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Fretfreak13
06/20/2015, 10:41 AM
I know this isn't the first time this thread has circled around, and I'm not even sure if this is the correct board to put it in. Modes move it if it should be elsewhere, please and thank you. I will happily take all constructive feedback, but if you just pop in to call me a moron please just save it.

I am currently writing my a rough draft of business plan and would like to launch in 2020. I say rough draft because my husband works for a company that often moves him around in order to advance in the hierarchy. We both have agreed though that in five years, as long as the demographics in the area look promising and there isn't an aquatics store on every corner, that we will stay put and launch the brick and mortar shop. If the area sucks, we'll wait for another move.

I have personally worked in two LFS. The first one I started as a weekend tank scrubber at 17 years old. I was there for three years and in that time worked my way up as the store manager. I was in charge of employees, ordering livestock, ordering dry stock, managing wholesalers, and even opening new accounts when needed. I also had all the headaches of ****ed off customers wanting to "speak with the manager" and being held accountable.

We also had a full maintenece squad where I personally kept all clients records, and even DID the services on four of them. I watched this little store grow from two employees and a tiny storefront, to an expansion that doubled the space with nine employees and two company vehicles. I watched a nine year old set up his first tank, and was probably just as excited as he was. I also watched my boss work way into the night waiting for a fish shipment who's plane was delayed until three am. I even watched him spend the night at the store in the beginning before we had a proper generator when the weather was looking shady, and then open the next day all bright eyed for his customers. Even after all of all of that, I still want to do this.

The other store I worked at basically taught me all the things NOT to do as far as retail goes. Bad location, bad customer relation, bad organization, etc. however, that boss had double the hobby experience of the first and it showed. I learned a lot from him as far as running healthy livestock systems.

By the time 2020 rolls around I will have been in the hobby for 15 years and will be 26 years old. I will have paid of my car loan by then, and will be more than halfway done paying off my student loan. If I bust my *** I could probably have the student loan paid off too. Unfortunately I never finished college and the credits I do have have nothing to do with business so that was a big waste of time and money.

Sorry for the novel, but I feel like at least saying where I'm coming from instead of acting how starry eyed about owning the perfect public fish roo would possibly get me more helpful and less negative responses.

Here are the first of my many questions, and right now most have to do with applying for a loan so bear with me.

I can do one of two things with my student loan. I can double pay on it and have it paid off by the time 2020 rolls around, or I can put that money into savings for opening the store. Either way I will still need to apply for a business loan. Do you think the loan companies would be more interested in seeing that I paid back the loan early (which on their part means they'd be out of the interest payments) or that I have a little bit of money saved to put towards opening the doors?

This is the first business plan I've ever written. Of course there are lots of examples out there online, but I'd like to see one more geared to opening a pet store. Would you share yours with me if you have one written?

Thinking back to when you first opened your store, what would you have done differently? This could be something as simple as having larger holding tanks to something more in depth, like having more insurance coverage.

Did you find it beneficial to go to your local frag swaps? I get mixed reviews when I ask store owners this question. Some say it's a waste of time, and some say it's good to just get the name out there. I side more with the latter, but what do you think?

What do you think is the best way to respond to a hobbiest posting negative things all over the web? One of my "favorite" customers I've dealt with came in saying the fish he got from us nuked his tank, proceeded to stomp his feet until he got wonderful discounts, left seemingly happy, and the posted reviews everywhere about how we "screwed him over". Forums, yelp, Google, everywhere. He even made stories up that never happened and had nothing to do with his actual scenario. What can you even do about that?

And lastly for now,low did you come up with your name?! For months I've ben thinking about just that part and have nothing on the table! :lmao:

Thanks for reading, and thanks ahead of time for any input that can be offered. :wave:

snorvich
06/20/2015, 11:54 AM
Having been on the "board of directors" of an LFS and financial advisor to a second LFS, my initial suggestion is to compute your break even sales level initially assuming no service business. What you are likely to find, assuming you did so properly is a negative cash flow without a maintenance revenue component. Compute a new breakeven point to figure out the true cash flow breakeven point with a maintenance revenue component that covers the negative cash flow from store operations.

As to your other question, a venture capitalist will want to evaluate your total debt level and repayment strategy.

It is a very difficult business to survive in, I can assure you.

Art13
06/20/2015, 11:56 AM
Well, i was only 4 when my parents sold off their pet store, but input is input right? lol. Anyways, the two things i can and still remember, one the name, just "our last name" pet store, so if you're last name is bluefin, it would be bluefin's aquarium center (my parents had more than just fish, hence the pet store after, i changed the latter for obvious reasons). While not very original, something about your name in it just makes it a bit more personable, they know its a family run business. Second, besides the location being good for growing the business, and the customer base to support it, make sure you also look into crime statistics and a good security system. Now i'm not saying this to scare you off, but its just a fact of life that it can occur. My parents wasn't in the best location in this respect, being in a certain part of Philadelphia, this was also 27 years ago now, and the reason he sold off the store was because he had to pull the gun he had behind the counter one too many times and it was no longer worth the risk of gambling with his life. Just my two cents on the two things i can remember, surprisingly with all the animals i've had over the years and tanks set up, i've never once worked as an employee for a fish or pet store.

CHSUB
06/20/2015, 12:33 PM
i own and have owned several restaurants in the last 15 years. the only advice i give to people starting their own business is: never sign a personal guarantee!!!!

lpsouth1978
06/20/2015, 12:36 PM
Let me start by saying that I do NOT own a LFS. I am simply a hobbiest that also has a degree in Business Management with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship. I figure that potential customers and business people could have some insights as well.

Did you find it beneficial to go to your local frag swaps? I get mixed reviews when I ask store owners this question. Some say it's a waste of time, and some say it's good to just get the name out there. I side more with the latter, but what do you think?
I would not expect to make much money from the swaps themselves, so in that aspect it could be deemed a waste of money. On the other hand, I think it is a great way to get to know the Reef Junkies in your area. Become a sponsor of any local reef clubs and frequent the meetings. Getting to know your customers and letting them know you will go a long way to building your business.

What do you think is the best way to respond to a hobbiest posting negative things all over the web? One of my "favorite" customers I've dealt with came in saying the fish he got from us nuked his tank, proceeded to stomp his feet until he got wonderful discounts, left seemingly happy, and the posted reviews everywhere about how we "screwed him over". Forums, yelp, Google, everywhere. He even made stories up that never happened and had nothing to do with his actual scenario. What can you even do about that?
I don't think there is anything you can do. There are always people who cannot be satisfied and will try to smear to your name. This is where the above question becomes a big factor. Knowing the reefers in your area will help to combat the negative reviews online.

And lastly for now,low did you come up with your name?! For months I've ben thinking about just that part and have nothing on the table! :lmao:
Friends and Family. Ask the people closest to you. Run ideas by them and see what they think of them. Also, be creative and think about web addresses. You can go onto Godaddy or other domain purchase sites and see if the name you want is available. The last thing you want is to name the business and then find that the web address is taken. I have even purchased several domain names, just to make sure I had them, and then didn't renew the ones I didn't use.

Thanks for reading, and thanks ahead of time for any input that can be offered. :wave:

Good luck with this endeavor!!! I hope I was at least a little help.

Fretfreak13
06/20/2015, 02:17 PM
Thank you so much for the wonderful responses, everyone! This thread is already way better than I expected. :inlove:

Also I apologize for any spelling errors. I'm not noticing them until after I make the post and I'm too lazy to fix them. Ya'll get the point.

Having been on the "board of directors" of an LFS and financial advisor to a second LFS, my initial suggestion is to compute your break even sales level initially assuming no service business. What you are likely to find, assuming you did so properly is a negative cash flow without a maintenance revenue component. Compute a new breakeven point to figure out the true cash flow breakeven point with a maintenance revenue component that covers the negative cash flow from store operations.

As to your other question, a venture capitalist will want to evaluate your total debt level and repayment strategy.

It is a very difficult business to survive in, I can assure you.

Thanks Snorvich! I am wanting to do maintenence, but I'm sure my biggest issue with it will be the same as every other store that does it and that would be finding employees I trust to do it! My plan in the beginning, when it's a one woman show until I build my staff, would be to just offer maintence to the systems that I actually set up for people.

I know from my first lfs job how vital the maintence contracts are, especially in the slow summer months. Winter = busy season for aquariums. Solidifying that would be looking at my second lfs job where he didn't do service at all. Yikes...

Both break even points will 100% be added to my business plan portfolio.

Well, i was only 4 when my parents sold off their pet store, but input is input right? lol. Anyways, the two things i can and still remember, one the name, just "our last name" pet store, so if you're last name is bluefin, it would be bluefin's aquarium center (my parents had more than just fish, hence the pet store after, i changed the latter for obvious reasons). While not very original, something about your name in it just makes it a bit more personable, they know its a family run business. Second, besides the location being good for growing the business, and the customer base to support it, make sure you also look into crime statistics and a good security system. Now i'm not saying this to scare you off, but its just a fact of life that it can occur. My parents wasn't in the best location in this respect, being in a certain part of Philadelphia, this was also 27 years ago now, and the reason he sold off the store was because he had to pull the gun he had behind the counter one too many times and it was no longer worth the risk of gambling with his life. Just my two cents on the two things i can remember, surprisingly with all the animals i've had over the years and tanks set up, i've never once worked as an employee for a fish or pet store.

That is the best name suggestion I've had so far. I've asked some family members for ideas and, no joke, my mom comes up with Fishy McFishersons. Pass. Lol

Back to comparing the two stores I've worked for. The first one had about 14 cameras viewable via cell phone that could tell the difference if a customer was stealing or scratching his balls. Well worth the money.

Second store had nothing and has been robbed twice, though luckily the idiots robbing it only took what was in the register and left the 1000s of dollars of ecotech products alone lol.

I had overlooked security in startup costs. Thank you!

i own and have owned several restaurants in the last 15 years. the only advice i give to people starting their own business is: never sign a personal guarantee!!!!

Gotta love that grey area. ;)

Good luck with this endeavor!!! I hope I was at least a little help.

About the swaps, that's how I view them too personally. Just make sure you have a biiiiig banner. Flashing lights and fireworks couldn't hurt either. ;)

About the name smearing, I suppose you're right. That crap is just...ugh it bugs me.

About naming, that exactly why I'm trying to get my name now, five years before I open. I'm pretty good at web design and I'm learning a lot recently about SEO. One part of my business I'm glad I won't need to hire a webmaster. Hell I might even sell frags online with the masses before I open the shop.


Thanks again so much for these responses. You guys rule.

ichthyogeek
06/21/2015, 09:34 PM
Umm....I really can't help with the business aspect, sorry. However, I can say that it would probably be a plus if you could get the hobbyists in your area to help supply you with livestock. Fish breeding is on the up, and so is coral fragging, so giving people store credit for tank raised stuff would be a good way to improve your relationship with the people there.

My username is derived from the Greek word for fish: "Ichthys" and what I am: a geek. Therefore, I am an ichthyogeek, or a fish-geek if you will. A store near me is called "The Fish Bowl", and another is called "The Fish Tank", and one that recently closed was "North-Side Aquatics". Fish Bowl and Fish Tank are pretty self explanatory, and I think that NSA was because it was on the north side of the state...just run a couple by us, and see what's happening...

On a completely different note, do you know what you'll be stocking? Like, plants, freshwater fish, freshwater nano, saltwater nano, corals, that kinda thing? What about supplies, like RO water and live cultures?

Fretfreak13
06/21/2015, 10:20 PM
Thanks for another response! :).

From my experience with livestock trading, there is a very careful like that needs to be respected and it's really hard to convey that to people that have no business experience. its gets really...ugh it's tough to explain. From my experience, once people start to realize that you'll take trades, they leave their wallet at home when they come to the store. They want trade for trade, and then when it comes time to pay the electric bill and you offer the electric company some sweet zoas that someone traded you instead of buying from you, they aren't pleased lol. While there are certain things I'd want to trade for I've found that just having a "no credit offered" policy is best...buuuut you'll find out eventually who the people you'd want to do trades with are in the hush-hush.

It's even tougher with fish breeders. Say, hypothetically, I could get Bangaiis from a farm that mass breeds them and pays their employees to come to work, do their job, and come go. I buy them for 1.00 each. Then a home breeder, who works and has family and THEN painstakingly pours the rest of his energy into his babies comes in and I tell them I'll take them for 1.00 each, just like my farm, leaves pretty ****ed off. It's the same product in the end, captive bred and raised babies but the farm can offer them pretty cheap because of mass sales.

I'm not sure really where I stand 100% on the breeding for credit thing yet. I guess I have time to think about it still, and I totally see where you're coming from about buying babies from the locals, but it's a tougher subject than it appears on the surface.

On the name thing, I seriously have nothing yet. I write down names and hate them enough to not share yet. :lol: I don't know if I want to go with something fun and cutsie, or something more modern and stylish to maybe appeal to higher rolling clients for setups.

