The journey of entrepreneurship began for us in February 2005 while sitting on the beach in the Virgin Islands. (Over the years, we have found that we always do our best strategic thinking on vacation.)
I had been freelancing some marketing work on the side, and the discussion from my husband began with something like, “I think we can turn your freelancing into a business.”
Having left our computers at home, we took out our trusty notebook and started brainstorming. Our list started out something like:
• What to call the business?
• How are we setting up the business? Inc.? LLC?
• Location – where? How much space?
• Business cards, letterhead, brochure, website
• Furniture and equipment
• Healthcare – what do we do on our own
We came back from the vacation knowing we wanted a retail location close to our home so we could walk to work. (We later learned that proximity was a plus when the alarm went off at 3 a.m.) After talking to several leasing agents in Canton, we found a vacant storefront in The Can Company and thought – great! It was close to home and it had parking! An absolute must for the city.
Did you know leases are negotiable? Some things we thought about and others we should have thought about:
• PETS: Do you want to bring your pet to work with you? It’s your space but there may be a clause that prevents it. While we couldn’t get the allowance of a pet, we were able to remove the disallowance of the pet clause and our yellow lab, Sadie, comes to work with us.
• RENEWAL: Do you think you’ll be there longer than the initial term? If so, why not add a renewal term for additional years? We renegotiated our lease going into year 6 but it was good to have a starting point.
• CAM: In addition to your rent, you’re going to have CAM charges – Common Area Maintenance. Give yourself a nice “blizzard-snow-removal” cushion.
• ” MAY”: Be careful of the word “may” because, as we found out, your landlord MAY decide to change when they collect your $4,000 in taxes from paying them monthly to all at once.
• FACILITY: If your HVAC unit goes up, who is replacing it? When your employee breaks the front door lock, be prepared to call the locksmith.
• COMPETITION: Give your business as much help as you can. We made sure to include an exclusive clause to prevent the possibility of a competitor from entering the same complex.
• SIGNAGE: Does your complex have a signage requirement? Ours had a neon sign requirement which cost us approximately $4,000. However, it turned out to be a great branding piece.
• PARKING: Is parking important to your business? We negotiated two 30 minute parking spaces to help our customers get in and out of the store quickly.
• HOURS: In a retail complex, your landlord will require you to be open certain hours. If Chick-Fil-A can be closed on Sundays, we could too! We negotiated fewer days than required by other businesses in the same complex.
Lastly, treat your landlord as you would like them to treat you. Pay on time; only complain about the things that really matter. If you find the right landlord, anything is negotiable.