Benefiting from a Retail Location

Opening a new business is a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows. In the planning stages, you must navigate both expected and unexpected obstacles. You hope there will be exciting peaks as well as an extended and sustainable plateau. Add to this entrepreneurial joy ride the great uncertainty of the present economy and it would be easy to justify a retreat from the challenges inherent in starting a new venture.

My new business is Grant Homes at One Main Street — after running my building business from my home office since 1990. I committed to becoming a tenant in a 9,000-sq.-ft. 150-year-old building I bought in 1998 in the downtown historic business district of my hometown.

The business model that has evolved during the past year has already been through a myriad of twists and turns. At first I thought about sharing the space with two established professionals: one architect and one designer. But after an initial meeting with two qualified and successful potential partners, I became aware of two factors that made me change my strategy: First, three chiefs under one tent were quickly going to get uncomfortable. Secondly, I would have been aligned and associated with these two professionals. As a result, other architects and designers would not want to intrude into another architect’s or designer’s space.

Subsequently, I designed the 2,000-sq.-ft. space to become two distinct areas: a clubroom consisting of a work area, wet bar, living room and conference room; and a showroom for displays of products. Over the next nine months, I offered affiliate opportunities exclusively to established businesses that opted into becoming either a platinum, gold or silver affiliate. The affiliates each invested from $3,000 to $40,000 in cash, or labor and materials.

We now have more than 25 affiliates that contributed toward an awesome clubroom featuring their products and services, including a home theater, smart home automation, custom cabinets, automated window shades, wine rack display and fireplace. The room is a great place to host a small party, give a sales presentation, host a client design meeting or a networking meeting.

We had a soft opening of only the clubroom in November 2010. The showroom will be completed early next year. The first month has been busy, exciting and rewarding.

We have met one-on-one with eight architects, two of which brought us plans to bid a major remodel and a 6,000-sq.-ft. custom home. We hosted four networking group meetings of four to 15 people who were business owners, affiliates and a group of potential investors in our solar panel affiliates business. The window signage resulted in six face-to-face meetings with prospects who reached out to us for various projects, including: a whole house of replacement windows; a basement with a home theater and wine cellar; a family room addition, and some custom cabinetry.

We also solidified an affiliation with our local Habitat for Humanity. We agreed to several joint efforts; hosting some of its upcoming task force and board meetings as well as promoting its Restore program.

What does all this mean to you? Are you brainstorming for ways to reinvent your business and keep it visible and viable in this economy? Could this brief overview possibly be the incentive you need to open a similar business?

Presently, the roller coaster is rising steadily and we are happy we opened this new business. However, the real test will be one year from now when we can look back and analyze expenses and income. So far I can report that opportunities and new relationships have recently started to materialize — giving me optimism at a time when it has been missing for way too long!

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