How To Start A Gourmet Food Store Like An Artisanal Cheese Shop

How To Start A Gourmet Food Store Like An Artisanal Cheese Shop

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This article has two sections. The first is on how to plan and start your business in general.  The second is on how to start an artisanal cheese shop.

Here is a step by step tutorial on how to start a business.

Here is a tutorial on how you can write a good business plan.

Here are a few more resources on how to start your business. Here is a link to learn more about my book on how to start a business which is based on research of experiences of 300,000 entrepreneurs. Here is the link to my video-based course on how to start a business with over 5 hours of tutorials. The link to the course contains a coupon code for a very big discount.

Business Plan Book

I also published a book that walks you through how to write a business plan, gives you a template to work from, and also a business plan example. You can browse the contents of this business plan book on Amazon here, and if you like it, you can buy the book in print or on the Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can just read the book on the Kindle app of your smartphone, or on Amazon’s cloud reader which allows you to read it on your desktop.

Interview On How To Start An Artisanal Cheese Shop

The insights in this article are provided by Beret Kirkeby who is the owner of an artisan coffee shop named Thin Blue Line Cheese Boutique. She is now the owner of an Orthopedic Massage business in NYC. In this article, Beret shares some insights about starting and growing an artisanal cheese shop, specializing in locally made products.

Does Location Matter For This Kind Of Business?

Absolutely. In selecting our location we looked for a neighborhood that was known for food shopping. It was filled with small grocery, meat shops and deli’s, although we were the first gourmet food store. With food shopping it is really important to see the product so we looked for a location with great big bay windows, and we literally put all of our fresh steaming baked bread in the windows. People walking by would see the food in the windows, and look at our store packed with product and people. It was fantastic.

We were also conscious of not being too close to another location that sold the same product. While it might be ok to compete with larger chains, competing with another artisanal shop would mean that we would have to compete for the same target customers, and share the local market.

How To Choose A Good Location For An Artisanal Food Store?

The reason Beret chose the location she did was one day I she sent her boyfriend out for parmesan cheese, and he did not come back for an hour, They thought, “god this neighborhood needs a cheese shop.”

Sometimes you have to consider what is lacking in a certain neighborhood, and whether many people living there need the kind of product you want to provide.

How To Set Up A Website For Your Cheese Shop?

You can easily create your own website for your business using WordPress. WordPress is an industry standard. Here is a link to a tutorial for how to set up your website by yourself for nearly free, and in just a day or two.

How Much Money Is Needed To Start An Artisanal Food Shop?

Beret started her artisanal cheese store with $20,000. She took $10,000 out of her savings, and got the rest of the money from credit cards. Since this business was in Canada where social services are excellent, the government gave Beret 1 year of unemployment during the start up phase so she was able to have a small wage.

“Looking back we were really naive to think that we could start a business with so little” says Beret. The refrigerator alone cost five thousand dollars. By the time she opened the shop, she had very little of the original $20,000 left.

Beret recounts that “we were really fortunate as our wholesaler was not so naive.” The wholesaler of cheese allowed Beret to pay for the cheese as she sold it instead of paying upfront. She paid him when the cheese was sold, otherwise the business would not have made it.

Beret had to find ways to get everything done cheaply. Friends helped with remodeling and construction. She put in all the counter tops and cabinets herself. The store was initially so small that she had to build a special collapsable counter top in order to get the trash bins out from behind the counters. Later they expanded.

And if you are doing business card networking or pitching investors, check out this tutorial on how to do a business pitch.

Permits And Licenses Needed

You need to go through food handling safety. Most places require that one person is certified in food handling. It includes proper sanitation practices for kitchens and refrigeration temps. A food business also has to be inspected by the city multiple times to make sure everything is to code. The inspectors grade the property for health and sanitation.

The licenses and permits tend to vary across different countries, states and cities. Check with your local state, city and county for any additional permits and licenses required by your local government.

Biggest Costs

Usually the biggest costs are monthly rent and employee salary. If you try to do everything very cheaply, you and your partners would be the main employees.

In Beret’s case, the biggest cost was the product. At first she did not keep very good records. When she started doing better bookkeeping, she realized that the business was buying $10,000 of cheese per month.

Beret was lucky that there were no additional costs, surprises or hidden costs. She would not have been prepared for them. Her business made a profit from day one, and the Canadian government kept her afloat until the business was able to generate enough money so that the founders were able to get a paycheck.

Marketing Plan For An Artisanal Food Store

Since this kind of a business has a physical location, a bulk of the marketing is done via having a beautiful storefront. People walking by notice the storefront and become curious. People who live in the neighborhood pass by regularly, and can become regular customers. Over time, such a store can build a steady following in the neighborhood, and become part of the community.

Beret’s store also got publicity because it was a cool and unique artisan cheese shop. Every local business should think of an interesting angle to their business. Having a unique angle or story will make your business more interesting and it will be easier to get attention and publicity. Here is one of our articles on how to get publicity and press coverage.

Additionally, this kind of a business can be promoted with a number of offline marketing strategies like flier marketing, business card marketing, and other offline techniques.

