Starting a holistic retail business can be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor, but it also requires careful planning and a lot of hard work. Energy healers and light workers are often drawn to the idea of a crystal shop, or some sweet magical haven in which they can craft all day and be around the things they love while making money.
It's an incredible vision, but the actual reality sometimes plays out like one of those memes from 2020 (you know, what WE think, what OTHERS think, and then the REALITY). Why is the reality often so different from our initial vision? Because business has a lot of moving parts, and most of us weren't raised to understand business creation as a medium. However, as you learn more about what to expect in creating business, the journey becomes easier, and even fun!
This quick article is meant to introduce you to some steps you can take to get started in turning your vision of a physical location business into reality.
Define Your Holistic Business Concept and Target Market
When you close your eyes and dream, what is your overall vision? Would you like a holistic spa with private sound healing sessions? A crystal shop? A used book store with rare magical books? Begin with what you know well, and let it be your greatest strength. For example, if you really know the used book industry, the bookstore makes sense. If you're a master at organizing pretty things and making witchy concoctions, a gift store with a potions bar may be a better idea. Consider what products or services you'd love to offer and who your customers will be. Do you want to focus on natural health products, wellness services, or both?
Keep it narrow at first, especially because retail inventory can be a tricky beast for newbies, and it can also be expensive to stock a large store without clear targets and projections. I knew a woman who made very good money by creating a retail location in a small space literally the size of Harry Potter's closet on a very popular high traffic street with ideal customers. Because her shop was small, her rent was manageable, and that allowed her to experiment with her offerings. Even then, she only offered 3 product lines. The store was packed with products and people were always buying.
TAKE ACTION: Take a few blank sheets of paper and write out your initial vision. Add color, drawings, or even magazine cutouts so that you can get crystal clear about what you'd like this space to be like. Essentially, build it in your mind and on the astral plane, before you begin here on earth.
It's tempting to want to create an entire Shangri-la, but remember that many of the more established holistic businesses you may know, all started with a small vision. In your first year you will have better success in retail with a narrow niche and focused offerings. If you are primarily an energy healer, esthetician, or masseuse, you might choose one wholesaler to work with, and just a handful of their products that you feel would work really well for your client base. Your customers will appreciate your thoughtfulness and vision over mass availability.
Conduct Market Research For Your Healing Business
"If you build it, they will come, right?" Maybe. After being in business for a long time, I do believe that when we create in alignment with spirit, success often comes. That said, business is truly a co-creation, and even the most divinely ordained ideas require human leg work and love.
Research the demand for your products or services in your target market and gather information about your competitors. For example, if you want to create a small metaphysical bookstore, look up other metaphysical bookstores in your area, and visit them. Notice what they carry and what they don't. Is there a gap in the market? Something your ideal clients would love that isn't being provided, and that isn't easy to source?
Take notes in an actual notebook while in the field, because you'll want to remember and process this info as you create. Yes, your phone is a great what to take notes too. I often take pictures of things that inspire me.
You can also go online and look up shops across the country, and notice how they are laid out, and what they do to promote. Join a few online newsletters connected to these locations. Review the newsletters just once a month. Call and speak to the owners who live far enough away that they are not your direct competition. Tell them what you are creating and ask for their insight.
Many business owners can be kind and helpful as you start your business, especially when they know you're not right up the street!
Figure out who your audience is. Who do you envision coming to your store? Look at other stores in your area. What are their audiences like? If you have friends, or are a part of an organization with people you see as potential future customers, approach them directly and talk to them. When I was building my healing business I learned that a lot of my favorite clients didn't actually know where the local crystal shop was, but almost all of them went to the yoga studio up the street, and also frequented a well known coffee shop. I went to those places and did "field research" to get a better sense of how I could serve my growing community.
Ask your people what they would love to see in the type of store you envision. This will help you understand the potential for your business and how to differentiate yourself from others in the market.
Develop a Business Plan
A business plan outlines your goals, target market, marketing strategy, and financial projections. It will help you stay organized and focused as you start and grow your business.
Many of my business clients who come to me for private business coaching don't have a business plan. It's so common in creative industries for people to create by their hearts until they get stuck. I LOVE helping clients create a business plan because I really see it as a manifesto and a user manual. Your plan can be really simple and in everyday language. It will help remind you of what you do, and why. It will keep you on track seasonally and help you grow without burnout over the decades, and this is especially important for retail business with product inventory.
When I create a business plan, I use a super creative method to do so (involving markers and visuals). Then I go back and type things up in a file I can continue to edit. The plan evolves over time because I want it to remain SEXY. I use a planner to implement my plan into measurable steps in like with the SMART acronym. If you're new to business, it will also help you to pick up some books about retail business structure, or service, or whatever area you're leaning into.
Choose A Location For Your Holistic Business
Consider the location of your store carefully. Look for a location that is easily accessible and visible to potential customers. You want a place that people find it easy to get to, and energetically safe to approach.
As a traditional healer, I really believe that each location has it's own spirit and energy. It will come with gifts and challenges. You're looking for the location that can elevate your vision and open your heart. If you feel stressed in the location, or frustrated right away by certain dynamics (say, for example, loud neighbors), then this is not the place for you.
