Is it time to open a bricks-and-mortar location?
If you’re in any product business these days, you have a lot to consider before opening a retail location. Food businesses require equipment (sometimes specialized and code-compliant equipment), community approvals, staffing, signage, and so much more.
Although a storefront may be a great “ego feed,” it comes with a wide range of new responsibilities and challenges.
For foodie founders, trends point to more Americans (baby boomers and their kids in particular) skipping out on shopping sprees to eat out with friends and consumers are choosing convenient stores, restaurants and bars over grocery stores.
So where do foodiepreneurs stand?
sheBOOMer Nicole Pomije is on the verge of “opening her own doors” and building out a storefront.
Pomije is founder and baker of The Cookie Cups ®, a Minnesota-based company that makes unique cookies with icing (and other treats) in cupcake form. She also runs a niche-marketing service and a jewelry and accessory business. The Cookie Cups bakery is set to open up its first retail location this September — a plan that was in the works from the beginning.
The road to bricks-and-mortar
Pomije self-funded in the beginning from her salary as a brand consultant and talent manager. She started out selling her treats at local events like farmer’s markets and festivals. Like other sweets providers we’ve spoken to this week, they’ve used community selling as a means of establishing their brands and making connections with people in the area. The Cookie Cups’ most profitable customers seek catering services for graduation parties, weddings, and other events where they are buying in bulk.
Her mini space will be as cute as The Cookie Cups. She sees it as a destination for parties and a site for meeting with catering clients. “Our menu is expanding to include some savory options as well as our popular dessert line,” says Pomije “Think of it as cookies & milk meets Starbucks in a more quirky way (and yes, there will be coffee).” The coffee brand, Cookie Cups Gourmet Coffee Co., will launch with her retail location.
The decision to open a storefront was always in the company’s business plan. The money to rent/build came from Pomije’s other business ventures as well as a crowdfunding campaign on Pie Shell.
Retail space gives a business owner a place to prepare product as well as generate incremental revenue. “It can be incredibly challenging to use someone else’s commercial-grade kitchen where you only have an allotted time frame to bake the volume of Cookie Cups needed, to frost them all, and still be able to sell them fresh the next morning,” said Pomije.
While digital shopping is thriving, shipping costs can be a limiting factor and research still points to the importance of customer-in-store interaction. Like Karma’s owner points out, businesses today need to have a diverse revenue stream — storefront, wholesale/bulk orders, and online.
When you get ready to open a retail location:
- Do your homework on location. Speak to other businesses in the area and understand traffic patterns.
- Sharpen your (electronic) pencil. Calculate how much you’ll need to bring in each month to cover your rent, build-out, and equipment costs
- Spend on things that really matter. Get competitive bids and shop trade shows and specialty stores for deals.
- Hire the right talent. You can’t be in your store 24/7 and you need the right people representing your brand and following your recipes.
- Build awareness and set aside money for marketing for a few years after you open. “Build it and they will come” is not a strategy.
Good luck on your grand opening, The Cookie Cups! We’ll be sure to announce it in sheBOOM this fall!