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    3 Replies Latest reply on Oct 30, 2008 2:07 AM by intechspecial

    Starting an online coral/fish store from my apartment/home.

    Gladiator Newbie

      I've been in the marine and freshwater fish hobby for many years now.
      I've worked at numerous small stores and have dealt with their
      suppliers. They've even started to call asking for me rather than the
      owner. Nice eh?

      Anyways I've got a firm understanding on markups, fish selection,
      reading the trends in the hobby, and so forth. What I lack is the
      knowledge on starting my business properly and maintaining good
      standing with local, state, and federal agencies. Getting stock,
      holding room, etc is of no concern as I have a book full of dry goods
      and livestock suppliers.

      I also have the marketing figured out as well, for the most part. Many
      of the local fish clubs offer advertising on their site for a minimal
      fee. Normally $20-$50 a month. The local newspaper is also a great
      place as they are rather inexpensive as well. Roughly $150 a month.
      I've also got information on national boards but they are more
      expensive and possibly not worth it early on.

      My major goal is to offer what people want. A lot of the stores I've worked in the owners like to order what they want rather than what the customer
      wants, which irritates me. Or whatever is cheapest and then push the
      fish on a customer, only for it to die later and the store get a bad
      rap for bad fish. I want to have a broad assortment of fish and dry
      goods but also keep an eye out for the oddball fish that come along
      (hybrids, morphs, etc). I will start as an online only store but
      possibly offer local pickup (meet someplace, come to my house, etc) if
      the buyers want. I've figured out a cheaper shipping method as UPS can
      get packages to the entire state in under 24 hours for $10 versus $50
      for overnight. They arrive in the same amount of time. So that will
      keep my costs down and prices down as well. I do have a webpage
      designed and ready to launch immediately.

      I will be doing all my own website work. I've done it before and became fairly fast at it. My other hobby is photography, which goes perfect with this idea. Photos can make or break a sale. If a coral looks bad, people don't want it. If they want to see a fish eating, they need to see it eating (big deal if you know anything about fish, especially saltwater). So I am prepared to do this again except this time, for myself! I'm tired of not having any say in what is ordered, pricing, how to treat customers, and so forth. If I do have any website issues, I can contact my cousin who does websites as a side job, he's a computer tech for some major company. I swear he was born with a keyboard in hand.

      I will not be having any foot traffic. The corals and fish will be held at my apartment and shipped out via UPS/FedEx at their locations. Basically, you'd never know I'd be running a business as I'm just turning my personal tanks over into holding. Staring at the same stuff day after day is boring to me. If I keep a new fish/coral for two days and seel it, at least I had a chance to see it! That's the joy for me.

      Now I do have a few questions:

      1. Can I legally run a business, with no foot traffic, out of my apartment? I will obtain a copy of my lease tomorrow to double check. I don't want to hint to them about any of this until I am 100% sure I am in the right.

      2. With not having foot traffic, do I need a regular vendors license or a delivery vendors license? This will be in the state of Ohio.

      I think that is about it for now. One additional bit of information, I will not be hiring anyone as I can handle it on my own. Did 90% of the work before anyways.

      Since I have almost everything in the way of holding I need, the only costs will be livestock and the proper paperwork for my business. Livestock will only run about $500 to start with. After searching the Internet for similar items that have sold fairly quickly, I've determined $750 is a very reasonable gross profit if I priced my products low enough to move very quickly. Saturating the market is relatively hard to do in my area as a wide range of coral is not found at all (hobbyist, I'm talking mainly SPS, LPS, and clams other than Crocea). The stores either just don't listen, don't get it, or are afraid to order. I've kept all of them with great success in the past and the present.

      Any additional help is greatly appreciated.

        • Re: Starting an online coral/fish store from my apartment/home.
          Gladiator Newbie
          Guess I was missing an important piece of information.

          Business will be located in north central Ohio. I noticed that was a frequent question in responses. Sorry to double post, I didn't see an edit button. :(
          • Re: Starting an online coral/fish store from my apartment/home.
            Lighthouse24 Ranger

            Besides lease restrictions, check your city/county ordinances -- some jurisdictions disallow businesses at residential addresses (and you won't be able to register the business or get a license using a residential address if that's the case). If that IS the case, look into a virtual office to serve as your official "business address" (actually that's not a bad idea anyway assuming that you plan to be in business longer than you plan to live in your apartment -- it would keep from having to re-file all your business forms and paperwork everything when you move).

            It sounds like you'll need a delivery vendor's license.

            I had aquariums for years (koi ponds now), and would say that your assessment of the marketplace is fairly accurate. You seem to have a plan and the knowledge to make it happen. As I'm sure you know, there are well-defined "tiers" among aquarium hobbyists. For example, serious club members/competitors have different on-line searching and shopping habits than novice kids do. Selling to either group can be profitable, but one group won't find the same things on a website to be appealing as the other would. So as you develop your website's style and content (and your print ads, too), keep your primary target market in mind.

            Welcome to the community and good luck with your new enterprise!