1. A YARD DECORATION BUSINESS: WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE 2. WHAT A YARD DECORATION BUSINESS MODEL COULD LOOK LIKE 3. WHERE TO START- WHAT STARTER PACKAGES TO PURCHASE 4. EXAMPLES OF YARD DECORATIONS 5. THE CUSTOMER CONTRACT 6. WHAT ABOUT BUSINESS INSURANCE? 7. FREE MARKETING ON FACEBOOK AND OTHER METHODS 8. CREATING A FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE 9. LISTING ON YARDWOWZA.COM 10. USING YOUTUBE 11. INSTAGRAM AND HOW IT TIES TO FACEBOOK 12. USING DRIVE-BY SIGN MARKETING 13. WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING 14. PAID MARKETING ON FACEBOOK AND OTHER MEDIA 15. HOW TO PLACE SIGNS IN A YARD 16. COMMON QUESTIONS 17. MARKET RESEARCH ON YARD DECORATION BUSINESSES 18. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDATIONS
A YARD DECORATION BUSINESS: WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
Whether you are looking for an additional income flow to your current rental business, or seeking a new adventure, Yard Greeting Rentals is a perfect fit. It is a very simple process to start your own business, as all it takes is getting the yard decorations, finding customers, and renting out the decorations to them. Starting a yard decoration business has many advantages, such as:
Being able to work out of your home
Being your own boss, with a flexible schedule
Low startup costs and low overhead
Any size vehicle can carry a lawn decoration set
Many are able to make back the initial investment in the first weeks of operation!
You get to deliver smiles daily doing a job you love
Getting a starter kit isthe easiest way to get decorations for certain events, such as graduations, birthdays, and holidays like Easter and Halloween. You can also buy your decorations individually, or have them custom-made for specific events and requests. Installing yard decorations is also a cinch, taking an hour or less to drive to your clients and installing the yard decorations.
Yard decoration businesses can be a one-person operation, or a large company with several employees and dozens of sign sets. It is important to not get jealous of bigger companies when you start. Having large numbers may be cool, but it’s not practical to drive around with giant numbers all the time, and they could easily get damaged during delivery.
“We have to bring it back down to practicalities. Mom’s not driving a five-foot letter around. Don’t look at what others are doing, and focus on your own.”-Lesley Cross
WHAT A YARD DECORATION BUSINESS MODEL COULD LOOK LIKE
One of the big questions you may ask is, “What’s the best business model I can use?” The answer is there is no one absolute best model. It all depends on your business environment. For example, if you’re trying to sell signs in a low-income area where money might be tight, you might want to sell them at a reduced price to increase your customer base. If a place rents signs frequently, like a church or school, you can also offer a discount to them or throw in a free sign.
“We have a lot of people that are very low-income in this area, so we try to make it affordable so everyone can afford us.”-Kristen Peterson
As an example business model, charge $75 for a 24-hour rental period. Even with just one rental a week, that’s $3,900 at the end of the year. With one every weekday, it becomes $19,500. Five per weekday? $97,500. While price is important, getting more customers is what causes your profits to grow and create a legitimate business.
With an initial investment of $999 for a starter kit, and $2600 on marketing ($50 a week for Facebook marketing x 52), that’s a $3599 investment to get your business going. With ten rentals each week, you end up with a sweet net profit of $35,401 a year. With an average of an hour to drive to and install a yard greeting sign, you get a lot of money for only ten hours of work a week.
It doesn’t have to be a solo affair! You can get friends, relatives, and family involved as well. Get them involved in the process and use it as an opportunity for teaching your kids about running a business. Have them help take orders, or help set up the signs, or, once they’re old enough, drive the car to your customer’s house. You don’t have to worry about yard decorations being too heavy. They’re extremely light, so even an elementary school student can pick up signs with ease.
Venmo, Paypal, and Square are all good sources of receiving payment and invoices, thanks to their ease of use and ability to have the money put directly in your account. With Venmo, you can even download the sales you’ve made each month.
“I have used Paypal in the past, but I like Square more because I can also go in and enter a sale manually.”-Kristen Peterson
“Venmo is how we get paid about 90% of the time now. There’s no fee with it, and we can download the sales we’ve received through it every month.”-Lesley Cross
WHERE TO START- WHAT STARTER PACKAGES TO PURCHASE
There are many starter packages that can be found online,such as those contained at VictoryStore.The sheer amount of options may be intimidating to those looking to start their businesses. So, what is the best choice for a package to start your own lawn decoration business?
The$999 starter package on VictoryStoreis an excellent starting point, with an affordable cost that has over 150 signs and 100 stakes, including decorations perfect for birthdays, sport shout outs, and other celebrations. If you charge $75 for a 24-hour rental period, you can earn back your investment cost in just 13 rentals, with a revenue of $3,900 if you make one rental sale a week.
