If you've always dreamed of opening a surf shop, tropical cocktail stand, customized swimsuit shop or other beach business, you need a plan of action. Determine what permits, licenses and other regulations are required from the Chamber of Commerce, your state and City Hall. Once you have the legal matters sorted out, you need products, services, and a marketing plan to entice beach buyers. While a beach business is a different beast than starting a ski resort business or boutique at the local mall, it still requires a head for finance and marketing.
Decide what services or products you are going to offer and what kind of space you need for your business. Consider a beach kiosk or oceanfront retail space in a location with heavy foot traffic.
Evaluate your competition and the beach market. If you want to sell customized swimsuits, find out what other beach vendors are selling and for how much. Set your prices competitively against other beach vendors and include bonuses like free bottled water, coupons and contests.
Contact the Chamber of Commerce where the beach is located and inquire about the business licenses and permits necessary to your specific business. You may need to contact the fire department for an inspection, or call the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control or to get a contractor's license. You might have to follow specific regulations for a food stand, while selling jewelry may require an entirely different license. Beach permits may differ greatly from those for an inland business.
Call the Planning Department at the City Hall that regulates the beach of your intended business location. Ask about zoning requirements and other legal matters. You also need to contact the state you reside in to inquire about tax forms, obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and regulations regarding employees. Ask your local Small Business Development Center for a beach business checklist to ensure you follow the proper procedures in your area.
Name your beach business and design your space or kiosk. Don't underestimate the importance of staging your business appropriately. You want your products to look inviting, fresh, accessible and unique. Make sure the business relates to a beach theme or culture that attracts locals and tourists.
Invite the media to attend your beach-business launch and play music, hold swimming and surfing contests, offer giveaways, and entertain your potential customers. Ask a local food vendor to join and get to know other business owners who could help promote your business.
Advertise your business in local magazines, newspapers, blogs, cable stations, hotels, resorts, beach shops and community bulletin boards. Offer coupons or incentives such as a free surfing lesson, sunscreen or product samples.
Team up with another beach business. A souvenir shop may be interested in selling your ocean-inspired jewelry, shirts, or photographs of seascapes for a commission. A surfboard repair shop could be enticed to sell your customized wet suits or apparel.
Plan for a rainy day fund. A beach business can't attract buyers year-round during bad weather and economic lulls. Build an online store to sell your products and offer information on your business.