How to Start a Brick + Mortar Location
E-commerce is the future
E-Commerce may be the future but there'll always be a place for brick + mortar. You can set up shop in your own space or host a pop-up shop.
1. Start your company
You’ve probably heard about something called Limited Liability. It’s what you get for registering your company with the state and following certain formalities. It's a big deal because without it, your personal assets (like your car, house, and bank account) are considered company property. That means they can be taken by creditors to pay your business debts. With limited liability, only your company assets are at risk.
Youʼll start by completing the state paperwork to register your entity. First, you'll need to decide what kind of entity is the best fit for you. If you haven't decided yet, check out our guides to Sole Proprietorship, Partnerships, LLCs, C Corporations, and S Corporations.
Now you're ready to register. If you are registering an LLC, the form is usually called Articles of Organization. If youʼre forming a Corporation, the form is called Articles of Incorporation. You can find these on your stateʼs corporation agency website. Youʼll also need to choose a registered agent, principal place of business, and business purpose. Keep in mind that all of this information, including your address, will be public.
You may also need a city permit for your pop up shop so check your local laws.
Tip: Call in your business attorney if you’re not sure which entity is the right fit for your company.
2. Lock down your brand
A trademark allows you to own your brand. It means you're the only company who can use your company name, logo, slogan, domain name, personal name, product name, or hashtags. Here's why it's key: without it, you can be sued, forced to rebrand, or have your customers stolen by copycats.
Trademarks operate on a first to file system. That means the first person to file the trademark gets the exclusive rights to use the name. So if someone else files first, they’ll own the rights to your name and you won't be allowed to use your brand anymore and you can be sued for using it.
Think about how many brand pieces feature your company name: your storefront logos, signs, website, social media, business cards, products, marketing materials, press links, inventory, etc. You'll need to change all of that, pull back all inventory with the brand on it, and possibly pay monetary damages. You'll lose customers, money, and valuable momentum.
Bottom line: if you’re building a brand, you need to own your trademark.
3. Find your products
If you’ve read our popular blog post, How to Start a Business, you have a plan for what you’ll sell. Let’s take it a step further. Ask yourself:
Where will you buy the products?
At what price will you buy the products?
At what price will you sell the products?
How will you display your products?
Make sure the numbers add up before you commit to your products and supply system.
4. Lock Down Your Location
You need a great location. There are many websites where you can find commercial leasing space, like Craigslist and LoopNet. You can also find popup space for rent at StoreFront.
Visit the space first to check out the area and the traffic. Check out the demographics of the traffic to make sure they're your target customers. You can also check out area statistics like income and crime numbers.
Once you contact the landlord and visit the space, it's time to sign your lease. Commercial leases are different than residential leases like apartments. They're typically for longer terms and are priced by square foot. They don't always include utilities like electric and water. For these reasons, it's so important to negotiate your commercial lease or popup contracts to make sure you understand the contract and that you’re getting the best deal.
5. Hire Employees
Hiring employees is one of the most confusing parts of running a business. There are serious local, state, and federal laws about being an employer. There are payroll responsibilities and employer taxes. And then there are employment contracts. You'll want to have all the legal paperwork in order so your employees can do their jobs well.
If you're hiring independent contractors, you'll need to have a contract in place that clarifies their contractor status, your intellectual property rights, and their tax responsibilities.
6. Promote your store
Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, email newsletters, etc. There are so many ways you can market your e-commerce store online. Find out where your customers are online and join them! You can also host events and workshops in your shop to drive traffic.