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    41 Replies Latest reply on Feb 16, 2008 12:18 AM by MsEntrepreneu

    Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!

    CLU925 Wayfarer
      My husband and I are trying to start a new business and I've been doing so much research and information gathering, that my head is about to explode!!

      It will be a small store to start off (1100 sq. ft.) and we'll be leasing (not buying) ... It's in a GREAT location for what we plan to do ... selling "biker gear". One report I read said that 10,000 motorcycles rode past this location last year, and a total of 2.8 million people!

      We'll be selling mostly generic items, like leather jackets, chaps, gloves, rain-suits, etc, but will also have specialized items for various types of motorcycles (Harley, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, Kawasaki), and souvenir type items (t-shirts, hats, etc.).

      We do not want to get a loan for the inventory and I've heard that there are grants out there for this type of thing, but when I look online, there are SO many and most of them don't seem legitimate.

      Also, does anyone have suggestions about the best way and best companies to purchase inventory from? I've spoken to several companies, and they are all so vastly different that I just don't know which way to go.

      This is our life-long dream and we have to make it work so we can get out of the city and live happily ever after, doing what we love to do!

      Any suggestions to help us succeed???

      Thanks!
      CLU
        • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
          LUCKIEST Guide
          I am a SCORE Counselor. My first suggestion is to write a BUSINESS PLAN.
          A Bus Plan is a document explaining in some detail your plans to develop a successful business.
          Is there a local SCORE office that you can visit and talk to live counselors.
          Grants are hard to get. Do you have an Accountant??, Lawyer?? Insurance agent??
          Have you come up with a business name??
          Good luck. LUCKIEST
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
              CLU925 Wayfarer

              I'm working on the Business Plan now - Got the template from the SBA website.

              The business we want to open will be in TN and we currently live in GA, so no, we don't have an Accountant or Insurance Agent yet, but I've spoken to several over the phone. I thought it would be best to have someone local to the area. We have some face to face meetings set for next week so hopefully that part will be settled very soon.

              What is "SCORE" - I've never heard of that?

              Yes, we have a name - That was the easy part!
                • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                  maxamillion Wayfarer
                  Since you are just starting, one piece of advice, dont get into large inventory purchases, till you figure out your market. Most suppliers will ask you to pay up front, so keep the inventory to the lowest. I have a client who sells clothing to bikers and they seem to be a great market and loyal. This is a niche market and you should find suppliers who would be willing to sell goods on consginment, as long as you guarantee goods from damage or loss. Only concern yourself with lawyers if you need to sign a rental agreement or get into a partnership. As far as accounting is concerned, dont worry yourself about it until you bring in revenue and need one. Just ensure that you keep all your receipts and fill the check stubs showing what your check was given for. Also ensure you collect local sales taxes and make the remittances. Getting a website for bikers is very important till you build your clientele. Hope this helps
                  • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                    LUCKIEST Guide
                    You asked What is "SCORE" - I've never heard of that?
                    SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business" is America's premier
                    source of FREE and confidential
                    small business advice for entrepreneurs. They also know local bankers and local business owners.
                    SCORE counselors volunteer their time and expertise to help you succeed in business.
                    SCORE can help you in person by visiting their local office or you can go online at "www.score.org"
                    Again good luck, LUCKIEST
                • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                  DomainDiva Ranger
                  Have you thought about purchasing t shirts in lots of colors and styles and then having a selectiion of logos and things you can iron on or apply at the store?

                  This would give your customers LOTS of choices....
                    • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                      CLU925 Wayfarer
                      Absolutely - I thought it was a great idea, and now you've confirmed it ;-)

                      We found out from the local stores that tourists seem to love t-shirts and hats with the name of the town as well as the name of your business on them, so we are definitely going to include those too.

                      It's a real "hot-spot" for riding motorcycles - some of the best scenery in the country, so the logos and pictures will mostly be the type that they (we) would buy .. "I survived the Dragon Trail", for example.

                      Thanks for your input - I appreciate it!
                        • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                          maxamillion Wayfarer
                          Regarding the foxhill website, do check witha lot more sites and the actual distributors of famous rather than third party wholesalers. This will reduce your cost further and will also give you more marketing depth.

