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Location, location, location

mapFrom an entrepreneurial standpoint, location should be the easiest and most logical decision of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix (product, price, promotion and place, i.e. location). “Place” as a definition refers to providing the product at a place which is convenient for consumers to access – synonymous with the concept of distribution.

When we were considering opening a retail store, Vircity, we looked all around Baltimore for what we felt would be a good location – convenient for us, not our customers. Honestly, we did not do the due diligence we preach when teaching entrepreneurship at Notre Dame of Maryland University. If we had to start the business over, we would conduct market research and spend a little more time looking into the market we thought we would be serving. But as excited entrepreneurs, we took the “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” approach of logic.

Our decision was not based on the fact that there were many businesses housed in The Can Company complex in Canton that might use our services, especially the Emerging Technology Center on the second floor or the fact that DAP’s world headquarters was on the third floor. And only during our lease negotiation did we think about the fact that there was parking which would be advantageous for our customers to get in and out of the store quickly. We looked at multiple properties and made our decision based on the fact that The Can Company was the closest location to our residence and we could walk to work. Not the best approach to location, but we were lucky and the proximity has proven invaluable:

— When the burglar alarm went off at 3 a.m. and we rushed over there ready to take down whoever dared break into our business, it took us a second to figure out a door had swung open and activated the motion sensor. We were back home and in bed within 30 minutes.

— When the blizzards of 2010 hit Baltimore, we were able to trudge through the snow and get the business open for all those entrepreneurs and employees who needed to ship, copy, print and just get out of their homes. Our employees could not drive in for a week, but we were still able to make money.

— While walking the property, security opened our back door at 4:45 a.m. one morning and set off the burglar alarm. We arrived quickly to turn it off and started our day a little earlier by putting an operational procedure in place to make sure new employees understood how to lock the back door.

— When we got the call from our office manager an hour before the store was to open that she was in the hospital and would not be able to open the store, it was a quick change of plans, short walk, and we had the business open on time.

Years after we opened Vircity, William’s brother purchased a retail franchise and opened his first store 45 minutes from his house. We heard the same stories of the alarm going off, employees calling out, hurricanes and snow as he trekked 45 minutes just to get to his location. It was the ideal location for his business based upon extensive market research. But ultimately, the distance took its toll and he sold the business.

For us, it worked out to have our first business a stone’s throw from our house and no matter what the market research might have said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. And now, we also recognize the value of being a member of the community, getting to know our customers and seeing them around town.

Oh, and did I mention our 3:30 a.m. wake-up call this morning from our tenants reporting a gas leak with BGE? Good thing all we had to do was walk next door.