I will be marine exclusive. I may dabble in pond depending on the demographics, but that's as far into fresh I'd want to go. I'll be stocking the basics for saltwater as well as higher end stuff as far as dry stock goes. deep blue, instant ocean, Boyd, innovative marine, bubble magus, etc. I'm a big fan of eco tech on the customer side, but they screw over their retailers soooooooooooo bad. I'd want to back a lighting company I know and love, but maybe more years of retailers screaming at them to get better on their profit margins and to stop reducing MSRP without reducing the wholesale cost will change their ways. Who knows...*sigh*

I have no problem selling both RO and store mixed saltwater, and I will keep rotifer cultures rolling.

As far as livestock, I'm a big invert nut and I like the weird stuff. I've had nine mantis tanks in the past haha. I'm sure there will always be something dark and spooky hanging out in my refugium. I will have a display macro tank to grow out and sell stocked with sea horses. They're not the best sellers, but man they bring in foot traffic! I'd also like to do a cylindrical moon jellyfish display for foot traffic as well, but I feel like that tank will be big bucks and could be added long after im open.

I will have a dedicated acro system, and mixed reef style frag tanks for everything else coral. In bringing in weekly or biweekly livestock I'll have the basics with a few oddballs in between, but the nicest fish will be in my main display and they will ALL be for sale. This is something I'm really trying to do for myself. We all get attached to our fish, but my display undoubtably be the most well kept up system and that's where the big dollar fish will go. I go into so many stores with nice displays and just out of curiosity ask about the prices of the fish and they're always "not for sale" while the rest of the store is nothing but firefish and yellow tangs. That will not be me, if someone wants my nice pair of leopard wrasses they can have them for the right price (+ a bottle of my tears) lol

Also, none and I mean NONE of my tanks will be acrylic. I know will will wind up hiring some high school kid as a tank scrubber and he will screw up thousands of dollars in acrylic tanks beyond repair. I know this because I have personally worked with four of them. Not dealing with that...

I felt like I rambled a lot in the post, sorry hah. I have so many ideas.

ichthyogeek
06/21/2015, 11:08 PM
Dang...as a hopeful marine breeder (still in the RnD phase), I didn't know that BC's sold so cheaply...will you be selling ORA fish? Or predominantly wild caught? If WC, will you ensure sustainable harvest? idk, I'm just an incoming college freshman, I don't know about the specifics of this stuff...

If I may, a classier name would be better in my opinion. It just sounds more professional and that you know what you're doing. Higher rolling clients=rich people, right? and those people are the ones who probably have a higher chance of wanting you to maintain their tanks, right?

ichthyogeek
06/21/2015, 11:19 PM
Dang...as a beginning fish breeder (still in the R&D stage), I understand, but still...do BC's really get that cheap? Just saying though, if you have rare home bred fish, you might as well buy them (like gobies and stuff, not clowns and cardinals)...

I feel that you should go for a more classy name, since your store will be focused on doing tank maintenance. Maybe I'm just making stupid assumptions here, but if you have a classy name, then that states that you know what you're doing. People will know that, especially more wealthy people. Said people (I'm assuming here) are more likely to ask that you set up a tank for them and maintain it for them...

Good luck!

KAMIKAZE0214
06/22/2015, 04:30 AM
Thanks for another response! :).

From my experience with livestock trading, there is a very careful like that needs to be respected and it's really hard to convey that to people that have no business experience. its gets really...ugh it's tough to explain. From my experience, once people start to realize that you'll take trades, they leave their wallet at home when they come to the store. They want trade for trade, and then when it comes time to pay the electric bill and you offer the electric company some sweet zoas that someone traded you instead of buying from you, they aren't pleased lol. While there are certain things I'd want to trade for I've found that just having a "no credit offered" policy is best...buuuut you'll find out eventually who the people you'd want to do trades with are in the hush-hush.

It's even tougher with fish breeders. Say, hypothetically, I could get Bangaiis from a farm that mass breeds them and pays their employees to come to work, do their job, and come go. I buy them for 1.00 each. Then a home breeder, who works and has family and THEN painstakingly pours the rest of his energy into his babies comes in and I tell them I'll take them for 1.00 each, just like my farm, leaves pretty ****ed off. It's the same product in the end, captive bred and raised babies but the farm can offer them pretty cheap because of mass sales.

I'm not sure really where I stand 100% on the breeding for credit thing yet. I guess I have time to think about it still, and I totally see where you're coming from about buying babies from the locals, but it's a tougher subject than it appears on the surface.

On the name thing, I seriously have nothing yet. I write down names and hate them enough to not share yet. :lol: I don't know if I want to go with something fun and cutsie, or something more modern and stylish to maybe appeal to higher rolling clients for setups.

I will be marine exclusive. I may dabble in pond depending on the demographics, but that's as far into fresh I'd want to go. I'll be stocking the basics for saltwater as well as higher end stuff as far as dry stock goes. deep blue, instant ocean, Boyd, innovative marine, bubble magus, etc. I'm a big fan of eco tech on the customer side, but they screw over their retailers soooooooooooo bad. I'd want to back a lighting company I know and love, but maybe more years of retailers screaming at them to get better on their profit margins and to stop reducing MSRP without reducing the wholesale cost will change their ways. Who knows...*sigh*

I have no problem selling both RO and store mixed saltwater, and I will keep rotifer cultures rolling.

As far as livestock, I'm a big invert nut and I like the weird stuff. I've had nine mantis tanks in the past haha. I'm sure there will always be something dark and spooky hanging out in my refugium. I will have a display macro tank to grow out and sell stocked with sea horses. They're not the best sellers, but man they bring in foot traffic! I'd also like to do a cylindrical moon jellyfish display for foot traffic as well, but I feel like that tank will be big bucks and could be added long after im open.

I will have a dedicated acro system, and mixed reef style frag tanks for everything else coral. In bringing in weekly or biweekly livestock I'll have the basics with a few oddballs in between, but the nicest fish will be in my main display and they will ALL be for sale. This is something I'm really trying to do for myself. We all get attached to our fish, but my display undoubtably be the most well kept up system and that's where the big dollar fish will go. I go into so many stores with nice displays and just out of curiosity ask about the prices of the fish and they're always "not for sale" while the rest of the store is nothing but firefish and yellow tangs. That will not be me, if someone wants my nice pair of leopard wrasses they can have them for the right price (+ a bottle of my tears) lol

Also, none and I mean NONE of my tanks will be acrylic. I know will will wind up hiring some high school kid as a tank scrubber and he will screw up thousands of dollars in acrylic tanks beyond repair. I know this because I have personally worked with four of them. Not dealing with that...

I felt like I rambled a lot in the post, sorry hah. I have so many ideas.

A local fish store owner told me his largest margins are on freshwater, they maintain a nice marine section as well.

alton
06/22/2015, 05:11 AM
The only advice is "If you say you are going to open 7 days a week 12 to 8, then you better be there!" Stores that seem to fail are those that open late or close early on days. Also you better have a bunch of money saved because it will take years to break even.

Halo_003
06/22/2015, 08:28 AM
Well, personally while I like the hobby, I don't want to work for it. (Not saying you shouldn't! If it makes you happy, do it.) My name recommendation: The Coral Co. Simple, clean, states what you are, and best of all it's professional.

That said, any first year profit projections you make, subtract 30% from it. Any first year costs, add 30%, and this should give you a more realistic, worst case scenario idea of what you'll be looking at. Find out if your local clubs have facebook pages and get active on them, answer questions, comment on FTS's, etc. This can be from either the business Facebook page or your own FB, either way people will come to know of you.

In your business plan make sure to assess your local competition thoroughly, why should someone invest in you rather than invest in helping The Other Coral Co. down the street expand their location? Make sure to explain in detail (not technical detail), what makes your planned store uniquely qualified for success. (You probably already know all of this if you're working on a business plan though.

Remember to pay a little more and get the extra small things, like calibration fluid and quality refractometers, trust me that reflects badly on a store if they have $20 amazon ones and calibrate with RODI.

Have you considered how to deal with disease outbreaks and control it in your display tanks? That can be very costly and time consuming.

Written as someone currently working on a business plan to start an aerospace corporation in 2018. :)

TylerHaworth
06/22/2015, 08:34 AM
My advice is to seek out a failing LFS and buy them out or to find another LFS with an owner that wants out of the business.

Also, make yourself known in the community before opening a store.

Starting from scratch will be very tough and extremely costly in the short term.

Fretfreak13
06/22/2015, 10:07 AM
Oh without question I'll be known in the area before opening. My next purchase now is a pretty new griffin saw so i can up my frag swap game ;)

As far as buying a failing LFS, there is generally a reason they're failing. Ie. Bad location. It's a thought, and I'll definitely look to see what's around in the area, but that won't be my only source for a building/equipment. Long before I open I'll start renting a storage unit and clearing out petcos dollar per gallon sales for holding tanks. Gonna be sooooo tired of that awful glass drilling noise lol

Actually my dream little building would be a standalone that maybe used to be a flower shop. You know, with the little green house attachment on the side? That'd be nice for my little pond setup! Could put reef stuff out there too but I think it'll be a little tough to regulate the temperature for more sensitive animals in a small green house than it would be for some of the bigger grow out ones. The building would preferably have a stoplight in front of it on the road (easy access), and maybe right next to it would be a little stripmall with a restaurant. Nothing brings in people to "just look around" than food!

From what I've seen, if I'm renting a standalone building I'd be more likely to have the landlord let me buy it outright than if it were in a strip. I'd rather just pay the taxes on the property than the rent of course.

Thanks for the response Tyler! :spin1:

TylerHaworth
06/22/2015, 10:44 AM
Yes they are likely failing for a reason, and I'm not necessarily suggesting taking over and moving in the same storefront and definitely not under the same name.

However, it's a great opportunity to pick up both livestock, drystock, display setups and other costly infrastructure for pennies on the dollar... You've got to think about commercial dehumidifiers and backup generators, as well as a ton of other junk that is extremely expensive and most folks don't ever imagine needing.

And employees... even if you don't want the whole staff, one or two knowledgeable and reliable employees can go a very long way in helping you succeed - Have you put thought into how you will attract employees to avoid being a LFS with useless/detrimental minimum wage help? How will you retain good employees if you aren't able to pay them very well initially?

Not to mention any accounts that they currently have that will aid in your initial cashflow deficits.

As far as buying a building outright to get started... Without substantial capital to invest yourself, it's not going to happen in my experience as a retail/commercial lender, and a bad idea in my experience as a small business owner... Lease a storefront, establish your business, and if things go well acquire a building of your own... The environment created by a LFS is VERY harsh and you do not want to be responsible for that AC unit that croaks or the electrical work that cannot handle the amperage you are forcing through it.

TylerHaworth
06/22/2015, 11:11 AM
Another thing to consider... You're already worrying about being tight on money if you're considering whether to pay off student loans or to save for an initial capital investment.

My honest advice is to get a job, pay off all of your debts, AND have a significant amount of personal (non-business allocated) cash on hand before you ever invest a penny into such a fickle beast as a LFS.

One question that I always asked potentially starry-eyed folks looking to start a niche business with no corporate backstop was: "Can you afford to not pay yourself a dime for two years?" If your answer is even halfway unsure, you're not yet positioned well enough to tackle such an undertaking.

Have you thought about your personal living expenses in five years? Kids? Spouse? Housing? Unexpected Costs?

gavinsepanik
06/22/2015, 01:21 PM
It sounds like you have the general knowledge needed to succeed. I wish you the best of luck and hope you start putting money away now :spin1:.

Fretfreak13
06/22/2015, 02:23 PM
Yes they are likely failing for a reason, and I'm not necessarily suggesting taking over and moving in the same storefront and definitely not under the same name.

However, it's a great opportunity to pick up both livestock, drystock, display setups and other costly infrastructure for pennies on the dollar... You've got to think about commercial dehumidifiers and backup generators, as well as a ton of other junk that is extremely expensive and most folks don't ever imagine needing. While managing at my original job I did get to see firsthand how much a pain HVAC is. Good point.

And employees... even if you don't want the whole staff, one or two knowledgeable and reliable employees can go a very long way in helping you succeed - Have you put thought into how you will attract employees to avoid being a LFS with useless/detrimental minimum wage help? How will you retain good employees if you aren't able to pay them very well initially? This is something that happens over time from my experience as you get to know members in the community. Saltwater people dont just fall from the sky, but your customers do sometimes need extra cash flow or get laid off. I had been with that store since the beginning, and that is where 75% of our staff had come from. Actually the owner of my original store had been unknowingly training me to be his manager since I was 12 years old and I bought my first corals from his Craigslist ad with my dad. I'm not saying that this is the case for everywhere, but I have seen it work as a mentality of "if you build it they will come" as far as good employees.

