Small business owners are one of the key figures in the thriving local Vermont economy. For every inspired entrepreneur wanting to run their own business there is a vacant commercial space awaiting transformation. This editorial has the basics of opening a retail store in Vermont and some ideas on where.
Step through the doors of any home-grown Vermont store and the first thing you notice is the relentless sunbeam positivity of the owner. From their own little corner of the green state, they apply their talent and business sense to communicate their own authentic brand. It may be a family business, an outdoor enthusiast business, a female-owned business, you name it. To thrive in a tight-knit community is only possible by working hard and by being of service. To stand out you have to stay inspired, busy and relevant.
But before you get to the point of being a fixture of your town’s community, you have to start at the very beginning. Maybe what you have is only an idea for a store, then start by taking a workshop at the Vermont Small Business Development Center. Here a business advisor can help you get started on a business plan.
Because location and rent will be an important part of your business plan calculations, research a suitable place to make your homebase. It can take 3-6 months to find a space and secure a commercial lease agreement. Read more about the process of finding a perfect commercial space in this Vermont Business Magazine article. You can proceed with completing the next logistical steps concurrent with your search for the space, however, you will run into the issue of needing to know the future physical address at certain points! Next:
Register your business name with the Vermont Secretary of State
Register as a new business with the Vermont Department of Taxes
Once you find the spot you absolutely love, contact the zoning administrator in the town to assure the location conforms to local zoning and is suitable for retail. Same conversation needs to happen around the local signage regulations and requirements. Review the fine points of the lease agreement with a professional as you commit to your space on paper.
Need a small business loan? Talk with local banks, check out Community Capital of Vermont (I hear they are amazing to work with), explore Milk Money, or partner with Vermont Economic Development Authority.
When opening any new business it is important to make sure you have the proper insurance in place. The general liability insurance covers the work you do or products you sell and the property coverage is for your inventory. Other types of coverage you may want to consider are Worker’s Comp if you will have employees and Commercial Auto coverage if the company will own automobiles. It is best to consult with an agency that can offer you all he products under one roof. Independent agents like Kinney Insurance or captive agents like State Farm, work to obtain competitive quotes and provide the best coverage at the best price.
With the basics secured, the store is no longer only an idea. Now it is time to concentrate on developing sound practices in accounting, sales, and marketing to form a thorough long-term strategy for your business.
Working for yourself can be consuming. Sarah DeFelice, owner of Bailey Road in Montpelier, Vermont has this advice for retail newbies: “Advice #1: Have a clear ‘ideal customer’ as part of your vision for your business. If you try and be everything to everyone you end up missing the target and it makes it difficult to build a relatable brand. Advice #2: Get involved! Being a part of the local business community is how you build your customer base. They will shop with you, recommend you to their own customers, and point tourists in your direction! Advice #3: Schedule a set day off – burn out rate is high in small businesses. Keep yourself fresh for your customers so you can generate creative ideas.”
There are always retail spaces available for lease in Burlington, Shelburne, Montpelier, Williston and beyond. Inquire about visiting one of the currently available spaces! It is likely to inspire your entrepreneurial frenzy.
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