How to Make a Number 2 Without Sh*tting the Bed
Congratulations! The success of your smoke shop business has ignited a spark of ambition within you to expand. It’s time to open a second location. While the decision to expand may stem from a desire to grow, it’s crucial to balance that excitement with the actual need for a new location. There’s lots to consider, from understanding your new customer demographic to navigating zoning regulations and strategies for maximizing profitability. So, let’s fire up the excitement and get started!
Drop Your Ego
Your ambition to open a second location is a testament to your entrepreneurial drive. However, it’s crucial to approach this expansion with careful consideration. A carbon copy of your first location won’t guarantee triumph in the new market.
Don’t assume that just because it worked once that it will work again. That’s one of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make. We live in an age defined by dynamism where the evolution of society occurs in a continual series of punctuated bursts, each of which occurs more rapidly than the last. Adaptability is now every bit as essential to success as experience.
Create a second location that not only echoes the essence of your brand but also resonates deeply with the hearts and minds of the new customers you’ll serve. Blend the familiar with the fresh, the tried-and-true with the innovative, and embrace the opportunity to showcase your entrepreneurial prowess. Then, watch as your smoke shop empire blazes a trail of success in the new market.
Here’s the Key:
The balancing act between consistency and adaptation is the key ingredient to establishing a powerful and authentic brand presence for your location. While it’s important to maintain certain core elements of your brand identity that have resonated with customers at the first location, it’s equally essential to adapt and tailor your approach to cater to the unique characteristics of the new market.
Know Your Customer Demographic
Before you dive in, it’s crucial to equip yourself with a deep understanding of the local customer demographic surrounding the new location. This knowledge will be the compass that guides you toward creating a smoke shop that effectively caters to the needs, desires, and preferences of your new community.
Data is your secret weapon. Don’t rely on anecdotes or estimates here. Diving in on a hunch and a prayer may have been an acceptable strategy once upon a time, but in the Age of Information, there’s no excuse to rely on anything but cold, hard facts.
The demographics of your potential new community should determine not only whether there’s a viable market for a second location, but also what kind of market you’ll be engaging. Age demographics are a solid example here. Years ago, an aging population would most likely mean that you should look elsewhere entirely. But the culture has changed and for nearly ten years now, the older demographic has been one of the fastest growing sectors of our industry’s consumer base. Rather than “if,” the age demo will now help you determine “how.” If you’re servicing a statistically older population, the store layout and product selection will be considerably divergent from the approach you would take in a college town.
Other vital demo categories to consider are income level, ethnicity, religious affiliation, political ideology, et al. Each can play a role in helping you determine the approach you take in your new store’s look, feel and product selection, as well as your marketing tactics.
Remember, the goal is to create a haven that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of your new customers. By putting in the effort to truly understand their demographic, you position yourself as their go-to smoke shop, a trusted destination where they can find everything they desire.
“Make sure shop number one is completely staffed and self-sufficient with a manager before jumping into number two and beyond. If you’re constantly running back and forth to put out fires you’ll run yourself ragged. Also make sure you have a decent padding ($20K+) in bank account number one so that you’re not bankrupting one to stock two. The last thing you want to do is have employees nervous that payroll checks won’t clear. Also, one little break-in can set you back 5k+, so having a safety net in place gives peace of mind that you can continue business without an interruption.”
High Point, Salem & Greensboro, NC
Taming the Zoning Dragon
Navigating zoning regulations is an essential aspect of expanding any new business, but it’s all the more vital when you deal in adult-oriented products. As you venture into new territory, take the time to thoroughly investigate the zoning laws and regulations in the specific area where you plan to expand.
To start, familiarize yourself with the zoning ordinances and restrictions that apply to smoke shops or similar businesses in the locality. Understand the specific zoning districts where your business is allowed, any limitations or special conditions, and any potential restrictions on signage or operational hours. Pay special attention to who your neighbors might be. Is there a school nearby? A church? A park? These may be consequential to your plan—and very possibly detrimental.
Next, reach out to local authorities, such as zoning officials or planning departments, to discuss your expansion plans and seek guidance. They can provide valuable insights, clarify any uncertainties, and help you navigate the regulatory landscape smoothly. Building a positive relationship with local authorities demonstrates your commitment to compliance and can facilitate a smoother expansion process.
Lastly, ensure that you obtain all necessary permits and licenses required to operate your smoke shop in the new location. Be meticulous in your compliance efforts. Adhering to legal requirements is a must for long-term success in any business, and in some places, basic freedoms.
