William James Gifts Quotable

Business & Finance, Quotable Magazine

Opening A Storefront During A Pandemic – Lessons Learned

When we were growing up many of us were told to follow our dreams. However, few of us were told how to make those dreams happen or if they were even realistic. Growing up many kids want to be professional athletes, pop stars, doctors, or lawyers. Rarely are there conversations about what discipline it takes (plus a good set of genetics) to become a professional athlete or the amount of school and money needed to become a doctor or lawyer.

There certainly was not a conversation about how to follow your dreams of opening a storefront during a pandemic when we were younger. (There probably will be now!) Opening a storefront in any situation comes with its unique learning curve, add a global pandemic to that and you must be a special kind of crazy to go forward.

Well, I am definitely that special kind of crazy opening my storefront in October of 2021, a few weeks before the Omicron COVID strain hit hard. To launch a business, you have to look at the world with a certain amount of optimism. You have to know that what you are offering the world will make it better, and will make people’s lives better. You have to believe that you can make a difference and make an impact

For anyone currently with or thinking of starting a product-based business there are certain things that will remain constant regardless of what economic situation you start with.

These are five tips that will make a difference:

One: Do your research.

You want to launch your dream, that is amazing! Your idea deserves all the knowledge behind it to make it stand out. What do you want to offer? Why is it different from what is already on the market? How will you make sure you stand out?

Two: Know your numbers.

If you are going to sell a product you buy or one you make, you need to know the cost of getting that product on a shelf/website/Etsy site. Once you know that number, you’ll know what you need to sell it for to make a profit. Lastly, how much profit do you need to break even, better yet, generate profit.

Three: Know your customer.

Your specific product needs to be sold to a specific person, so who are they? Name this person, what do they do for fun, what do they do for a living, what is their family situation? The more you know the easier it is to sell to that person. Tip: sometimes you might have more than one ideal customer, but you do not want more than 3.

Four: Do not sell to everyone.

Yes, you read that right, do not sell to everyone. You will not be able to stand out in the market if you try to sell to everyone. Everyone does not want or need your product. Focus on your ideal client, sell to them, and you will stand out.

Five: Inventory is very important.

Whether you are stocking your shelves or stocking others’ shelves you need to have accurate inventory. This goes back to knowing your numbers, you need to know what you have to sell so you can sell it appropriately. Also, stale inventory (items that have not sold in over 90 days) will happen to everyone. What can you do to reimagine and sell that merchandise?

Opening a storefront in a pandemic afforded some unique lessons. Unique lessons I would not have learned as quickly without COVID. While they may have been learned during a pandemic, I think they are always applicable to businesses.

These five tips will help you succeed:

One: Be creative.

If you have a wonderful product, and you know how you want to market the product, excellent. But, you are missing out on many opportunities if you keep your head down. Look around, what other opportunities are there for your business, for you as a business owner? Use your creativity to create new opportunities.

Two: Be human.

COVID humanized us, regardless of where we lived, we were all living with the same global threat. If you miss a deadline because you’re sick, tell them. If you have to close your store early because your child has to be picked up at school, let people know. We are all people and letting others see the person behind the business will get you far.

Three: Foster your vendor relationships.

The people that you buy from can make or break your business. All businesses had supply chain issues with COVID, there was no escaping it. However, vendors that you have a positive relationship with are more willing to help you with a special request, keep you updated on a new shipment, etc.

Four: Stay nimble.

Things change constantly, and when you can adapt quickly your product will continue to be top of mind, newsworthy and important. Customers are not sure how to best use your product? Grab a few friends and take some photographs with them using the product. A new selling platform emerges that could get more eyes on your product? Check it out and see if it is for you and if it is sustainable.

Five: Ask your customer.

Social media makes this very easy; polls give us quick information. Email surveys are great tools and so is asking them when they are in front of you. This feedback will give you invaluable information on how to continue building your brand.
Following your dreams will require determination, hard work, and discipline, but you have the tools to be a success. Remembering these ten tips can help you develop your plan, find out how to create your space in a market, and work towards success.

Connect with Calli McPherson and William James Gifts:


Calli McPherson is a mom, wife and small business owner. McPherson graduated from Stonehill College in 2008 and worked in health care until the birth of her first son in 2016. After welcoming her son she left her job to be a full time parent. In 2018 McPherson was diagnosed with Celiac disease and five months later welcomed her second son. McPherson launched William James Gifts, a gourmet gluten free gift basket company, in August of 2020. Fourteen months later she opened her first storefront location, offering gourmet gluten free foods, gifts and of course, her gift baskets.

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