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Thinking of starting a bricks and mortar business?

I've received a lot of messages asking me about setting up my own business and tips for getting started. So here's my experience, the planning, the set up, the mistakes, the highs and the lows.

Start with a plan.

Before you decide to join the six million small and medium businesses in Britain and before you part with one single penny, create an idea that includes a product and definitive business plan.

A plan helps you to get an idea of your strategic goals, financials, market research, and potential obstacles.

For my part, I had created my product/business as a sideline to my NHS career job for 2 years previously. I knew my product worked, it had already been selling and I had a successful small online selling platform. At the end of the first year of the pandemic, I left my NHS job and made the bold and terrifying decision to take the business to the next level and move to a bricks and mortar shop.

The name of your business is an important step, it shows the personality of your brand and helps you stand out. Your name should be unique and appeal to your target audience – and it’s your chance to be creative. Define your product, make it stand out from your competitors and decide on your legal standing ie: Sole Trader / Limited Company.

Location is key

Think about where your business will be, location is key and its vital you do your research.

  • Research the demographic -who is your ideal customer, are they right for your product,

  • are they present in your chosen area?

  • Who are your local competitors/ Is your market already saturated in this location?

  • Observe the footfall at several different times, week days weekends - Summer v Winter

  • Speak to other shop keepers - is the town thriving or dying?

Decide on your budget

Initial costs

The cost to start a business can vary widely, its imperative to know your budget and stick to it. Include a contingency budget – research every aspect of your set up and running cost and secure or set aside your initial finances for the following. (based on a leased property)

  • Estate agents fees

  • Solicitor fees for drawing up a lease.

  • Renovation costs. including plumbing electrics structural works.

  • Signage

  • Security

  • Rent

Secondary costs

Once the fabric of your building is complete, you can start to think about the interior and how the aesthetic of your shop will look (the exciting part) although this is also costly.

  • Decoration - save money by doing as much of the decoration yourself if possible.

  • Lighting - this is key, the lighting in your shop needs to be planned to accentuate your products.

  • Display - plan this several time over and ensure you have it right, before investing in key pieces.

  • Storage for stock , equipment etc, don't under estimate how much you'll need of this.

  • Technologies: i.e. cash register system, music player, thermal printer, standard printer, laptop/desktop, landline, mobile phone. weighing scales.

  • Equipment needed for the production of your products.

  • Insurance - contents / public liability / buildings (even as a lease holder you may be liable for buildings insurance.

  • Music License - PPL PRS needed by law to permit the playing of background music.

  • Utilities - Electric, Gas , Water

  • Stock - Do not under estimate the amount of stock and the cost of your initial set up. A shop of any size can take a lot of filling and an empty shop will give the wrong impression. In my case, I decided to stock other artisan products that complimented my own products.

  • Packaging - bags, paper, postal packaging.

  • TAX - put money aside from your profit to prepare for your first self assessment and VAT if registered.

Market your launch

  • Marketing - initial marketing is essential and shouldn't be missed. use as much free marketing as possible ie: social media, but allow for some form of paid advertisement to reach a wider audience.

  • Contact your local newspaper and get them involved.

  • Use local community groups to gain interest

  • Maybe hold an open day - send out invites to local people and offer open day discounts to get people through the door.

So now you're open.

Now that your open, the real hard work will start, your first year will be a missive learning curve, you'll learn on the job and you'll make huge mistakes.

Mistakes that I made included, stock that didn't sell, realising that I hadn't included enough storage and having to employ a joiner twice.

I also wasn't quite for prepared for the expectation that you'll be open 7 days a week, make clear your opening hours, register you business with Google and always change them so your customers can refer to them- they don't like it if they come and you're closed when your sign says you should be open!

Most of all enjoy the journey, enjoy the freedom to make your decisions for your business.

Enjoy your customers, and build rapport, customers buy into your product, but they will also buy into you, if they like you.

Be real and be honest, not everyone will like what you sell, but that's ok, they'll be plenty who do.

Thank you for reading


Orchard Candle Co


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