Not to mention any accounts that they currently have that will aid in your initial cashflow deficits. another excellent point. Didn't think of that at all!

As far as buying a building outright to get started... Without substantial capital to invest yourself, it's not going to happen in my experience as a retail/commercial lender, and a bad idea in my experience as a small business owner... Lease a storefront, establish your business, and if things go well acquire a building of your own... The environment created by a LFS is VERY harsh and you do not want to be responsible for that AC unit that croaks or the electrical work that cannot handle the amperage you are forcing through it. that wasn't what I meant, but going back and reading what I typed I see where you got that. I meant more as a lease-to-own kind of deal. Unless I got a crazy deal on a place like another LFS I know has, which is the water utility is included in the rent. With an RO unit spitting out thousands of gallons weekly with a 4:1 ratio, that's worth it alone.



Have you thought about your personal living expenses in five years? Kids? Spouse? Housing? Unexpected Costs? Yes I have, though I can't imagine they'd be much different than they are now. I am married, my husband has a career that supports us even if I didn't work, there will absolutely be no children within the next five years (seriously). We rent, and will do so for a long time. In fact, my in laws are in their sixties and have rented their whole lives and also owned their own business before moving out of state, though it was a lot less of an investment than a LFS.



Thanks Gavin, that's the plan! :)

birdfish
06/22/2015, 02:58 PM
[QUOTE=ichthyogeek;23824493]Dang...as a beginning fish breeder (still in the R&D stage), I understand, but still...do BC's really get that cheap?

I think that was a hypothetical price just for arguments sake when Fretfreak
wrote:

"Say, hypothetically, I could get Bangaiis from a farm that mass breeds them and pays their employees to come to work, do their job, and come go. I buy them for 1.00 each. "

I cannot buy a Bangaii Cardinal for a dollar IN Indonesia or Bali before freight
to get it here. Some sources show tanked raised, wild caught, and 'trained' which means wild but eating frozen foods, not that they do calculus, etc. I would think any T.R. Bangaii here is worth more than a buck.

Saltwaterwill
06/23/2015, 03:55 AM
I hope u r very successful ...best of luck

toothybugs
06/23/2015, 05:46 AM
I'm curious where you're located.

For now, I would suggest getting your name out there with an online location - Facebook is great for online frag auctions ("Frag Auction Place" is a personal favorite) and starting a simple page with your name on it. Then you go from an online location which can be run out of your basement and 4 of your own tanks to a brick and mortar store when your means are all in order. Locally we have a guy who does that as his secondary income and he's gotten quite a following for having good prices, good service, and personal responses. He has his lines though and we have to respect them. He won't set up a brick store but if he did he already has a customer base from all over the Chicago/ south Wisconsin area.

My first job was the neighborhood hardware store which was a mom 'n' pop. "Todd" had a lot of friends who stopped by the store to grab stuff, pay him later, etc and I was told one night after closing, "The more you give, the more they'll take." So, to your trades/ credit point, I would consider writing it down and posting it somewhere. Define it. Things like "trade credit good for day of trade only" (that's what my LFS does) and "trades limited to X items/ dollars per day for fair market price" would likely go far to help you avoid smears. It's hard to say you got screwed when the owner's actions can be backed up by store policy.

What are some of the name ideas you've had?

gavinsepanik
06/23/2015, 10:00 AM
Where are you hoping to have your shop? (like what state,town etc.) Sorry if i missed it.

gavinsepanik
06/23/2015, 10:09 AM
Also one thing I like about my LFS (sho tank) is that he focuses 4/5 of his shop on livestock and only carries emergency supplies (heaters, food, etc) but if you need something he will order it and get the customers bulk pricing without having to buy in bulk. For example, dry rock, BRS sells theirs for around 2.50 per pound and since he orders it from a wholesaler in bulk (100+ pounds) it only ends up costing me 2 bucks per pound although I only buy ~20 lbs at his store. This also allows him to carry wayyy more livestock. Hopefully you understood that.

CODE3EMT
06/23/2015, 11:20 AM
I have to agree with snorvich..... it is a very difficult business to survive in.
Remember, your BIG BOX stores such as Petco and PetSmart will likely be your Kryptonite. They will be able to offer more products at lower prices and appeal to every type of pet owner as opposed to just fish tank owners.

I have seen many specialized aquarium shops here in California shut down.....the competition is too steep.

People are not willing to work for "minimum wage" these days, and if you find those who do........ they will likely not have their heart and soul into your business and your product.

As an EMT, I can attest to this. Many of our EMT's and Paramedics could give a squirt of pee about their patients. We are Union employees who are often wayyyyyy over paid and sit in the ambulance playing on our iPads waiting for a medical aid call that most of us could care less about. Starting pay out here in California as an EMT is $19.00 per hour with a CAP of $25.00 per hour with full paid benefits. We have some who love their job, but most just do it for the money. Sad, very sad.

Owning a small business is very, very tuff these days, labor cost and taxes are a small business killer. Ill just have to keep waiting till I can match up all 6 numbers on that orange ticket that cost a dollar.

Good luck to you, hope you are a success.

Rollins4Miles
06/23/2015, 02:10 PM
It seems like you're on the right path. You've gotten sound advice from the others already, particularly having realistic projections and accountings. Also, not having a personal guarantee on business debt is an important factor to remember. To add to the more formal advice, when you're ready to set up shop, get in touch with a business attorney. You may or may not need help legitimizing your business, but you will need proper documents for sales, maintenance, employees, internal business documents, etc.. Do not skimp on these documents. I can assure you that, if ever needed to rely on the language of a document, the extra money you spend on proper documents will pay for itself versus pre-fabricated documents. Source: business attorney - deal with it all the time / two clients are aquarium stores. As for the finances, ideally a loan officer would like to see that you paid off your debts and that you have capital set aside for the business start-up.

So for the less formal advice, let's talk about marketing! The existence and survival of your future store hinges on how successful your marketing is. You can have the best products at the best prices - if no one knows who you are then it's all for naught. Create a legitimate website (yourbusiness.com) and update it on a regular basis. Do not use Facebook or any other social media website as your stores actual website. I see this far too often. The social media should be used to direct traffic to your actual .com website. Get your business name on every directory and website you possibly can. Then tackle the more costly local advertising.

All of the longterm successful local reef stores that I've come across were structured in one of three ways: high volume / high turnover; maintenance based; or coral farm on premises. I recommend picking one of the three and doing it the best you can. As your business grows you can fully undertake a second area and work on perfecting that along with your current business model.

As for a name, don't worry about it at the moment. The right name will come to you in due time. But with that said, your name is crucially important (everything is important when creating your own company?). Make it gimmicky - make it fun. Examples of stores I used to frequent in Florida: World Wide Corals (everyone knows who they are), Ocean Blue, Ocean Direct, Fishy Business, Top Shelf Aquatics, Tanks A Lot, Sea In The City - a lot of catchy names.

Frag swaps - don't expect to make a killing at these events. The local frag swaps amongst local clubs and groups are usually set up to give the consumer a bit of a discount. These events are a great marketing opportunity for businesses and should be viewed more as a networking event rather than a sales event.

I'm sure I could talk for hours on this subject, but what I have now will have to do. Best of luck in your endeavors.

Sk8r
06/23/2015, 02:34 PM
When you name the store, think how you're going to be in Google search and phone book, obsolete as phonebooks are becoming. If somebody types in 'fish' or 'saltwater tank', they need to see you top of the list.
Dunno if I'm dated in my info, but search when I set up a site has a function called 'meta', and if you fill that 'meta' with things like 'fish, saltwater, marine, fish tank, aquarium, aquarium lighting...' you'll find search finding you more often.
If you don't know how to manage your own website, find out. Being able to update your stock list, telling people yes, you have a purple firefish, is important: letting it get out of date means unhappy customers who show up looking for what sold a month ago, and if you can't update it yourself, that can be a problem. Maintain a facebook page for your business. There are wizzywig web editors that let you design a basic page pretty easily, and likewise you can use soemthing like WOrd Press, which is much easier to update, as a seamless part of your web presence. Make it interactive (allow comments, either moderated or not) and you can 'talk' back and forth with your customers.

HowdyDoody216
06/23/2015, 02:49 PM
You should name it "Bluefish"

Salt Creeper
06/24/2015, 10:57 AM
Here's a suggestion. Offer up to 30 gallons of RO for free or at least free with any purchase. Few Lfs do this and would give you a competitive edge. A lot of people still buy Ro. This will get people in the door. When I used to buy Ro it would cost me 200-300 every time because I couldn't resist buying something else. Put the outlet for your Ro at the back of the store so they have to walk through the whole store to get to it. This will get people to buy salt and food from you rather than online because they will be there anyways to get the free Ro that they think they are getting a great deal on. The cost of filters is worth the extra traffic imo.

Salt Creeper
06/24/2015, 11:03 AM
Another bit I forgot to mention. Try to get your shipments in when your customers have time to visit your shop. For example I only have time to go to my Lfs on the weekend and I used to shop at a place that gets everything on Tuesday so when I got there on Saturday they were sold out. I switched to a place that gets there shipments on Friday and now I get first pick Saturday morning. You could also just maintain a large stock of everything but that can be expensive and risky.

Narwhal82
06/24/2015, 03:06 PM
Couple of things I think should be mentioned.

1. Plan on making as strong an internet presence as possible. Having a good website will drive traffic to your brick and mortar store than any other type of advertising these days.

2. Trading livestock with locals is a great way to build up a core of loyal hobbyist customers. But it also has tax implications. If you are purchasing/trading livestock from hobbyists that is technically taxable income to them and a business expense for you. Which should be reported on both party's tax returns. You may have to setup each hobbyist as a vendor and file a W9 for each one and report the money you pay them on a 1099.

Now most small stores don't do this and slide by under the table but it is illegal and it could cost you your business if you do get caught.

(P.S. This is a big reason why Petco and Petsmart don't take trade in's by the way)

organism
06/24/2015, 04:56 PM
I owned an LFS for years and then worked in wholesale and importing for while, so here's my 2 cents:

First is location location location. Not which part of the city you're in, but which city you're in. There are lots of great LFS here in Los Angeles, and they all make money because we have a high hobbyist density. I knew a shop in Ohio that had great corals but closed due to not having enough hobbyists nearby. Hobbyists will seek you out, no one goes to stores because they drove past them in high-rent high-visibility areas, they find them on Google. My shop was in an industrial area and never had problems making money, the cheap rent and power helped too.

Now that you're physically living in a city that has a high hobbyist density, the second concern is money. Just triple whatever amount of money you think your first year will cost and you'll be halfway there. Putting together a store from scratch is extremely expensive, and I wouldn't recommend dry goods since Amazon will always have you beat. I couldn't more strongly recommend starting in your garage or home and then building up slowly from there. It will help you get all of the mistakes out of the way as learn how to put a system together as well as build a brand and a customer base, and if you can't make your garage work you definitely can't make a store work. Finally, it will also help you build what you really need, which is

Connections connections connections. Can you get good corals? More importantly, can you get nicer stuff than your competitors and be able to sell it for less money? Those connections don't fall from the sky when you open up a shop, quite the opposite you need to have them in your pocket before you open the doors. Wholesale reps work on commission, and every one of them has a stack of customers who tell them "let me know when you have a bunch of cherry pieces and I'll order." If you order consistently they'll bend over backwards for you, but if you're one of those sporadic "send me the nicest stuff" people then it's a waste of time and money to sell to you. The nicest pieces are going to someone who orders on a weekly basis because it makes the shop more money and therefore makes the rep more money. Shops that ordered from me every week made bank, I even went into work on Sundays for them if they needed corals on a Monday.

My advice is not to do it. I sold my shop because I got burned out. It's a ton of work, plus you'll see the worst in humanity and it will eat away at you over time. That guy who left bad feedback even though you did everything he wanted is called a good day. Try eating the 40th fraudulent chargeback someone filed with their credit card company just to get $300 of free corals only to see them sell frags online a week later, or try to sleep after some anonymous person sends you an email that they're going to pour bleach into your tanks.

CHSUB
06/24/2015, 06:07 PM
My advice is not to do it. I sold my shop because I got burned out. It's a ton of work, plus you'll see the worst in humanity and it will eat away at you over time. That guy who left bad feedback even though you did everything he wanted is called a good day. Try eating the 40th fraudulent chargeback someone filed with their credit card company just to get $300 of free corals only to see them sell frags online a week later, or try to sleep after some anonymous person sends you an email that they're going to pour bleach into your tanks.

this is true in any retail business, and if it wasn't a "ton of work" everyone would do it; nothing risked nothing gained. if you want hard work, try owning a restaurant! all that said, most small business fail in the first 3 years, over 90%.

organism
06/24/2015, 06:08 PM
Well said :)

se64
06/24/2015, 08:44 PM
Interesting discussion, it makes you appreciate the position LFS are in. The internet is such a challenge to brick and mortar stores. They have to survive based on good livestock and good customer service pretty much.

toothybugs
06/25/2015, 06:10 AM
Interesting discussion, it makes you appreciate the position LFS are in. The internet is such a challenge to brick and mortar stores. They have to survive based on good livestock and good customer service pretty much.