                          In reference to T-Shirts, I have a friend in the Clothing business for over 20 years and manufacturers for very large names like Nike, Wal-Mart etc. Be careful about the T-Shirt business, it is very competitive. Also the quality of T-Shirts is very important. Bikers are good paymasters and want good quality for themselves. As far as the website is concerned dont go overboard. The blog is great once you have a client base after a number of months. There are a number of people who will develop a good site for $500. Web hosting for a Linux site should be $10.00 per month and a good Windows based site should be $15.00 per month with all the perks with your own business mail address and complete control of the site. Avoid developers who create a site where you are reliant on them for changes and charge you an arm and a leg for these changes
                            • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                              CLU925 Wayfarer
                              I will definitely check a lot more sites for inventory before making a decision, and going to the actual distributors is a great idea.

                              I know what you mean about the t-shirts. Being bikers ourselves, we do buy t-shirts and sweat shirts from different places we ride, but only if they're good quality. As I'm looking at inventory I'm always asking myself if this is good enough quality that WE would buy it.

                              I have a friend who develops websites and she's going to do ours for free and set us up with a good web-hosting site, so I think we're in pretty good shape on this ...

                              Thanks!
                                • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                  u2many Wayfarer

                                  You will succeed in your business. You have the zeal. keep up the tempo. keep going.

                                  I tried to read all the postings to figure out the staring point. Why do you want to start this store?

                                  Have you been working for such stores ? if yes, you must have collected the suppliers and customers contact. Do you have a list of them?

                                  There may be too many passing by but can you stop them to visit your store?
                                  What is the customer demand in that particular area? Remember, it keeps changing.
                                  If I were you I would find proper answers for these questions before I pull a bill out to invest.

                                  Rex Emmanuel
                                  www.u2many.com

                                    • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                      NatOnline Tracker
                                      I rode motorcycle in my country, here a few items I found very important: Helmet, horn, rain suit, leather (gloves, jacket, pant and boots) and car horn.
                                      • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                        CLU925 Wayfarer
                                        Hi Rex - Thanks so much for your input. The reason we want to start this business is because we ride motorcycles outselves and this will be something we will really enjoy doing. We're tired of working and making money for OTHER people, and it's time to step out on a limb and do what will make us happy.

                                        This is the perfect location for a biker gear store ... LOTS of biker traffic and people who ride always stop and check out the biker stores wherever they go. It's almost like we can't help ourselves :-) Also, right across the street from our store is a large restaurant that attracts bikers and upstairs in our same building a guy is opening a photography studio for bikers. (He'll take the photos that people have taken on their rides and transfer them to prints, videos, whatever they want). Both of these will also attract business to our store.

                                        We've never done anything like this before, but I am certain that we'll be a huge success!

                                        Opening day will be March 1, 2008 ... The name of our store is "Cherohala Biker Gear" in Tellico Plains, TN. It's beautiful there, and even if you don't ride a motorcycle you should check it out sometime! (If you get a chance, check out the Cherohala Skyway on the internet. Our store is right at the beginning of the skyway).

                                        Thanks again!
                                        Cindi
                                          • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                            maxamillion Wayfarer
                                            Hi

                                            Another good marketing point to bring the customers in is to provide free access to email. You dont have to let them on to your system, if you dont want them to. A lot of them like emailing home and to their friends. Set up your own domain so that your domain address forms part of the free email access. This gives you more coverage

                                            Also, since you have a restaurant across the road that caters to bikers, promote your business by working it out with the restaurant to buy one person as a game, to provide a free breakfast and hand out business card size flyers with your web address. This will go a long way into promoting your business name

                                            All the best
                                              • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                CLU925 Wayfarer
                                                Great ideas - Thanks!

                                                We already have two of the cabin rental companies handing out our "Opening March 1st" flyers to everyone who rents a cabin, and luckily most of them ride bikes, so we're getting the word out there before we open. I never thought of doing something with the restaurant across the street. Great idea!

                                                Also, for our "Grand Opening" the first weekend in April, we're having a live local band (they're playing for tips), the "volunteer fire dept." will be there with their one fire truck (small town :-) ... selling raffle tickets for $1, and the proceeds go to the fire dept. (which makes the local people very happy). The prizes will be hats, t-shirts, some items that are donated by some of the local vendors, and the BIG prize will be a weekend at one of the really nice cabins in the area.