The more high traffic and highly visible a location is, the more expensive it is likely to be. You'll have to weigh your ultimate choice with your budget and projected expenses. This is why many healing shops are in older shopping centers where the rent may not be as high as in a glamorous location-- but the parking is great and the location still has foot traffic.
If you feel extremely strong in driving traffic to your location as a destination, then you can choose a more obscure location. For example I had a healing office in a lovely old building in the historic area downtown for several years, but my actual location was hidden in an upstairs office. I did get significant foot traffic because I placed a very small sign in the window near the prominent coffee shop in the building, but I knew when I opted into the location that I would be driving traffic through my online presence and extensive personal efforts. If I had been in a building on the next block with big storefront windows facing the street, I would have paid three times as much, but I also would have had a significant increase in foot traffic. I ultimately had to weigh what felt like the smartest decision for my business model.
Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits
Check with your local government to find out what licenses and permits are required to operate a business in your area. Most of this research can be done online nowadays. A lot of holistic entrepreneurs like to skip this step because it feels intimidating, but finding out what you need ahead of time makes it easier to plan for success.
Many cities want to know what kind of business you are creating, and will expect to receive sales tax on every sale you make. You might also be asked to pay property taxes, or permit costs. Don't be intimidated by this. Put aside 15 minutes of reading each day, and keep learning. No time? Read while your'e on the toilet? And don't read about generalizations. Read your actual city business page. Every city has one, with phone numbers to real people, if you prefer talking over reading.
Also use resources like the SCORE business association, or your local chamber of commerce website to help you grow a healthy mindset as a business owner. Remember when you learned how to read and write and do basic math? That was hard back then! This may feel challenging too, but it's really just a new subject and you'll get it over time.
Build A Team AND A Community
As your business grows, you're going to need help. A business is not a solitary enterprise. Ideally, your business will touch thousands of people, some of whom you may never meet. The larger your business grows, the more you will need to learn how to hold it.
You may need to hire employees to help you manage and operate your store. Most retailers I've know wait too long on this, due to not fully understanding the process, and being afraid they won't handle it correctly.
Having (a) a business coach, (b) a business mentor who is a few steps ahead of you, and (c) business peers who have complementary businesses to yours, will make your life really supportive and fun.
Start building those connections now, even before you've brought your creation fully into the world. It will change how you think! Make sure you enjoy the process. Not sure how to get all of that going? Reach out to me and I can help.
Market your Business
It may seem like we're getting ahead of ourselves but I promise you we're not. Even before you've opened for business, you can set up a social media account, make a short list for local advertising, and start to brainstorm your first in-store promotions to attract customers to your store. All of this is an important part of your marketing plan and your first opening. It's okay to be working on these things 7 or 9 months before you even have a space. At the same time, if you've already dived it, then start now.
A simple social media account can be a placeholder for your business with excellent search engine positioning. Even if you choose not to update it, you can place a message in your social account pointing people toward a phone number or physical location.
Your advertising budget is really going to depend on your location, product, and personal life experiences, but ultimately if you're doing print advertisements in local magazines or papers, most have advertising deadlines anywhere from one to 4 months out! That's important to know, because if you want to place an ad for a Grand Opening or some other kind of promotion, you'll need to plan ahead in your calendar.
Contacts at your local Chamber of Commerce and city business websites are probably two of your best resources for quickly discovering how to navigate your local scene.
I also used to love Retailing Insight Magazine about a decade ago, when they regularly featured window dressings and interviews with holistic retailers. It helped me understand how to position and market my business.
You can start marketing and sharing the news of your coming business even if you don't have a clear date, and that energy will pay off in the long run.
Grand Opening Launch
It's time to hit GO. Once you feel comfortable with all of the above, it's time to lock in your location, and set everything on a real timeline in your calendar. Plan for an Opening Launch Party, and set up your entire first year in business as your Grand Opening. Your goal is to try to get as many people into the door as possible, and get on the inner radar for your ideal customers.
Do that by planning a series of small experiences through the year to raise awareness. Start with your opening launch party, but don't forget to plan in some collaborations like free radio interviews, flash mobs, trunk shows, open houses, Christmas in July, newspaper press releases, or whatever else feels resonant and pairs well for your business vision.
The Beauty of Beginning
Starting a holistic retail business requires dedication and focus, but it's also a rewarding and fulfilling way to make a difference in people's lives. If you are trying to figure out how to work with your overall budget and time as you grow your dream, reach out to a business coach or a friend with successful past retailing experience. I ran a physical healing location with popup retail sales, as well as an online metaphysical store, and have loved watching this industry deepen and transform over the years. If you have a unique dream and you're just not sure how to make it happen, I can assure you there is a way. Some of the world's best inventions began as a fleeting thought in the mind of a person just like you! So here's to your journey!
DAILEY LITTLE is a transformational life and business coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She offers private coaching, and teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. Her Healers in Business training is a great way to build your holistic business. For more info see: www.SantaRosaReiki.com