I was looking for a skimmer for a new nano setup, based off ideas I found here. My LFS guy went out of his way to let me look at a few and I settled on one not in my list. It was a little higher than my ideal price point - it took a minute and I could tell he was done with his talk because it hit that awkward silence "Okay what do you want to do now" point. Out of respect I took the hint, pulled the trigger, and was actually very surprised with the quality of product when I got home. It cost me an extra 30 bucks over Marine Depot, but eh. It was worth it for all the help and extras over the last year.

That said, the dude has nearly no life outside the store.

Jrambo88
06/25/2015, 07:58 AM
I have zero experience in retail when in comes to a LFS, but as a consumer I know what was important to me.

I forget who said it but a strong presence on the internet is extremely important. When I lived in different cities I googled every LFS by just typing in simply "saltwater aquarium store." I know my generation 20-30 something's google everything. Also I don't know if someone else mentioned but craigslist also. I google aquarium under craigslist and I found a LFS that didn't initially come up in Google.

I don't know about anyone else but I know I'd rather see the livestock in person than ordering off the Internet any day, even if it costs me a few bucks more. Also my LFS will order any equipment you need for the price on the net and you don't pay shipping. So I like that because it may take another day or two but to have them order it for you and either steer you away from certain equipment before you buy it because it's junk means a lot to me. I mentioned this to my LFS but they never implamented it was to give out general care sheet with eachother livestock purchase. I think a lot of people would appreicate a general care sheet for their purchase.

snorvich
06/25/2015, 03:15 PM
this is true in any retail business, and if it wasn't a "ton of work" everyone would do it; nothing risked nothing gained. if you want hard work, try owning a restaurant! all that said, most small business fail in the first 3 years, over 90%.

The number is, I suspect higher for LFS. I live in a large metropolitan area and 9 out of 10 new LFS here fold within two years (when they run out of credit card credit).

My advice is not to do it.

Fretfreak13
06/25/2015, 10:46 PM
Wow this thread has taken off! Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful replies! I'm still going to try my best to answer every one of you, but its starting to get tough! Here goes...

Dang...as a hopeful marine breeder (still in the RnD phase), I didn't know that BC's sold so cheaply...will you be selling ORA fish? Or predominantly wild caught? If WC, will you ensure sustainable harvest? idk, I'm just an incoming college freshman, I don't know about the specifics of this stuff...

If I may, a classier name would be better in my opinion. It just sounds more professional and that you know what you're doing. Higher rolling clients=rich people, right? and those people are the ones who probably have a higher chance of wanting you to maintain their tanks, right?

I'm so sorry I didn't see your post! We must have been typing at the same time. Yes, that price was totally hypothetical. I'm really leaning twords the same on the name. I want a name that'll give you tingles, not giggles. ;)

A local fish store owner told me his largest margins are on freshwater, they maintain a nice marine section as well.

I'm just not interested in it and I know if I don't have the passion for it it'll show in my tanks. Both shops I've worked at were strictly marine. The first shop is doing a little too well for itself (lol) and the second could be doing better, but its majorly a location issue, not the livestock. Thanks for the input though! =)


The only advice is "If you say you are going to open 7 days a week 12 to 8, then you better be there!" Stores that seem to fail are those that open late or close early on days. Also you better have a bunch of money saved because it will take years to break even.

No friggin kidding! I HATE when I'm sitting outside of a store in my car waiting for it to open when the sign on the door clearly says that I'm on time and they employees are not. As far as breaking even, I'm prepared to wait to break even, but hoping with proper maintenance accounts it wont be as long as you're thinking.

Have you considered how to deal with disease outbreaks and control it in your display tanks? That can be very costly and time consuming.

As far as disease goes, and I know you're all going to scoff at this one, it REALLY matters where you get your fish from. This is from looking at two polar opposite stores and their practices.

One store I worked for purchased their fish from wholesalers in LA (like most stores do). This is very easy for the store, because all the fish they'd ever want to stock could be ordered from one source. Want to special order a fish? Great! It'll be here in two days. HOWEVER, wholesalers take fish from all over the world, cram them into tiny cramped tanks, and there they sit until some store around the country wants them. Most of the time they are not even fed because turnover is expected to be pretty quick. It is for your yellow tangs and clownfish, but not so much for your crosshatch triggers and bandit angels. Once they arrive at the store, these fish are often sick to begin with, emaciated, and the last thing on their minds is eating.

Of course, the proper store will then put them into a coppered system, which sounds like a grand idea until you actually have to maintain a proper level of therapeutic copper on a 1500g+ system. It is NOTHING like doing it in your little 20g bare bottom quarantine tank at home. Sand is necessary in an LFS for fish like diamond gobies and leopard wrasses. Live rock, obviously, also necessary because this is a permanent system housing hundreds of animals. Sand and live rock absorb copper, affecting that level you are trying to maintain. Keep it too low and you have sick fish, and accidentally boost it too high and your entire system dies of copper poisoning. NOT a pretty sight.

The other side of the ordering process skips the wholesalers all together and orders direct from the source. THIS, no matter how much of a pain it can be, will be what I do. The down sides are that shipping costs are about triple, and that you can only order certain fish from certain places so multiple orders weekly may be needed. However, after seeing the results first hand, there is no way I'll go back to ordering from LA. The fish skip "fish pound" if you will. MUCH less stress right from the get go, and more often than not these guys would eat in the acclimation buckets if you'd let them. The store that orders this way runs zero medications and I've never seen healthier fish. Their DOA list from shipping is also about 60% lower than coming out of LA, and these are animals that are being shipped two day freight from Aussie, not 18 hours from LA. That says so much.

I will of course advocate quarantining to my customers, but that will be their job and not mine. I know what you guys are probably thinking, but if you haven't seen it first hand then seriously...you don't even know.

I hope u r very successful ...best of luck

Thank you! :spin1:

I'm curious where you're located.

For now, I would suggest getting your name out there with an online location - Facebook is great for online frag auctions ("Frag Auction Place" is a personal favorite) and starting a simple page with your name on it. Then you go from an online location which can be run out of your basement and 4 of your own tanks to a brick and mortar store when your means are all in order. Locally we have a guy who does that as his secondary income and he's gotten quite a following for having good prices, good service, and personal responses. He has his lines though and we have to respect them. He won't set up a brick store but if he did he already has a customer base from all over the Chicago/ south Wisconsin area.

My first job was the neighborhood hardware store which was a mom 'n' pop. "Todd" had a lot of friends who stopped by the store to grab stuff, pay him later, etc and I was told one night after closing, "The more you give, the more they'll take." So, to your trades/ credit point, I would consider writing it down and posting it somewhere. Define it. Things like "trade credit good for day of trade only" (that's what my LFS does) and "trades limited to X items/ dollars per day for fair market price" would likely go far to help you avoid smears. It's hard to say you got screwed when the owner's actions can be backed up by store policy.

What are some of the name ideas you've had?

I don't want to say my location because of the way I'm talking about the shops I've worked at. I don't want to throw anyone under the bus. <3

I'm going to set up a website and facebook first for sure. Craiglist, and maybe even eBay too, but first I need that friggin name!!!

The trade credit for same day thing is friggin genius!!! I'm a stickler for policies. That happens when you become a manager for any kind of business I think. No matter what situation, if there is a customer yelling in your face, its always wonderful to smile and point to that pretty piece of paper on the front counter.

Seriously...I've got nothing. I keep looking at my cat and thinking how much fun she'd have in a fish store. "Eliza's Playground" doesn't really scream aquarium shop. lol

Where are you hoping to have your shop? (like what state,town etc.) Sorry if i missed it.

Also one thing I like about my LFS (sho tank) is that he focuses 4/5 of his shop on livestock and only carries emergency supplies (heaters, food, etc) but if you need something he will order it and get the customers bulk pricing without having to buy in bulk. For example, dry rock, BRS sells theirs for around 2.50 per pound and since he orders it from a wholesaler in bulk (100+ pounds) it only ends up costing me 2 bucks per pound although I only buy ~20 lbs at his store. This also allows him to carry wayyy more livestock. Hopefully you understood that.

Again I want to be careful about saying where I'm at, but as a general rule it'll be southern east coast.

I gotcha, but if I stick with the plan of doing maintenance I'll need products on hand. The store's space will certainly be geared twords the critters. Less things to dust, plus the markup on drystock is generally just...sad.
I have seen many specialized aquarium shops here in California shut down.....the competition is too steep.

As an EMT, I can attest to this. Many of our EMT's and Paramedics could give a squirt of pee about their patients. We are Union employees who are often wayyyyyy over paid and sit in the ambulance playing on our iPads waiting for a medical aid call that most of us could care less about. Starting pay out here in California as an EMT is $19.00 per hour with a CAP of $25.00 per hour with full paid benefits. We have some who love their job, but most just do it for the money. Sad, very sad.

Owning a small business is very, very tuff these days, labor cost and taxes are a small business killer. Ill just have to keep waiting till I can match up all 6 numbers on that orange ticket that cost a dollar.

Good luck to you, hope you are a success.

Oh, I'm an avid lottery player too. I think all us dreamers are. California, specifically LA, is like the Vegas of the fish world because thats where most of the marine critters around there world first touch US soil. I wouldn't dream of opening a shop in Cali. Those that are there are soooooo deeply rooted already. That's like opening a Mcdonalds across the street from a McDonalds :lol: Ok I know you couldn't actually do that, but you get the drift.

I'm listening to American Dad as I type this, and no joke they just did a bit about EMTs. I wish I could find it on youtube to link here but I just died laughing based on what you just said. If you have netflix or something, its Season 9 Episode 3.

It seems like you're on the right path. You've gotten sound advice from the others already, particularly having realistic projections and accounting. Also, not having a personal guarantee on business debt is an important factor to remember. To add to the more formal advice, when you're ready to set up shop, get in touch with a business attorney. You may or may not need help legitimizing your business, but you will need proper documents for sales, maintenance, employees, internal business documents, etc.. Do not skimp on these documents. I can assure you that, if ever needed to rely on the language of a document, the extra money you spend on proper documents will pay for itself versus pre-fabricated documents. Source: business attorney - deal with it all the time / two clients are aquarium stores. As for the finances, ideally a loan officer would like to see that you paid off your debts and that you have capital set aside for the business start-up.

So for the less formal advice, let's talk about marketing! The existence and survival of your future store hinges on how successful your marketing is. You can have the best products at the best prices - if no one knows who you are then it's all for naught. Create a legitimate website (yourbusiness.com) and update it on a regular basis. Do not use Facebook or any other social media website as your stores actual website. I see this far too often. The social media should be used to direct traffic to your actual .com website. Get your business name on every directory and website you possibly can. Then tackle the more costly local advertising.

All of the longterm successful local reef stores that I've come across were structured in one of three ways: high volume / high turnover; maintenance based; or coral farm on premises. I recommend picking one of the three and doing it the best you can. As your business grows you can fully undertake a second area and work on perfecting that along with your current business model.

As for a name, don't worry about it at the moment. The right name will come to you in due time. But with that said, your name is crucially important (everything is important when creating your own company?). Make it gimmicky - make it fun. Examples of stores I used to frequent in Florida: World Wide Corals (everyone knows who they are), Ocean Blue, Ocean Direct, Fishy Business, Top Shelf Aquatics, Tanks A Lot, Sea In The City - a lot of catchy names.

I'm sure I could talk for hours on this subject, but what I have now will have to do. Best of luck in your endeavors.

Thanks for the advise with the legal matters. This is really my lowest point as far as understanding what needs to be done with opening a business and I know its one of the, if not THE most important thing.

Luckily one of the things I am wonderful at is marketing! =) I am very familiar with building websites. I have no worries about this part and am so excited about it I want to start working on it now...which comes back to the name issue!

As far as the structure, I'd rather have a farm than anything else. Wouldn't any hobbiest? I've visited quite a few and every one seems to chuck that "location, location, location" motto right out the door. It doesn't seem like much can be done about it though, farms need room and theres room in the country. I'm afraid a super high turnover store would be like running a petco. While I am fully aware of the insane amount of work a maintenance based LFS is, this is probably my choice.