                                                Some of the people who work at the local animal shelter will be cooking burgers & stuff on the grill, for donations to the shelter. (another nice "in" for us)

                                                We're advertising in the local newspaper and radio stations.

                                                Our web-site is being put together now.

                                                Got any other ideas???
                                          • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                            brainbag Wayfarer
                                            Hi CLU925,
                                            I would love to know if your friend can help me develop a youtube like website?I am trying to start my e-commerce business and i need a computer guru to either help me build it for a fee or partner with me.

                                            I would highly appreciate your favorable response,

                                             

                                            rgds,

                                            Samson.
                                          • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                            brainbag Wayfarer

                                            Hi Max,
                                            I really appreciate your response to clu2's questions.I have a question for you concerning creating a vibrant e-commerce site.Actually i went through a company called STORESONLINE but i was not getting what they promised after 2 months.My wife and i have already paid closed to $1,000 dollars for a worthless software they gave us.We had to call our bank to stop payments into their account because they won't just stop.Am into the entertainment industry.I have this sport business idea that i need to put online but can't do it alone because i need a computer genius that can partner with me.The website should be youtube like.

                                            My question is this do you think i can build this kind of website going through linux ?O r do you know anywhere on the worldwide web where i can locate someone with these qualities?

                                             


                                            I will highly appreciate your response,

                                             


                                            rgds,

                                             


                                            Samson.
                                              • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                maxamillion Wayfarer

                                                Hi Brainbag

                                                We have been in the IT business from Mainframe times. Please dont get involved with ecommerce sites, unless you know what they can deliver. An e-commerce site can go from $100.00 to over $100,000 depending on what you want. I know you have a number of ideas but be specific in what you want. An e-commerce site is very different from a youtube site.

                                                An e-commerce site for a starter should be around $250 if you want a shopping cart. For the amount you paid you could have purchased a content management site with a shopping cart. This allows you to just design the web pages without any programming costs. You dont need a web programmer constantly upgrading your site and paying for it. Start with an e-commerce site till you have the exact direction in which you need your web site to develop into. Then you can get into professional development. Another point to bear in mind for a site similar to youtube, it will cost a considerable amount of money for hosting this type of site. Video streaming uses a lot of bandwidth for internet access. If you have the capital for video streaming and for hosting then only go in the direction of youtube.

                                                 


                                                Initially go for the e-commerce site and develop a clientele. If your interest is video streaming then please post me and I will try to locate a free CMS for you to try and then proceed in the direction you want. All it would cost is the hosting and the payment processor costs. I hope you have people who are good graphic artists. If not then lets find you some. There are a couple on the small business community.

                                                 


                                                I could go on for ever discussing e-commerce. Please specify what exactly you want and then proceed. I am willing to help anyone

                                                  • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                    brainbag Wayfarer
                                                    Hi Max,
                                                    Thanks for the detailed informations.I would love to have an idea of how much it would cost me to have and e-commerce website with merchant services aswell as the youtube like website that needs a cms.I need the two for different reasons.The e-commerce is for selling of goods.Why the youtube like is for discoveries and other things.I do not have a graphic artist.I would highly appreciate it if you could help me with one.Let me just describe my situation to you in plain english.Am a person that has ideas to sell to the world through the worldwide web.But am looking for ways to put it on the web without the ideas being stolen.So,I would appreciate if anybody can work with me in realising this dream.

                                                     

                                                    I would appreciate any help from all and sundry.

                                                     

                                                    rgds,

                                                    Samson.
                                                  • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                    maxamillion Wayfarer
                                                    Another point I forgot, yes it can be done in Linux also as long you target a php shopping cart
                                            • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                              WEBillions Adventurer
                                              Definitely start working on your website and logo. You'll want a simple logo that would appeal to your target audience. You'll get more traffic to your website if you start a blogging site where you talk about all things biker. Since you really need this to work, go ahead and start putting your business information everywhere, including in the signature of your emails, on your voicemail, everywhere. See if you can get some PR somewhere your target audience might see it. Start thinking about promotional offers to try to bring people in.
                                                • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                  CLU925 Wayfarer

                                                  I love this website - I've had great responses and suggestions - Thank-you!!!

                                                  I really like the idea of putting our business information out there now, and I definitely will do that.