Social Media Marketing Strategy

You want to keep and grow a list of local fans on social media. If you get people to follow you on Twitter or like your page on Facebook, you will be able to keep them updated with latest deals and promotions. Deals, promotions and discounts are a great way to get people to come back to your store.

Some of your fans will share your website or promotions on social media, which will help you reach potential new customers.

Here is a full social media marketing tutorial that goes over some advanced social media marketing strategies:

Local Business Marketing Strategy With SEO And Beyond

Since this type of company is considered a local business, there is a set of local business marketing strategies that will work to promote it. While there are many local business marketing tactics you can use, the conversation about local business marketing almost always starts with local SEO. You must be able to rank in the Google top-10 search results for your main searches like “cheese shop in your_city_name” in order to get the right kind of customers to find you.

Here is a book I wrote specifically to help you with local business marketing strategies which include SEO. The book goes much further than just SEO of course.

Here is an extensive SEO tutorial to get you started and takes you from beginner to advanced:

And here is an extensive social media tutorial which also gets you started, and helps you understand the advanced social media marketing strategies that you can use for your business:

How Many Hours Should A Founder Of Such A Business Work Per Week

Beret worked about 50 hours per week. It was exhausting to be on your feet all day, but the job pretty much ended when you went home. Most small store or shop owners work far more hours that that if the store is open from morning to evening every day.

How Many Employees Should You Have At An Artisanal Food Store?

Beret reports that she had 4 people working at the shop. It took at least two people working in the store at any one point. Again, most stores that stay open from early morning to evening, require more employees or for each employee to work at least 60 hours per week.

How To Make Your Employees Reliable

Employees have to come in loving food. Reliability is not so much of an issue if people are passionate about what they are doing. Beret looked for someone who got along well with other employees, and made sure to keep the business a really fun upbeat place. She was smart and lucky in that because many small businesses that treat their employees as just that, often get employees who lose motivation. By keeping the work environment fun and engaging, she was able to keep people’s spirits high and have motivated employees.

How To Manage Inventory

Modern POS (point of sale) software does most the work. When you get a new product in, you can enter the information in to the system that includes, the amount of product, the margin on the product, the SKU and tax. Each time someone buys the item that item id simply removed from your inventory list. Some POS systems will even give you a warning when it is time to reorder.

Because of this you can also generate complex views of your buying and spending at a click before you even get it into quickbooks or you accountants office. As long as you put in a little bit of work in upfront, its almost guaranteed that you can easily track products. It is important to remember however, that systems crash. It can be a huge disaster if you are unprepared and lose your data. Back up your files at least once a week, or every day if you are moving a lot of product.

You can also use a double blind. While the computer is very reliable, it can make mistakes due to system updates and system changes. Use the double blind for large orders. For that, nothing beats a good old paper spread sheet. Don’t use it for everything, but it is very useful in areas where you think there might be a problem. Try an make sure all of the important data I keep track of has at least one double check.

What Are The Profit Margins?

Beret says that her store’s profit margin was around 35%. Sometimes it was a little more and sometimes a little less. Since it was her first business, the truth is that she was figuring it out as she went along. Sometimes lowering or raising prices simply made sense, and that had an impact on the profit margins of different products.

Overall, margins for gourmet food can be extremely high, often near 100%.

The Most Profitable Thing You Can Do

A very profitable thing to do is to sell some part of the inventory in bulk to restaurants who wanted cheese plates. Restaurants can by $1,000 at a time. If restaurants buy regularly, it can also add some stability to your company’s revenue.

Who Should Get Into This Business

Food lovers, anyone who wants to take their passion for food to the next level, but isn’t afraid to risk things or work hard. Working a cheese counter you learn an incredible amount about how food is made. If you love to talk about food all day, this business is for you.

What Is The Ideal Client?

Someone who loves to geek out on dairy. Cheese lovers are really into it. When you say your into cheese it is not like saying you love pie, cheese lovers will read about cheese, talk about cheese, have cheese parties, and take special cheese courses. So true food enthusiasts of whatever artisan food you sell are your ideal customers because they will become regular customers, and even bring their friends.

Few More Resources To Help You Start Your Business

I created mobile apps, books and online courses for entrepreneurs to help people just like you succeed with business ventures. Take a look at my full list of business books, Udemy coupons for my online courses and other resources I created for entrepreneurs.

How To Become A Great Entrepreneur

Here is a tutorial I made on how to become a very good entrepreneur. When you launch your business, you must work on making yourself a more and more savvy entrepreneur.

How To Raise Money For Your Cheese Shop With Loans, Grants Or An Investment

To launch this type of business, you necessarily need a large amount of money to get started and be able to pay for rent, inventory, legal fees, employee salary, and a number of other expenses. Here is a tutorial on how to raise money with 15 different strategies including grants, loans, donations, an investment, and more.

Want To Hire Me As A Business Coach To Help You Open Your Cheese Store?

You can hire me as a business coach, and I can help you take your business from an idea to a real business, and to an eventual success. I’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs, and I can help you. Here is a link to learn more about how you can hire me as a business coach or mentor.

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