One of my coworkers was just at World Wide last week and wont shut up about it!!! I want to go soooo bad. Top Shelf Aquariums so far is my favorite idea yet! I'm 5'1" and it would also be a pretty funny joke seeing as I can never REACH anything on the top shelf! Did you seriously just pull those out of thin air? I feel pretty dumb now...heh

When you name the store, think how you're going to be in Google search and phone book, obsolete as phonebooks are becoming. If somebody types in 'fish' or 'saltwater tank', they need to see you top of the list.
Dunno if I'm dated in my info, but search when I set up a site has a function called 'meta', and if you fill that 'meta' with things like 'fish, saltwater, marine, fish tank, aquarium, aquarium lighting...' you'll find search finding you more often.
If you don't know how to manage your own website, find out. Being able to update your stock list, telling people yes, you have a purple firefish, is important: letting it get out of date means unhappy customers who show up looking for what sold a month ago, and if you can't update it yourself, that can be a problem. Maintain a facebook page for your business. There are wizzywig web editors that let you design a basic page pretty easily, and likewise you can use something like WOrd Press, which is much easier to update, as a seamless part of your web presence. Make it interactive (allow comments, either moderated or not) and you can 'talk' back and forth with your customers.

Thanks Sk8r! What you're talking about is what I'm currently immersed in learning more about. Its called SEO, or search engine optimization. =) I am very website savvy and am super excited to get rolling on it.

Here's a suggestion. Offer up to 30 gallons of RO for free or at least free with any purchase. Few Lfs do this and would give you a competitive edge. A lot of people still buy Ro. This will get people in the door. When I used to buy Ro it would cost me 200-300 every time because I couldn't resist buying something else. Put the outlet for your Ro at the back of the store so they have to walk through the whole store to get to it. This will get people to buy salt and food from you rather than online because they will be there anyways to get the free Ro that they think they are getting a great deal on. The cost of filters is worth the extra traffic imo.

Another bit I forgot to mention. Try to get your shipments in when your customers have time to visit your shop. For example I only have time to go to my Lfs on the weekend and I used to shop at a place that gets everything on Tuesday so when I got there on Saturday they were sold out. I switched to a place that gets there shipments on Friday and now I get first pick Saturday morning. You could also just maintain a large stock of everything but that can be expensive and risky.

Thats a great idea for a door buster promotion! One thing I really like is something I've seen another LFS do and that is buying "punch" cards for RO and premixed saltwater. Hypothetically, say RO water is normally a dollar per gallon. The store sells punch cards worth 100g of water for $75, now making RO only 75 cents a gallon. On the card there is a 25% of livestock coupon as well which can be used one time and will be punched out when used. I love those cards! People can walk into the store, grab the water they need, get the card punched, and never even pull out their wallet.

As far as shipments goes, I was planning on closing on Mondays and receiving shipments then. Both stores I've worked at do that it makes all the difference when trying to deal with mass amounts of animals at one time. Acclimation is already really stressful, and having customers in there pulling off lids to see whats in the drip buckets first and little kids running around during that time just makes it worse on the animals. They mean no harm, I know, but I've seen one too many wrasses hop out of a bucket because someone was screwing around with it that shouldn't have been. I will do everything in my power to only acclimate when we're closed to avoid this problem, and based on average customer traffic through stores Mondays is normally the day to do it.

2. Trading livestock with locals is a great way to build up a core of loyal hobbyist customers. But it also has tax implications. If you are purchasing/trading livestock from hobbyists that is technically taxable income to them and a business expense for you. Which should be reported on both party's tax returns. You may have to setup each hobbyist as a vendor and file a W9 for each one and report the money you pay them on a 1099.

Now most small stores don't do this and slide by under the table but it is illegal and it could cost you your business if you do get caught.

(P.S. This is a big reason why Petco and Petsmart don't take trade in's by the way)

Wow, I had no idea! Jeeze...doing W9s for everyone would be a friggin nightmare. If anyone actually knows a store that does this, I'd love to talk to the owner if he/she would share firsthand insight on this. Please PM me their email address if you do!

I owned an LFS for years and then worked in wholesale and importing for while, so here's my 2 cents:

First is location location location. Not which part of the city you're in, but which city you're in. There are lots of great LFS here in Los Angeles, and they all make money because we have a high hobbyist density. I knew a shop in Ohio that had great corals but closed due to not having enough hobbyists nearby. Hobbyists will seek you out, no one goes to stores because they drove past them in high-rent high-visibility areas, they find them on Google. My shop was in an industrial area and never had problems making money, the cheap rent and power helped too.

Now that you're physically living in a city that has a high hobbyist density, the second concern is money. Just triple whatever amount of money you think your first year will cost and you'll be halfway there. Putting together a store from scratch is extremely expensive, and I wouldn't recommend dry goods since Amazon will always have you beat. I couldn't more strongly recommend starting in your garage or home and then building up slowly from there. It will help you get all of the mistakes out of the way as learn how to put a system together as well as build a brand and a customer base, and if you can't make your garage work you definitely can't make a store work. Finally, it will also help you build what you really need, which is

Connections connections connections. Can you get good corals? More importantly, can you get nicer stuff than your competitors and be able to sell it for less money? Those connections don't fall from the sky when you open up a shop, quite the opposite you need to have them in your pocket before you open the doors. Wholesale reps work on commission, and every one of them has a stack of customers who tell them "let me know when you have a bunch of cherry pieces and I'll order." If you order consistently they'll bend over backwards for you, but if you're one of those sporadic "send me the nicest stuff" people then it's a waste of time and money to sell to you. The nicest pieces are going to someone who orders on a weekly basis because it makes the shop more money and therefore makes the rep more money. Shops that ordered from me every week made bank, I even went into work on Sundays for them if they needed corals on a Monday.

My advice is not to do it. I sold my shop because I got burned out. It's a ton of work, plus you'll see the worst in humanity and it will eat away at you over time. That guy who left bad feedback even though you did everything he wanted is called a good day. Try eating the 40th fraudulent chargeback someone filed with their credit card company just to get $300 of free corals only to see them sell frags online a week later, or try to sleep after some anonymous person sends you an email that they're going to pour bleach into your tanks.

Thank you for the first hand experience. I'm sorry you eventually burned out. Looking back on it I'd think that would be heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to you. I know well enough already that people suck. I hope your shop sold for a pretty penny at least! One of the biggest hiccups I'm running into with the garage thing is getting livestock in the first place. Wholesalers nowadays not only want your EIN, but also your address so they can friggin google satellite your store to make sure you are actually a commercial building with a parking lot instead of a house! I'm slowly finding ways around this, but good God it shouldn't be this hard to give someone my money.

I did a lot of the ordering for one of my stores so I had some decent relationships and experiences with wholesalers. I even had one personal cell phone numbers. lol I totally get what you're saying about the quantity of orders, which is another issue with the garage shop. Filling a garage with coral is a lot easier to do than a store theoretically, but in reality its not because the wholesalers send you a bunch of crap. The way its looking is that when I set up at home I'll just be growing out my own personal pieces and selling those. There wont be much profit in that because it'll take sooooooo long, but I don't want tanks full of brown bombers that I'd get from wholesalers until I could order in higher quantities. Sigh.

And as far as not doing it all...well someone has to! Our hobby would die without those little ma and pa stores. I know I didn't fall in love with saltwater walking into petco. ;)

this is true in any retail business, and if it wasn't a "ton of work" everyone would do it; nothing risked nothing gained. if you want hard work, try owning a restaurant! all that said, most small business fail in the first 3 years, over 90%.

Well on day number 1096 I'll throw a big party! =)

Fretfreak13
06/25/2015, 10:47 PM
WOW! I actually had to cut this reply in half.

I was looking for a skimmer for a new nano setup, based off ideas I found here. My LFS guy went out of his way to let me look at a few and I settled on one not in my list. It was a little higher than my ideal price point - it took a minute and I could tell he was done with his talk because it hit that awkward silence "Okay what do you want to do now" point. Out of respect I took the hint, pulled the trigger, and was actually very surprised with the quality of product when I got home. It cost me an extra 30 bucks over Marine Depot, but eh. It was worth it for all the help and extras over the last year.

That said, the dude has nearly no life outside the store.

Eh, I already don't have a life outside of work. I'll be trading a lack of a life for another form of the same.

I applaud you on buying his skimmer. Thank you for doing that!!! If any readers have actually gotten this far into my insanely long post, please PLEASE take this part and cling to it for dear life. I can not stress enough how irritating it is as a sales person spending an hour of your time talking to someone, explaining everything perfectly, only to have them write down the names of the products you were showing them, smile, wave and walk out the door to go purchase it online. The owner of that store had paid that sales person not only to learn insane amounts of information, be able to regurgitate it in a way that you could understand, and to actually share that information with you. Not only did that store just lose out on the time that could be spent on a customer that actually would have purchased something, they lost money on paying that employee to sit there and talk to you to no avail, AND on the actual product itself. THIS is what puts stores out of business. I've never had more "Scrubs murder moments" than the many of times this has happened to me.

Plus, if you have any questions about that piece of equipment you bought online, good luck contacting the place you bought it from for help. After that burn you know your LFS isn't offering their expertise to you anymore.

I have zero experience in retail when in comes to a LFS, but as a consumer I know what was important to me.

I forget who said it but a strong presence on the internet is extremely important. When I lived in different cities I googled every LFS by just typing in simply "saltwater aquarium store." I know my generation 20-30 something's google everything. Also I don't know if someone else mentioned but craigslist also. I google aquarium under craigslist and I found a LFS that didn't initially come up in Google.

I don't know about anyone else but I know I'd rather see the livestock in person than ordering off the Internet any day, even if it costs me a few bucks more. Also my LFS will order any equipment you need for the price on the net and you don't pay shipping. So I like that because it may take another day or two but to have them order it for you and either steer you away from certain equipment before you buy it because it's junk means a lot to me. I mentioned this to my LFS but they never implemented it was to give out general care sheet with eachother livestock purchase. I think a lot of people would appreciate a general care sheet for their purchase.
Thank you for your input! In this thread your side of things are just as important as the behind the scenes stuff.

As far as the care sheets go, I can see where that would be great! However, I can also see where that could be costly to print out. Since I'm starting working on the website way before opening the store I'll be working on care sheets to put on it instead. It'll be easier I think to direct people to the website than have the space used to keep the papers around, and the money to print them out. =)

The number is, I suspect higher for LFS. I live in a large metropolitan area and 9 out of 10 new LFS here fold within two years (when they run out of credit card credit).

My advice is not to do it.

I pretty much already answered this through Organisim's post but didn't want you to think I didn't see it. Thanks for the input! I probably wont take this particular line of advise, but one thing I'd really like to do is resurrect this thread ten years from now if its possible. If everything goes as planned I will have had the store opened for five years by then. OR the business would have failed, and I could post about that too. =)

tkeracer619
06/26/2015, 01:06 PM
The best way to make a small fortune with a LFS is to start with a big fortune.

Start as pure maintenance if you are going to go through with it. Until you are successful with that and have good clients don't even consider opening a brick and mortar. Operate out of your basement.

Also, have a great insurance plan.

Wryknow
06/26/2015, 01:18 PM
A couple of thoughts on the business end of things:

Cash flow is critical. I would never consider paying off low interest student loans early. Leverage the loan and invest in something with higher yields. Keeping cash on hand to pay bills and the inevitable emergencies is absolutely critical. Lots of businesses that "make money" have to close because they can't generate enough positive cash flow.

Ask yourself "what makes this business distinct" i.e. what do you offer your customers that your competitors don't? As has already been pointed out, you're going to have a hard time competing with online stores and local big box stores on the things they sell. You need to target a portion of the market that those competitors don't serve where you can make a reasonable margin. Custom installations, maintenance contracts, environmentally sustainable, locally farmed frags, (perhaps pre-quarantined disease free fish?,) these are all areas where LFS can compete successfully. The other thing that LFS typically offer is advice, but this can be challenging to monetize. (How will you avoid show rooming?)
There's always a segment of the market that is willing to pay a premium for premium services. How can you win that business?

Sk8r
06/26/2015, 03:41 PM
A relatively 'safe' start might be as on-line, maybe with a 'membership only' sort of clientele---you don't need showroom stuff, you maintain utilitarian tanks, you deal mostly by mailorder and shipping (with skill and attention) and you allow 'membership' purchases, if they sign up online and pay something for the privilege of showing up, picking their own stock, and also understanding they're in the back-stairs of a shipping business, where you control who comes and goes, and deal mostly with online customers, with some that are the more serious shoppers. Sales staff is at a minimum, shipping takes priority, and you don't have to put up with the people who buy a clownfish and have no clue it's a marine species, not freshwater.

snorvich
06/26/2015, 05:52 PM
A relatively 'safe' start might be as on-line, maybe with a 'membership only' sort of clientele---you don't need showroom stuff, you maintain utilitarian tanks, you deal mostly by mailorder and shipping (with skill and attention) and you allow 'membership' purchases, if they sign up online and pay something for the privilege of showing up, picking their own stock, and also understanding they're in the back-stairs of a shipping business, where you control who comes and goes, and deal mostly with online customers, with some that are the more serious shoppers. Sales staff is at a minimum, shipping takes priority, and you don't have to put up with the people who buy a clownfish and have no clue it's a marine species, not freshwater.