                                                  One of the most popular cabin rental companies in the area (renters are 90% bikers) has agreed to give every renter a flier announcing our grand opening in March. In exchange, we will have their fliers in our store, and will refer folks to them. We also plan on having a live (local) band and a raffle the day we open - The winner of the raffle will get a free weekend in the best cabin they have, which is a 1.9 million dollar cabin and is awesome!! (They're "donating" it to us ...in exhange for us referring people to them.

                                                  This is a really small town and the barter/trade system is still big there. We're using local vendors, bands, etc. whenever possible. The local band that will play on our opening day is really good and they've agreed to play for just tips!!

                                                  Our first biker ride will be for the Volunteer Fire Department - yep, they only have a volunteer department - can you imagine?!? Many of the locals we've met have told us that if we do things like that for the fire dept., the animal shelter, etc. that we'll be "in" ...

                                                  Thanks again for your suggestions!

                                                  Signed ...

                                                  Proud owner of Cherohala Biker Gear!!!!!!!!!!!
                                                    • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                      BarryHurd Wayfarer
                                                      CLU925- You should check out biker-events.com, it is a social community and blog site ran by my brother. He has a very strong following there and is building nationwide affiliatons for various routes and suppliers. He often covers events about new bike rallies and service shops.

                                                      You may be able to link up with him and find some ways to both prosper.
                                                        • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                          CLU925 Wayfarer
                                                          Awesome!!! I will definitely check it out.

                                                          Thanks ;-)
                                                            • CLU925
                                                              Opium1 Newbie
                                                              I have heard of the "infamous" Dragon. Great exciting road for motorcycle enthusiasts. Although I have never "tamed" The Dragon myself, many of my friends and colleagues have and your idea of placing a shop there sounds like a shoe-in for a biker. As I am sure you know, the Dragon is one of the most popular (if not the MOST popular) road on the east coast (look out for the up-and-coming Snake 421 along the TN-NC border). That being said, I suggest taking a look at, not only what the local competition is up to, but also what your counterparts on the west coast have done.

                                                              Comparably highly transited biker roads on the west coast include such routes as US Route 101 and the area around Alice's Restaurant in Monterrey, CA near the Mazda International Raceway Laguna Seca. As you might know, that was the only MotoGP racetrack in the US for about 20 years until the Indianapolis MotorSpeedway gets finished late 2008 and just happens to be in great motorcycle country so I'm sure the shops in the area know a thing or two about motorcyclists. Specifically the "4 Corners" area around Alice's.

                                                              I know it will be a bit of a stretch in regards to putting together the disposable income together for a flight to the west (maybe a ride is in order) when you're already committed to opening in March but I hope you get a chance to see what the guy's that have had some longevity in the business have been doing. Maybe your next vacation idea???

                                                              What you're doing sounds fantastic and, as a biker, I look forward to learning of your success in years to come!

                                                              All the best-

                                                              George F. Mattocks T.
                                                              ------Opium------
                                                      • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                        Perrottalaw Newbie
                                                        I am a Georgia/Tennessee attorney and one of the things that I have found with my clients is that local business development centers and chambers of commerce can be very helpful. Often, they are linked up with local universities and can help you with grants and writing a business plan, and they typically help for free. After all, it is in their best interest to have as much business as possible in their area. They may even be able to help link you with other businesses and suppliers.
                                                        • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                          Ed O'Gee Adventurer
                                                          Welcome to the board - your business sounds exciting. Question? Do either you or your husband ride bikes? If so why not have maybe a bikers reunion, where you invite local bikers to come hang out, trade stories, show off their bikes, etc.

                                                          What better what to get more people excited about bikes than to invite actual riders.
                                                          • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                            Lucky7 Newbie

                                                            You have a very good idea for a business. More and more people are riding motorcycles today. Many professional business owner are turning to riding motorcylces as a form of relaxation and we all need that.

                                                            I don't agree with the comment "Only concern yourself with lawyers if you need to sign a rental agreement or get into a partnership".

                                                            Business owners, especially small business owners (under 100 employees), self employed, and home based business owners need legal advice. We are only one lawsuit away from going out of business. As a business consultant the only thing standing in the way is fear. Fear of not knowing a good attorney, fear of the cost, etc.

                                                            You mentioned you're signing a lease for the store, that needs to be reviewed.

                                                             


                                                            Your purchase agreement contracts for inventory need to be reviewed.

                                                            Anything document you sign shoud be reviewed.

