If you've ever dreamed about opening your own store focused on vitamins, supplements or nutritional needs, now might be a great time to make that dream into a reality.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that only 1 in 10 Americans are getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet each day. So it's no surprise, then, that the majority of people are turning to nutritional supplements to get what they need.
In fact, the Council for Responsible Nutrition indicates that 75 percent of Americans take a dietary supplement, up from 65 percent in 2009. This consistent increase in vitamin and nutritional supplement sales creates a great opportunity for those who want to open nutrition stores.
Start With a Big Idea
Before you do anything, you need a good idea. What's your dream? Do you have an out-of-the-box plan for a store that hasn't been done yet, or do you wish to follow a model that's already available? Will you offer strictly supplements, or a mix of whole foods, boxed foods and dietary supplements?
Harness your ideas, big or small, because this is the step in the process where the sky is the limit.
Do Your Homework
Once you know for sure which type of store you want to open, do some research. Decide if you want to franchise or open the business independently. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, the cost of franchising a nutrition store, such as GNC, can be as low as $40,000, but with an initial investment that can reach over $400,000. There are many franchises available, and most will speak directly with you about your future nutrition store and where you can take it.
Entrepreneur also stresses that, when starting a new business, it's important to get to know your competition, the industry and the market. Find your competition in the area to help determine if there is a need; this is extremely indicative of how profitable and successful your business will be. Also, read up extensively on the diet and nutrition industry. If you already have a background in nutrition, great. If not, consider getting professional training or hiring a consultant to help you talk the talk, and learn the ins and outs of proper nutrition.
Write Your Business Plan
Writing a business plan may seem like a mundane and time-consuming activity, but it is absolutely necessary before you invest in your idea. Your business plan doesn't have to be perfect, but spending some time to get the details of your business written out will save you headaches in the end. Ideally, when you have a question about your business, you should always be able to refer back to your plan.
The Small Business Association is a rich resource you can use when crafting your business plan. But at the basic level, your plan should include the following sections:
- Description of the business
- Mission statement
- Organization and management structure
- Product line details
- Financial projections
- Marketing plan
Choose the Right Location
The location of your store can make or break your business. Here are three helpful tips for choosing the right home base:
- Ease of Access: Select your location based on where your ideal customer is likely to shop. A health-conscious area of town is a great place to start looking.
- Competition: Visit local gyms, health centers and grocery stores to ensure you are not planning to carry the same services or products already offered by these establishments.
- Regulations: Look into the area's zoning and permit laws to ensure you won't run into any roadblocks.
Seek Legal Help
Choose the legal structure of your business to protect and separate your personal finances from your business finances — they are not one and the same. Choose between a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation. The structure will determine the paperwork that needs to be filed, your personal liability and how taxes will be handled. It may be necessary to contact an attorney for advice.
You will have to register your business name and an employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. Register for state and local taxes and obtain insurance to protect your company and its inventory.
Get the Word Out
You won't get any customers if they don't know about your store. That's why marketing and a marketing budget is essential to a successful business.
A few things to keep in mind when it comes to getting the word out about your business:
- Don't skimp on the website and website design. For most customers looking online at your business, your website is their first impression — and first impressions matter.
- In addition to your website, step up your social media game. Hiring a virtual assistant can help you navigate your digital footprint, while you deal with the day-to-day business.
- You may want to plan a grand opening that really allows your business to shine. Invite all neighboring businesses to come to your grand opening, and encourage them to set up booths to promote their own businesses.
Most importantly: Stay positive, and believe in your big idea.
Sarah Pflugradt holds a Master of Science in food science and human nutrition from Colorado State University. Pflugradt is a freelance writer and registered dietitian with experience in clinical nutrition and outpatient counseling for diabetes management and weight loss.