This is an excellent idea. Still some risk, but order of magnitude less.

joshky
06/28/2015, 06:58 AM
I had a psychic connection with you and your store name will be:

"Nice Wrasse Corals"

When you decide to use this name I will sell you the domain for a premium. ;) I kid haha.

I wish you the best of luck with your endeavor, hopefully you will beat statistics and live your dream.

Halo_003
06/28/2015, 11:31 AM
I still stick to The Coral Co. being a good name, but check with USPTO to see if any of your possible names are already trademarked. :)

I do like the idea of doing it online, really you don't 100% need a retail storefront, but this does add shipping complications, DOA policies, insurance, dealing with leaking boxes or bags, etc. However, it would cost a lot less to start up.

Arc Katana
06/29/2015, 08:38 AM
[QUOTE=joshky;23838055]I had a psychic connection with you and your store name will be:

"Nice Wrasse Corals"

When you decide to use this name I will sell you the domain for a premium. ;) I kid haha.
/QUOTE]


I don't think I'll be back in business with corals or fish anytime soon.

Brett

sde1500
06/29/2015, 08:56 AM
On the subject of frag swaps, maybe try hosting some? Once you get in contact with the locals and they know about your store, having your store host a frag swap would be a great way to bring people in the door.

Reeferz412
06/29/2015, 09:14 AM
I owned an LFS for years and then worked in wholesale and importing for while, so here's my 2 cents:

First is location location location. Not which part of the city you're in, but which city you're in. There are lots of great LFS here in Los Angeles, and they all make money because we have a high hobbyist density. I knew a shop in Ohio that had great corals but closed due to not having enough hobbyists nearby. Hobbyists will seek you out, no one goes to stores because they drove past them in high-rent high-visibility areas, they find them on Google. My shop was in an industrial area and never had problems making money, the cheap rent and power helped too.

Now that you're physically living in a city that has a high hobbyist density, the second concern is money. Just triple whatever amount of money you think your first year will cost and you'll be halfway there. Putting together a store from scratch is extremely expensive, and I wouldn't recommend dry goods since Amazon will always have you beat. I couldn't more strongly recommend starting in your garage or home and then building up slowly from there. It will help you get all of the mistakes out of the way as learn how to put a system together as well as build a brand and a customer base, and if you can't make your garage work you definitely can't make a store work. Finally, it will also help you build what you really need, which is

Connections connections connections. Can you get good corals? More importantly, can you get nicer stuff than your competitors and be able to sell it for less money? Those connections don't fall from the sky when you open up a shop, quite the opposite you need to have them in your pocket before you open the doors. Wholesale reps work on commission, and every one of them has a stack of customers who tell them "let me know when you have a bunch of cherry pieces and I'll order." If you order consistently they'll bend over backwards for you, but if you're one of those sporadic "send me the nicest stuff" people then it's a waste of time and money to sell to you. The nicest pieces are going to someone who orders on a weekly basis because it makes the shop more money and therefore makes the rep more money. Shops that ordered from me every week made bank, I even went into work on Sundays for them if they needed corals on a Monday.

My advice is not to do it. I sold my shop because I got burned out. It's a ton of work, plus you'll see the worst in humanity and it will eat away at you over time. That guy who left bad feedback even though you did everything he wanted is called a good day. Try eating the 40th fraudulent chargeback someone filed with their credit card company just to get $300 of free corals only to see them sell frags online a week later, or try to sleep after some anonymous person sends you an email that they're going to pour bleach into your tanks.

As a wholesale rep to this hobby/passion... you hit the nail on the head haha :lol2:

Arc Katana
06/29/2015, 09:24 AM
I owned an LFS for years and then worked in wholesale and importing for while, so here's my 2 cents:

First is location location location. Not which part of the city you're in, but which city you're in. There are lots of great LFS here in Los Angeles, and they all make money because we have a high hobbyist density. I knew a shop in Ohio that had great corals but closed due to not having enough hobbyists nearby. Hobbyists will seek you out, no one goes to stores because they drove past them in high-rent high-visibility areas, they find them on Google. My shop was in an industrial area and never had problems making money, the cheap rent and power helped too.

Now that you're physically living in a city that has a high hobbyist density, the second concern is money. Just triple whatever amount of money you think your first year will cost and you'll be halfway there. Putting together a store from scratch is extremely expensive, and I wouldn't recommend dry goods since Amazon will always have you beat. I couldn't more strongly recommend starting in your garage or home and then building up slowly from there. It will help you get all of the mistakes out of the way as learn how to put a system together as well as build a brand and a customer base, and if you can't make your garage work you definitely can't make a store work. Finally, it will also help you build what you really need, which is

Connections connections connections. Can you get good corals? More importantly, can you get nicer stuff than your competitors and be able to sell it for less money? Those connections don't fall from the sky when you open up a shop, quite the opposite you need to have them in your pocket before you open the doors. Wholesale reps work on commission, and every one of them has a stack of customers who tell them "let me know when you have a bunch of cherry pieces and I'll order." If you order consistently they'll bend over backwards for you, but if you're one of those sporadic "send me the nicest stuff" people then it's a waste of time and money to sell to you. The nicest pieces are going to someone who orders on a weekly basis because it makes the shop more money and therefore makes the rep more money. Shops that ordered from me every week made bank, I even went into work on Sundays for them if they needed corals on a Monday.

My advice is not to do it. I sold my shop because I got burned out. It's a ton of work, plus you'll see the worst in humanity and it will eat away at you over time. That guy who left bad feedback even though you did everything he wanted is called a good day. Try eating the 40th fraudulent chargeback someone filed with their credit card company just to get $300 of free corals only to see them sell frags online a week later, or try to sleep after some anonymous person sends you an email that they're going to pour bleach into your tanks.

I didn't have really any issues with chargebacks, but I totally lost my passion for the hobby. I'm just now getting it back after nearly a year and a half.

Your best bet (which will make you enjoy the hobby as well as your tanks at home): Stay small, don't expand. Get one frag tank and go to swaps/local clubs. Try to sell to other local fish stores. Once you "monetize" more than a hundred bucks or so a week, it is far to easy to think to expand, which kills your profit faster than you can imagine.

Also with selling online - you need TONS of volume to get good discounts on overnight shipping. I was getting 40% off standard rates, and my shipping costs were still more than my rent (1500) and power (500) per month.

Add in costs for styro and boxes (often 7-9$ a piece) a $100 of coral turns into 60$ of shipping costs. Add in heat/cold packs, tape and well you need the volume to survive.

I certainly don't want to discourage you, as there is money to be made. Just be prepared to work a second or third job to keep the business afloat for the first year or three.

Art13
07/02/2015, 07:53 AM
I don't know if it was mentioned or not, but a backup generator will be a lifesaver, even if just one use, you will save a lot of livestock. Recently had lost power for 4 days where i'm at and if i didn't have a backup generator, i would have lost my whole tank, and while only 90g probably would have cost me a grand to restock to where i'm at. generator costs $600. already a good investment. Of course you would need a larger one, but a full blow lfs is going to have quite a few grand in their tanks, 3 grand plus install will get you a generator with an auto transfer switch, and will more than pay for itself the first time power goes down.

Dejongi
07/13/2015, 07:55 PM
Start small. Here in MN we had a LFS that could fit probably 5 people. He had about 15 tanks for fish, a 4 ft coral tank, and a small display tank. Nice and simple, cheap to run. He grew the maintenance side of the business the most, but eventually sold the business. Turns out that he was making a lot more money on the side doing website stuff when customers were not in the store.

The new owner moved the store into a much larger location. He seemed to survive off the maintenance income. Eventually sold the store to another guy due to family health issues. The 3rd owner did alright, and tried to breed clownfish, run a store, do maintenance, and still have a social life on top of all that. His tanks were always dirty, couldn't raise more than a handful of clownfish, and I don't know enough about the service side to comment. He recently closed the retail store, due to landlord issues.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you open a store, start it as small as possible in a retail location. If you are able to scratch out a profit, put it back into the business and grow. Don't rely on the store to pay your bills, keep it as a "Hobby store" till you get things figured out and get some traction. Seriously explore shipping options too. Summer is slow for walk ins, but strong for online sales. Winter is strong for walk ins and very difficult in online sales. There is a balance.

BuzzPion
07/14/2015, 08:25 AM
I don't care what it's called (although Strictly Marine is my vote). I don't care where the store is located or if the prices are 20% more than online. I don't care that you carry the entire Ecotech line. All I care about is good looking, healthy livestock. If I see one fish on display with obvious ich or brook, if I see aiptasia, bubble algae on frag plugs, dead fish, dead corals, gaping clams, etc. I will not buy from you. Period. Frankly, I don't even care if you are a rude to me if you have primo livestock kept in clean tanks. I'll gladly give you my thousands of dollars in business.

Anything else I don't care about. None of the stores where I live pass. They all suck. Most are an encyclopedia of pests, parasites, and disease.

ichthyogeek
07/14/2015, 01:02 PM
Geez...Buzz, you do realize that it's a whole different ballgame when it comes to quarantine for shops, right? Even the best store is going to have problems every once in a while. While tanks with fish covered in ich, aiptasia, or bubble algae should be a warning sign, a few frags that have a piece of bubble algae or so, or a single fish with ich/brook, shouldn't be too big of a problem. The people who work at the LFS don't have the time to constantly monitor every tank for a small problem. However, if you tell the shop owner about a problem, and they don't do anything, that's a major no deal. My LFS has aiptasia in its frag tanks (like...2), and has an aiptasia filefish on hand and is considering peppermint shrimp to help combat its 'problem'. By your standards, it would probably fail as it has a few frags that have a single bubble on them, or a tiny aiptasia anemone on them.

BuzzPion
07/14/2015, 01:55 PM
Geez...Buzz, you do realize that it's a whole different ballgame when it comes to quarantine for shops, right? Even the best store is going to have problems every once in a while. While tanks with fish covered in ich, aiptasia, or bubble algae should be a warning sign, a few frags that have a piece of bubble algae or so, or a single fish with ich/brook, shouldn't be too big of a problem. The people who work at the LFS don't have the time to constantly monitor every tank for a small problem. However, if you tell the shop owner about a problem, and they don't do anything, that's a major no deal. My LFS has aiptasia in its frag tanks (like...2), and has an aiptasia filefish on hand and is considering peppermint shrimp to help combat its 'problem'. By your standards, it would probably fail as it has a few frags that have a single bubble on them, or a tiny aiptasia anemone on them.

I don't agree at all. Fish with visible ich or brook is not a small problem. Most LFS tanks are plumbed together so that one fish with brook or ich has infected them all. Don't have the time? Huh? What else are they suppose to be doing? Why should I have to tell them that a fish is dead or is so infested with ich it has spots on it's eyes? Come now. Most issues can easily be spotted with a daily 10 minute walkthrough. Why would they leave aiptasia and bubble algae on any frag or in any tank? All of the LFS I have been to have not been properly maintained in months. I would not buy any livestock from any of them.

To be fair, most LFS are set up in dumb ways. There really should not be sand and live rock in every tank. If I were setting up a LFS, one or two show tanks would be set up as full reefs. Maybe one SPS another LPS. Everything else would be bare except for clay pots and PVC hideouts. Just like commercial suppliers. Oh, and my frag tanks would not have fish in them-ever.

ichthyogeek
07/15/2015, 01:22 AM
I don't agree at all. Fish with visible ich or brook is not a small problem. Most LFS tanks are plumbed together so that one fish with brook or ich has infected them all. Don't have the time? Huh? What else are they suppose to be doing? Why should I have to tell them that a fish is dead or is so infested with ich it has spots on it's eyes? Come now. Most issues can easily be spotted with a daily 10 minute walkthrough. Why would they leave aiptasia and bubble algae on any frag or in any tank? All of the LFS I have been to have not been properly maintained in months. I would not buy any livestock from any of them.

To be fair, most LFS are set up in dumb ways. There really should not be sand and live rock in every tank. If I were setting up a LFS, one or two show tanks would be set up as full reefs. Maybe one SPS another LPS. Everything else would be bare except for clay pots and PVC hideouts. Just like commercial suppliers. Oh, and my frag tanks would not have fish in them-ever.

What you're describing are heavy ich infestations. Those need to be taken care of immediately. But if the fish have a cyst here or there? Who's going to notice that on their daily walkthrough? Maybe the fish-conscious worker.

As for the time thingy, think about it. You have to restock the shelves. You have to catch fish for customers. You have to educate customers about the requirements of absolutely everything. In OP's case, you have to go out and maintain customers' tanks. Maybe a cursory glance before opening and after closing, but still. Maybe a fish doesn't want to be seen, and maybe you have way too many fish tanks. Even the best people can get caught off balance one day. The least that you could do is point out the offending fish so that the person working the store can try to remedy the problem.

Why leave aiptasia/bubble algae? Maybe the frag was recently created, and the aiptasia/bubble algae popped up from "nowhere" as they often do. You can't remove the pest without stressing the frag, and with any animal, stressing it after it's been wounded is NOT a good idea.