“Because my time is limited, and my second and third stores are in another country, I wanted to work with someone who was living in those cities and financially dependent enough to function without much income while they grew the business. My goal was to provide education, processes and procedures, as well as initial inventory to start the ball rolling. The pluses after the teething process are that you have another set of eyes on the prize, financial freedom for [your partners] and an additional source of income for yourself. Plus what else are you going to do with your money? Cash and stocks are becoming worthless. . . investing in relationships and business allows more winners.”
Smokey Joe’s West
Silver City, NM
Torreon Coahuila, Saltillo & Morales, Mexico
Staffing for Success
One cannot underestimate the pivotal role that staffing plays in any business. As you plan your second location, it’s crucial to carefully assess your current staffing needs and evaluate whether you possess the necessary resources to hire and train additional employees.
Consider the demands of your new smoke shop and compare them to your existing workforce. Will your current staff be able to handle the workload of both locations effectively? Or does expanding necessitate a bolstering of your team? Consider factors such as customer volume, operational tasks, and the need for specialized expertise.
Expanding into a second location presents an opportunity to assemble a dedicated team that mirrors the passion and vision of your brand. Seek out individuals who are not only experienced and knowledgeable in the industry but also possess the qualities that align with your company culture. Exceptional customer service skills, a genuine passion for the smoking culture, and a strong work ethic are all characteristics to look for when building your team.
Remember, your staff will be the face of your brand and play a significant role in creating a positive customer experience. Their expertise, professionalism, and dedication will help foster customer loyalty and set your smoke shop apart from the competition.
“Take the time to plan everything out and remember the lessons you learned from opening your first shop. If you don’t have a POS system, this is the ideal time to get one like Lightspeed that manages data from multiple locations. Opening my second shop was a lot easier than my first shop. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing and just guessing on what to buy. . . even picking my location was a shot in the dark. Having that first-hand knowledge the next time around was invaluable. There was no doubt with my second shop where I should set up, what inventory I needed and what I did or didn’t need to get rolling.”
Kutztown & Bloomsburg, PA
Amidst all the excitement, never lose sight of the ultimate goal: profitability. By carefully assessing the financial viability of your expansion plans, you unlock the power of informed decision-making. You can identify potential challenges, pinpoint areas of opportunity, and make calculated moves that fuel your overall business growth.
Treat your expansion like a project. Have a defined scope and then weigh that scope against your budget. With that information defined, clearly establish your timeline. From there, assess your risks and prioritize how you address them based on a combination of likelihood and potential impact. That is project management (as they teach it in college) in the tiniest of nutshells, but it’s a topic that has churned a nearly infinite trove of literature. Dig in and equip yourself to succeed.
To execute with full confidence, consider enlisting the expertise of an accountant. Think of your accountant as a financial navigator, steering you towards profitability amidst uncharted waters. Their expertise helps you strike the perfect balance between ambition and fiscal responsibility, ensuring that your new location becomes a profitable asset that contributes to your empire.
Opening a second location for your smoke shop business is an adventure filled with potential rewards and personal gratification. Remember, as you embark on this expansion, keep the fun and passion for your business burning brightly, and success will be yours to inhale!
In today’s business world, data is king. It’s how Google and Facebook can rake in billions of cash while offering a product that is free to 90% of their user base. Unfortunately, we don’t all have an addictive platform with invasive algorithms at our disposal, but there are tools you can use for data-driven market research just the same. Here are ten channels you can utilize to pull the consumer data you need.
U.S. Census Bureau: The U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder provides detailed demographic, economic, and geographic data. This can give you a sense of the age, income, education, ethnicity, and other key characteristics of people in your area.
City or County Data: Your local city or county government might have demographic and economic data available, often through a department of economic development or similar.
Chamber of Commerce: Local chambers of commerce often have detailed data on local businesses and consumers.
Local Universities and Colleges: Local academic institutions often conduct research studies and collect data that might be relevant to your business.
Local Surveys: This requires more effort, but conducting surveys in your local area can provide very specific information that other sources might not cover. You can use online tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms for this.
Pew Research Center: While not as localized as the Census Bureau data, Pew Research offers a wealth of data on consumer and societal trends, which might help you understand broader behaviors and preferences.
Google My Business & Google Analytics: While this is more indirect, understanding who visits your website and from where can give you some understanding of your customer base, particularly if you’re running a business with both online and offline components.
Social Media Insights: Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer demographic data on your followers and people who engage with your posts, which could provide insights into your local customer base.
ESRI’s ArcGIS Community Analyst: This is a paid service, but it provides highly detailed demographic, consumer spending, and business data at a highly localized level.
SimplyAnalytics: This is another paid service that provides extensive demographic, business, and marketing data down to the local level.