                                                            There are numerous reasons to consult an attorney to protect yourself and your business.

                                                            It's part of being a responsible business owner and it just makes good business sense.
                                                            • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                              capecoach Newbie
                                                              You have lots of good advice on this post. A business plan is a must, even if its hand-written on yellow sheets. Use any of the available outlines, but add this, most plans don't call for it... Describe your management system. Start at the top and work down. Will you have a Board of Directors? If so, who is on it and what skills do they bring, and what can you count on them for. If not, which is more likely, develop a formal or informal Board of Advisors, including your lawyer, your accountant, your business coach, any investors (friends and family). Decide and write down how often you meet, what they do to help, and how you will use them. Then look at yourselves. Assuming you have a comprehensive plan, how will you measure your success against it (revenue, profits, cash, # of customers, # of marketing events, customer satisfaction, etc)? And when you measure success, what do you plan to do to celebrate (hopefully) if you make your objectives? How will you adjust if you miss your objectives? How often will you review financial statements? What will you expect to learn, and what will you do about it?
                                                              You have to love what you do and do what you love, but you have to make money. Even if you aren't a money-grubbing capitalist, you need money to educate your kids, fund your retirement, or contribute to your favorite charity. So build your business to make money. Some people get so enamored about the new logo or the brochure or the display that they forget to plan to make money.
                                                                • Re: Starting a new business - Any advice / suggestions GREATLY appreciated!!!
                                                                  MsEntrepreneu Newbie
                                                                  This is a great adventure. As a past biker mama (Harley), there is no other way to see the world than on the back of a bike! I am hearing lots of big words from really smart people giving you great advice. Going from an IT background to owning/managing your dream motorcycle store, is the difference between night and day. I don't have to tell you that. I am going to put this in words that we only know from hearing them on TV or radio. Write a story to yourself = where do you see yourself in a year, five years, ten years. Are you still standing in the same place, will you want to purchase your building someday, will you add services as well as goods? You and I both know how much fun it is to take one of those frequent breaks along a beautiful highway, even a not so beautiful highway. It sounds to me, that you have found a diamond in the rough. I believe one of the greatest secrets to your success will be in your "name" - your "logo". Your biggest investment, due to the high volume of motorcycle traffic, will need to be in your signage to catch the attention. Bikers love a good store to wander through. Bikers are also people who carry that credit card with them. From the trips I have taken, and all of the stores I have been in, I would suggest that you include some parts - simple service parts that motorcycles sometimes need. Your husband will know which ones to include in your inventory. Most riders that venture onto the highway, have a pretty good knowledge of how to repair simple problems. You will need oil, sunglasses, plain glasses, bandanas (bugs!), gloves, rain gear, and definitely saddle bags, and other "bags" to carry things that are inevitably bought along the road. Don't be afraid to carry large items. They can be shipped back to their home addresses. You must have an attorney on retainer - he will come in handy for many reasons that I won't go into here. What is very important is that you and your husband realize your talents and your weaknesses. Don't be afraid to hire a bookkeeper or a CPA. Will you be having employees? If not more than a couple or so, than a good and trustworthy book-keeper will take care of your AR/AP (accounts receivable - money paid to you - and accounts payable - money you must pay out!). You must also prepare payroll, if applicable, and of course, you must pay taxes - on time - quarterly. If the pair of you see the same outcome in the year, five years, and the future, enjoy. Build a business with joy not burden. Bikers expect the best, so go to Sturgis (sp?) and go through every store in the area. Carry your notepad, write down all of the things you know are cool. Order five of everything you like. This part is gambling - but then, that is what creating your dream is all about. Trust your taste; it sounds like you would be fun to travel with!! That means you need to have your large logo sign high in the air, put it on your cards, keep it big, keep it simple. Business people ride bikes for a reason = they don't want to think too hard. They can carry your card in a wallet, a brochure might get pitched during the trip, by mistake, or by the need of that last bit of room to store something in! If you can farm out all of the jobs that you or your husband do not want to do, or might not be good at accomplishing, it will allow you to be smiling and chatting with your customers - the best advertising is word of mouth. I like a friendly store owner/worker when I am riding plus you get a chance to chat without spitting. The idea of trading tit for tat with the restaurant is a great idea for all of you. Good luck, and just do it. Enjoy your great dream.