As for the fish/decoration idea you have, exactly who are you appealing to? Knowing hobbyists who know what they're dealing with would love your simplistic setup. Newbies who come in will be horrified by the severe utilitarianism of it. They want to know what the fish will look like with sand and rock in the tank, not a chunk of carved PVC. You can't honestly expect to have one of everything in each of the show tanks, can you? Additionally, fish that don't feed at first, will often be able to find "munchies" on live rock to sustain them until they start eating prepared food. Live rock is (in my opinion) also more comforting to the fish; most fish come from a region where rock is common, and already associate live rock with safety.

Frag tanks: I have to respectfully disagree with you. Fish are excellent helpers in a frag tank. Halichoeres wrasse will peck off red bugs and problematic isopods and amphipods. Tangs will munch off long and short algae. Certain rabbitfish will devour bubble algae. Filefish and Copperband butterflies can be trained to eat aiptasia. Damsels can provide more water movement as well as waste for the corals to utilize as food.

For time and pest problems: the OP has mentioned she will hire students, who may or may not be educated when it comes to fish. A normal (non-fish loving) student isn't going to be as completely thorough as a fishkeeper. Most likely, they aren't going to care that a fish has just died. Probably, they aren't going to care about selling aiptasia anemones. They might not even care about selling bubble algae.

sixpackgarage
07/15/2015, 04:01 AM
I've owned a business (an automotive speed shop). There are literally hundreds of things I could tell you about owning a business, but these two will do:

1.) turning a hobby into a business will ruin the hobby for you. Just trust me on that.
2.) own your business. Don't let your business own you. This you'll understand after a couple of years in.

BuzzPion
07/15/2015, 08:21 AM
What you're describing are heavy ich infestations. Those need to be taken care of immediately. But if the fish have a cyst here or there? Who's going to notice that on their daily walkthrough? Maybe the fish-conscious worker.

Well, to me being a little bit infested with ich is like being sorta pregnant. They spend hours in the store and are in front of and around the tanks all day. If I am in the store for 5 minutes and I notice a flashing yellow tang, why don't they? What about the dead fish stuck to the intake that is now bleached white and fuzzy? That doesn't happen overnight. The workers have walked by that same tanke dozens of times and have missed it?

As for the time thingy, think about it. You have to restock the shelves. You have to catch fish for customers. You have to educate customers about the requirements of absolutely everything. In OP's case, you have to go out and maintain customers' tanks. Maybe a cursory glance before opening and after closing, but still. Maybe a fish doesn't want to be seen, and maybe you have way too many fish tanks. Even the best people can get caught off balance one day. The least that you could do is point out the offending fish so that the person working the store can try to remedy the problem.

Yeah, owning a business is damn hard work. A cursory glance at the most important thing they have? I should not have to point out dead fish that have been dead for days nor fish so badly diseased they are near dead.

Why leave aiptasia/bubble algae? Maybe the frag was recently created, and the aiptasia/bubble algae popped up from "nowhere" as they often do. You can't remove the pest without stressing the frag, and with any animal, stressing it after it's been wounded is NOT a good idea.

I disagree here. Removing a bubble or two from a frag plug should not stress even a newly cut frag. If it did, I would not want that frag anyway.

As for the fish/decoration idea you have, exactly who are you appealing to? Knowing hobbyists who know what they're dealing with would love your simplistic setup. Newbies who come in will be horrified by the severe utilitarianism of it. They want to know what the fish will look like with sand and rock in the tank, not a chunk of carved PVC. You can't honestly expect to have one of everything in each of the show tanks, can you? Additionally, fish that don't feed at first, will often be able to find "munchies" on live rock to sustain them until they start eating prepared food. Live rock is (in my opinion) also more comforting to the fish; most fish come from a region where rock is common, and already associate live rock with safety.

As I said in my other post, set up a couple show tanks with live rock, sand, the whole shebang. You don't have to have one of everything! Keeping healthy livestock in clean holding tanks is not going to scare off potential customers. Do you think Divers Den holds fish with sandy bottoms and live rock in thanks? LOL! They hold all sorts of fish for months.

Frag tanks: I have to respectfully disagree with you. Fish are excellent helpers in a frag tank. Halichoeres wrasse will peck off red bugs and problematic isopods and amphipods. Tangs will munch off long and short algae. Certain rabbitfish will devour bubble algae. Filefish and Copperband butterflies can be trained to eat aiptasia. Damsels can provide more water movement as well as waste for the corals to utilize as food.

If they have all those sorts of pests they are doing it wrong and I would not buy anything out of the tanks that were so infested. It is not impossible to keep pest free corals. Hard to do? Sure, but not impossible.

For time and pest problems: the OP has mentioned she will hire students, who may or may not be educated when it comes to fish. A normal (non-fish loving) student isn't going to be as completely thorough as a fishkeeper. Most likely, they aren't going to care that a fish has just died. Probably, they aren't going to care about selling aiptasia anemones. They might not even care about selling bubble algae.


The fact remains I have thousands of dollars in expendable income that I could be spending at the LFS on livestock and I don't. Problem is, they are poorly run. There are a few shops aroound, but none come close to properly keeping livestock. Why should I shop there? The shops near me that have been in business a while also have maintenance contracts that I am sure keeps the storefront from closing. There is a great business plan for you--work one business to keep the other from going under. I'd bet if someone would do as I suggest, they would not need to float the business with maintenance jobs on the side.

How refreshing would it be to walk into a totally clean LFS where all the livestock on display were healthy and all the tanks were clean. I think I would fall right over. Unless of course it was the first day of the grand opening.

joshky
07/15/2015, 10:07 AM
BuzzPion you have an unrealistic expectation of what you should be getting from a LFS. Do you not buy anything anywhere, because no one lives up to your standards? I sure hope you don't buy online without inspecting their facility first.... Even places like Divers Den do not have what you're asking, the fact remains that fully QTing livestock (fish AND corals) is very expensive and time consuming.

I think you have failed to understand that these are practices we hobbyists have to do ourselves, it's just part of it. No one will do it for us.

sde1500
07/15/2015, 11:29 AM
yea sounds like he must not have a tank, because no one can live up to his expectations.

BuzzPion
07/15/2015, 01:02 PM
Unrealistic to ask for healthy livestock that are being kept in clean tanks? That's just dumb. Isn't that what they are in business for? The livestock they carry should be first priority when someone owns a LFS. Period. If they can't or won't maintain the systems, then they should not be in business--and I posit most would not be but for some other business income stream that supports them.

Of course, there are many more yellow tangs, clownfish, corals, inverts to be had. They will just keep ordering more and more and continue to plunk them into the diseased system they can't possibly be bothered to maintain.

I don't eat in filthy restaurants and I don't buy anything from filthy fish shops.

Oh, and I do have tanks (in my dedicated 24'X48' fish room), several in fact. I tend to order from the source (the actual diver that collects the livestock or the facility that breeds/cultures them).

Why do people settle for (and make excuses for) mediocrity?

DopeCantWin
07/15/2015, 03:21 PM
Why do people settle for (and make excuses for) mediocrity?

Honestly, it's probably because almost nobody has the time or space for a 24'x48' dedicated fish room.

BuzzPion
07/15/2015, 03:24 PM
Honestly, it's probably because almost nobody has the time or space for a 24'x48' dedicated fish room.

Huh? What does that have to do with anything?

joshky
07/15/2015, 06:33 PM
Sorry but your standards of livestock are unrealistic, for anyone to attempt to do what you suggest would drive prices too high for the general populous and it would end up going out of business most likely. It is good practice to QT everything you get, no matter the source, and not to rely on others to do what you should be doing.

ichthyogeek
07/16/2015, 03:05 AM
I'm just going to apologize to OP right now for this happening in her thread. OP, I'm sorry for this happening in your thread. I hope that you can learn something from it. Mmkay; now....(*rubs hands and cracks knuckles*) (also, moderators, please don't lock this thread, I'm doing my best to remain as polite as possible)


1)Well, to me being a little bit infested with ich is like being sorta pregnant. They spend hours in the store and are in front of and around the tanks all day. If I am in the store for 5 minutes and I notice a flashing yellow tang, why don't they? What about the dead fish stuck to the intake that is now bleached white and fuzzy? That doesn't happen overnight. The workers have walked by that same tanke dozens of times and have missed it?

2)Yeah, owning a business is damn hard work. A cursory glance at the most important thing they have? I should not have to point out dead fish that have been dead for days nor fish so badly diseased they are near dead.

3)I disagree here. Removing a bubble or two from a frag plug should not stress even a newly cut frag. If it did, I would not want that frag anyway.

4)As I said in my other post, set up a couple show tanks with live rock, sand, the whole shebang. You don't have to have one of everything! Keeping healthy livestock in clean holding tanks is not going to scare off potential customers. Do you think Divers Den holds fish with sandy bottoms and live rock in thanks? LOL! They hold all sorts of fish for months.

5)If they have all those sorts of pests they are doing it wrong and I would not buy anything out of the tanks that were so infested. It is not impossible to keep pest free corals. Hard to do? Sure, but not impossible.

6)The fact remains I have thousands of dollars in expendable income that I could be spending at the LFS on livestock and I don't. Problem is, they are poorly run. There are a few shops aroound, but none come close to properly keeping livestock. Why should I shop there? The shops near me that have been in business a while also have maintenance contracts that I am sure keeps the storefront from closing. There is a great business plan for you--work one business to keep the other from going under. I'd bet if someone would do as I suggest, they would not need to float the business with maintenance jobs on the side.

How refreshing would it be to walk into a totally clean LFS where all the livestock on display were healthy and all the tanks were clean. I think I would fall right over. Unless of course it was the first day of the grand opening.

7)Unrealistic to ask for healthy livestock that are being kept in clean tanks? That's just dumb. Isn't that what they are in business for? The livestock they carry should be first priority when someone owns a LFS. Period. If they can't or won't maintain the systems, then they should not be in business--and I posit most would not be but for some other business income stream that supports them.

Of course, there are many more yellow tangs, clownfish, corals, inverts to be had. They will just keep ordering more and more and continue to plunk them into the diseased system they can't possibly be bothered to maintain.

8)I don't eat in filthy restaurants and I don't buy anything from filthy fish shops.

9)Oh, and I do have tanks (in my dedicated 24'X48' fish room), several in fact. I tend to order from the source (the actual diver that collects the livestock or the facility that breeds/cultures them).

10)Why do people settle for (and make excuses for) mediocrity?

Starting from point 1...
1) I fail to see how having a little bit of ich is akin to being pregnant. Ich is a parasite. A fetus is not. You have also failed to acknowledge the fact that OP has explicitly stated that at least some of her workers will be high school/college age. Workers who most likely won't care as much about the fish as hobbyists do (something I've already stated). Those workers might be around the fish all day, but they're attention isn't always going to be on all the fish. Reference my previous post on why: they have a ton of other stuff to do.

2) I'll agree that this is wrong. Fish shouldn't be heavily covered in ich, nor be fuzzy fish-looking carcasses on the filter. But a single dead fish here or there? Or a single fish with ich? Worse things have happened. However, the most important asset that OP has stated, is her maintenance job, not the selling of fish. In fact, once a tank is fully stocked, what's going to be the biggest cost? Supplies. Salt. Fish food. Replacement gear. Maybe another tank.

3)Umm...hello, stress=bad. Especially if the animal is already wounded or sick. Both of which are likely after you've made a new frag. You've physically hurt the animal by cutting it, which opens it to infection. Your fingers, when compared to a fish' jaws, are far more clumsy and a hassle. Fish can eat off that algae that threatens the frag, but when you try to brush it off, you end up hurting it. Oh, and while you may not like the frag, another person may have their heart set on it.

4)And like I said in my post, people want to know what their fish will look like in their tank. That means live rock and sand most of the time. They want to know if the fish will hide in their tank (possum wrasse, swissguard basslet, assessors), or if it will perch on the decor (blennies, gobies, hawkfish); if they'll eat it (butterflyfish, tangs, angelfish), or if they'll completely ignore it except as a sleeping place (damselfish, lionfish, anthias). It really sucks when you buy an awesomely shaped Tanaka's possum wrasse, only to find it hiding in the nooks and crannies of your tank the next day, rarely coming out. Oh, and before you say it, people oftentimes don't do as much research as needed before buying.

5) Yeah, keeping corals pest free is hard. It's more hard when you're getting shipments in sometimes 4x a month, and you don't have enough space to properly quarantine your best selling frags. That's why my LFS has fish in the frag tanks, to catch what they don't see at first.

6) Can't type anything without seeming like a complete troll that deserves to be banned.

7) Unrealistic? Yeah. See point 2.You're describing a 100% antiseptic system that just isn't feasible in a business where animals are going in and out all the time. Even with 100% meticulousness, you're going to let in a spore of something sooner or later.

