it's very important to read your lease and look for extra charges.  I've seen small tenants end the year owing tens of thousands of dollars in addition to their normal monthly rent.

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