8) I sincerely hope that you're talking about the quality of the fish tanks, and not of the store itself. While cleanliness is nice, what'll you do if you find a store that sells your mythical clean fish, and has sticky floors?

9)Not all of us can pay divers to collect fish for us. Not all of us can go straight to the fish breeder either. Not all of us have the connections for that kind of thing, nor the money either probably.

10)Because your version of mediocrity is everybody else's version of near perfection?


Oh, and if you hate your LFS' so much, then why don't you do something about it, and start your own? You obviously have the connections and the money, and the time to do so, since you have "$1000's of expendable income", can contact divers to get you fish, and take care of a "24' X 48' dedicated fish room'.

Even public aquaria have problems with algae, aiptasia, and other pests as well. So if the big public aquaria, which you would expect to be able to handle such a problem, can't, why would you expect a smaller LFS to do so?

Dkuhlmann
07/16/2015, 02:48 PM
i own and have owned several restaurants in the last 15 years. the only advice i give to people starting their own business is: never sign a personal guarantee!!!!

It's amazing how many people won't get this. Great advice! :thumbsup:

ericarenee
07/19/2015, 01:39 PM
It's amazing how many people won't get this. Great advice! :thumbsup:

YEPPERS..

This one piece of advice and a GREAT Corp lawyer Saved my *** when my Business partner decided to steal from us both... It was a IT/ Networking business. We were open 6 years and Turning a profit and all Start up money was Recovered.. I only worked there part time as i Work in Construction and Built high rise hotels..

I caught him opening extra credit lines to pay off his mortgage and buy a new car.... Not to mention was asking customers to pay cash and voiding there sales.. Stealing from himself he was...

He is NOW IN PRISON FOR CORP Fraud ..


so my Biggest piece of advise. DO IT ON YOUR OWN... and get a lawyer who guarantees his ability to keep your money separate from your business

thejuggernaut
07/23/2015, 11:13 PM
I would start with maintenance and work out of your house. I would only open a store when it is absolutely necessary. Like when all of your spare bed rooms and closets are full of supplies and fish tanks. As far as working with small vendors to get corals and fish, I think you only have to issue a 1099 if it is over $600 for the year. I would obviously check with a CPA though before spending a dime on the business. Incorporate so they can't take your house when someone falls in your building or even worse, the tank you sold them splits a seam and destroys their house. Figure out which parts of the business you enjoy and do those. The parts that you can't stand or aren't any good at, pay someone to do as soon as is possible. You will be able to focus on what you do best and won't get burned out. Trust me, people can always tell when a business owner is burned out and doesn't want to be there. If you have a clean store, good products (both dry goods and livestock), healthy displays, good staff, reasonable prices, and you and your staff have a positive demeanor, you should be successful. Don't set up in a town of 20k people obviously. This is a niche market and you need ALLOT of people in your area. I wouldn't be worried too much about market saturation, because your store is going to be better than any of those stores right?! If it isn't, or you don't have a vision of how to do that, then you need to rethink your business plan. Most importantly, ignore the naysayers!!!! I'm sure there were plenty of people who told the Ecotech guys you can't make money in this industry, or the BRS guys that online retail had been done already. Innovate and set yourself apart from the herd. Just remember, there is always room that the top!

MD Aquatic
07/27/2015, 09:10 AM
Just saw this post and its refreshing to hear from a prospective entrepreneur in social forum. Ive never owned an LFS but I have considered it. As a small business owner myself it took me a long time to really figure things out. If I can give any advice I will help... Here are five things I've found that have really helped my business excel. Although i am sure you can guess there is a lot more that goes into this.

1. I got into a business based around a hobby I loved and at the beginning I focused very hard on what I loved about it. However, you can't get narrow minded on this. You have to remember that in the end, its a business and you have to give the people what they want, not necessarily what you want to give them. If you are providing enough of what the consumer wants than you can slowly work in what you want to provide them. MAKING MONEY is the bottom line whether thats secondary to you or not, if you aren't making money than you can't afford to do what you want with the business.

2.Advertising, Advertising, Advertising. This is a huge expense for small business and most aren't willing to spend the coin to do it. In small markets it may be ok to go with a smaller advertisement budget but in larger markets you can't rely on word of mouth alone. In small business you have to be willing to eat the cost of advertising the first couple years and make sure to build it into a budget. It WILL pay off in the long run and if you've planned your budget properly than it won't hurt you at all. A strong website that looks like it was professionally put together makes a big difference and ads on popular radio stations are a strong producer.
3. Show the customer that you care. This is the biggest thing and the hardest thing you can do. You have to find a balance between making money and making sure the customer isn't wasting theirs. Some LFS or even bigger internet services provide care sheets or have people ready on the phone to spend time with you answering questions. This is a big draw but as a small business its much more difficult to accomplish than you might think. I have some ideas for this I would be willing to discuss in private because its not out of the realm of possibility I will use them myself someday.
4. Accounting. Strong accounting is vital in small business to avoid auditing or even fraud charges as somebody mentioned above If you are not willing to pay somebody you have to become proficient yourself. Good accounting is a real chore but in the end it will benefit you in ways that are hard to see right now up front. Its easier to track your numbers and make sure you are practicing good business from a fiscal standpoint.
5. POS. In a retail setting a very very good POS system pays for itself from the first sale. They take the guesswork out of selling, ordering, and keeping track of your business. For example, if a product is selling more than others you can see this very easily with the click of a mouse and vice versa. They help you control your income to debt ratios and frankly they make the whole business run in a more streamlined manner. Not to mention that customers appreciate this more when you are doing things quickly, printing out nice receipts, utilizing customer rewards etc. All that can be controlled through a good system like Quickbooks POS.

thelawnwrangler
01/11/2016, 01:38 PM
One of the original posters said tank service business usually floats the store front.

Do you find the need to have a store front to break into the maintenance business?

Why not start a maintenance business first and establish a healthy cash flow. Honestly, I see the LFS as a hobby not a business. I have a awesome LFS, and I ask very knowledgeable staff tons of questions, and learn a ton. Soon as I pay $30 bucks for something I can get for $25 on Amazon I get upset. Even though I plan on going in there and paying the premium bc of all of the service.

WaReefer458
01/12/2016, 06:41 AM
My advice is to seek out a failing LFS and buy them out or to find another LFS with an owner that wants out of the business.

Also, make yourself known in the community before opening a store.

Starting from scratch will be very tough and extremely costly in the short term.

That's exactly what my local guy did. Paid 30k for a business that was surely going down, put a bunch back into it retrofitting lighting and replacing all the fish only tanks and now he has great cash flow and a thriving business. Biggest part was explaining to all the local forums that it was under new ownership to get people to come in. He just bought it 2 years ago and in that amount of time it's a whole new store with only a handful of maintenance tanks he does. It can be done and I'd love to own my own store but honestly I couldn't handle all the death. It always killed me a little inside to walk in right when he opened and see a couple dead clown tangs or powder blues. Also about taking care of disease in the tanks, his fish system runs copper which kills parasites so they don't spread to other fish. With this system he said he only gets like 2-3% of a fish shipment that doesn't make it.

mdslackman
01/24/2016, 01:17 AM
Can't agree more with the advice that you limit personal liability.

kcinnick
01/26/2016, 03:11 AM
Start your corporation NOW. Decide what state you want to incorporate in, it doesn't matter if it is the state you have your business in, and get you incorporation papers, EIN, etc, etc.

This will help greatly with credit if you do need it.

I have had my own business for a little over two years. We do multi million dollar sales out of a 500 sf storefront... We are in a mixed industrial area/office complex area. People find us. I don't know jack about building a website, but I know posting to social media multiple times daily and to local forums we sponsor drives traffic big time. We have a 4.9 rating on Facebook (over 400 reviews) and a 4.8 on Google + with 25 reviews. The knock on the ratings is from one customer who got mad a supplier shorted us on a special order, it was COMPLETELY out of our hands. We offered her the moon and stars, gave her a full and prompt refund, and she still left us a 0 star review.

If I opened a LFS, I would partner with someone who is already running maintenance but didn't have the resources to open a store front. I know how to run a business, and you can make money on dry goods. I have seen wholesale prices for Ecotech, Neptune, Seachem, BRS entire line, Marine Depot's wholesale arm, and a few others as I set up my 315 display in my home. The margins are actually better than what I get in my industry.

I have the resources to open a store tomorrow. I won't do it without a maintenance contract log and at least 1 good employee to man the store. A fish store does not need to be open 7 days a week. I feel you could open it Wed-Sun and be fine, of course take appointments when appropriate.

I would have a similar set up to what I do now, small retail space, large storage space. I have two warehouses totaling 3500 sf and another office area of 650 sf and yet I keep my retail space small. It can be managed by one employee, keeps theft down, keeps that small store feel and customers can't see the stacks of inventory in the back. Having that one on display is a great psychological gotta buy it effect. i wouldn't have any expensive display tanks, I would maintain my system as I would maintain my own tank. I would have a QT system. I have seen WAY too many systems wiped out by Velvet, and it takes 2-3 days to wipe out an entire system. There are better solutions than copper... copper is the easy go to, but other medications are not as hard on the fish and kill more parasites. My biggest concern would be velvet, I don't know why it has become more common in the industry, but I have seen multiple stores basically shut down from selling fish due to Velvet outbreaks. Ich is easy, unless the fish get bacterial infections before they heal. Copper is effective, but I don't know of any store running a therapeutic level in there tanks, and there are tons of fish that are copper sensitive. Anyway, I have seen stores take both approaches, QT fish, and not. The live stock that made it to the floor from the QT stores was MUCH healthier than any store I have seen not QT fish.

Also, the current place I rent has water included in utilities, so I would look at opening another shop in the same building... Free water for an aquarium store, Hell yeah.

I personally didn't go into debt to open my store, and I had positive cash flow almost immediately. We were making money our first month, I opened in November, started suggesting my wife quit her job in December, and made her quit in January. We have had a staff of up to 5 plus my wife and I, but we are running great with a full time employee and a near full time employee, he could work full time, he just chooses to hit 32 for the week. My payroll is about the same as when I had 5 employees, but when I got good help I locked them up good with generous salaries.

I could go on for days. Good luck.

Kentech5
03/24/2016, 10:50 PM
As far as the care sheets go, I can see where that would be great! However, I can also see where that could be costly to print out. Since I'm starting working on the website way before opening the store I'll be working on care sheets to put on it instead. It'll be easier I think to direct people to the website than have the space used to keep the papers around, and the money to print them out.


If you go the website care sheet route I would put QR codes on the tanks that link to the care sheets on your site. The easier you make it for people the happier they are.

Sonny n Colleen
03/28/2016, 08:31 PM
I drive by three fish stores to go to one in Lilburn which is a two hours away. Simon's store is straightforward. It is 25' wide storefront in a strip mall He has his fish on display down one wall that is clean and well lit. He keeps his coral frags and inverts in the middle, also clean and well lit. He has a small display of emergency items, his reef tank and a tank of LR by the front door. His FOWLR tank and cash register is in the back of the store. That is it. He has been busy every time I have been in but he always has time to talk fish with the customers. As far as I know he doesn't advertise and he doesn't spend a lot of time on FB. I discovered him by word of mouth and every fish I bought from him did well. He does a few things and he does them well.

By the way, one of the fish stores I drive by was open 6 months before I realized it was a fish store. Their sign faces the wrong street and their name doesn't say "Hey, I am a fish store. Come on in!" They have some work ahead of them to be successful.

With that being said, I recommend two things.

First, find a niche in the market that sets you apart from the rest. Second, focus on a few things and do them very well.

Good luck on you new adventure.

Chibils
03/30/2016, 05:18 PM
I drive by three fish stores to go to one in Lilburn which is a two hours away. Simon's store is straightforward. It is 25' wide storefront in a strip mall He has his fish on display down one wall that is clean and well lit. He keeps his coral frags and inverts in the middle, also clean and well lit. He has a small display of emergency items, his reef tank and a tank of LR by the front door. His FOWLR tank and cash register is in the back of the store. That is it. He has been busy every time I have been in but he always has time to talk fish with the customers. As far as I know he doesn't advertise and he doesn't spend a lot of time on FB. I discovered him by word of mouth and every fish I bought from him did well. He does a few things and he does them well.

By the way, one of the fish stores I drive by was open 6 months before I realized it was a fish store. Their sign faces the wrong street and their name doesn't say "Hey, I am a fish store. Come on in!" They have some work ahead of them to be successful.

With that being said, I recommend two things.

First, find a niche in the market that sets you apart from the rest. Second, focus on a few things and do them very well.

Good luck on you new adventure.
When you said Lilburn I had to check your profile... I'm also in Georgia, near I-85/Lawrenceville. That store won't be far for me - would you mind passing along the name for me? Since SEA Atlanta closed I haven't felt like driving all the way to Marietta or Alpharetta to hit up a fish store.