If you find that you have a higher demand for specific letters or need more, you can buy sets individually. Each starter kit can be customized, allowing you to choose the sign colors you would like. If you are unsure on whether or not you can customize something, just ask. Special kits can even be made if you’re looking for something specific, or only need some parts of the package.
Another consideration to make when starting your business is what your business radius will be. Targeting customers who are five miles or less from where you live is a good starting point, as it ensures all of the locations are close to your home. Only expand if you feel confident and comfortable. If you decide to expand and decide later you want to shrink back down, you can. You can even shrink down but still keep a couple of customers who rent often but live outside the shrunken radius.
“Time is money. Yes, you made $75 putting the sign up, but it took you four hours of driving to do it.”-Lesley Cross
EXAMPLES OF YARD DECORATIONS
There are countless types of yard decorations covering a wide range of occasions, from birthday parties to retirements to homecoming and prom. The amount of options can be too much for some to handle, so this section will focus on a few of them to help give ideas of where you want your yard decoration business to go.
Happy Birthday greetings are the most common use of signs you will see, with a plethora of options to match. VictoryStore hasdozens of designs for birthday yard signs, ranging frommermaidstolumberjackstoholy cows. People love it when signs are personalized instead of just being cookie-cutter messages, so it is important to make sure to have enough letters to spell names with the decorations.
Festival and holiday decorations are also common and can cover a wide range of seasonal events that are sure to make an impact. These are simple to make, requiring only a couple of sets of letters and some decorations relevant to the event. If you need certain decorations,VictoryStore has plenty of options availableto cover whatever you need.
This is also true for special events. Using yard decoration signs is an easy way to get lots of attention, so it’s important to use the right decorations to really make your signs stand out.
THE CUSTOMER CONTRACT
Your customer contract should be easy to understand, as the average person is going to be reading it — not a lawyer. Make sure that everything is laid out plainly for the customer, and be sure to include everything the service provides. For example, if you add a small sign advertising your business while your signs are there (which is an easy way to get advertising!), make sure it is stated in your contract so your customer is not surprised by a sign they did not request when they see the final result.
In your contract you should also include specific things the customer should not do, like mow around the signs (just in case they damage them), attach objects to them, modify the signs in any way, and other considerations..
Asking for a photo of the signs when they are set up or, better yet, taking a photo yourself is an excellent way to get free pictures for advertising. Texting a photo to your customers is a nice and easy way to ensure your customer sees how the signs look as soon as they are placed in their yard and provides them with a picture they can share with others.
“I ask them to take a picture of their yard in advance so I know I’ll be at the right house, and it lets me know if there’s a slope or hill that prohibits me from putting the design somewhere.”-Kristen Peterson
WHAT ABOUT BUSINESS INSURANCE?
Business insurance is very important, in case signs or equipment get damaged. Make sure to have insurance for your company, in case things go very wrong or unexpected damage occurs. Sign theft is also a possibility, and having the customer pay for such an occurrence is unreasonable, so having insurance for that is also important. If you are unsure about how to get business insurance, you can always contact your non-business insurance providers for assistance.
FREE MARKETING ON FACEBOOK AND METHODS
I: Creating a Facebook business page
Creating a Facebook business page is simple. Go to facebook.com/pages/create, select business or brand as your page, and enter your business details. To start, you should make your profile picture a well-taken photo of one of your best products, so potential customers can immediately see what your company specializes in. Eventually when your brand becomes well-known, change it to your business logo instead.
A Facebook profile picture is 170x170 pixels on desktop and 128x128 on mobile, so make sure the photo you use is clear and not heavily cluttered. Also make sure there isn’t anything important in the photo’s corners, since a Facebook profile picture is a circle, so the edges get cropped off. You should also create a relevant vanity URL (preferably of your business name) and add tags to help people find your post. Finally, fill out the details on your profile and write a post or two before you publish your page on Facebook for everyone to see.
To sum up the steps you need to take:
Register for a Facebook Business Page.
Enter Your Business Information.
Upload Your Profile Picture & Cover Photo.
Invite Friends to Like Your Page.
Include Additional Business Details.
Add a Button to Your Page.
Promote Your Facebook Business Page by Being Active on Facebook.
Once you have made a Facebook page, post pictures of the signs you have to provide potential customers with an easily accessible catalog of what you offer. Also ask your customers to create a post with your sign and tag you. It will increase the amount of people who will see your products and create positive buzz. To help get initial attention, get 25–100 of your friends to like your page. This quickly gives your page a sizable base and attracts further people.
II: Listing on YardWowza
YardWowzais a site that allows people to find local providers of yard greetings rentals (such as your business). Listing on YardWowza is free if you are a VictoryStore customer; otherwise, it is a $99 annual fee to list on YardWowza.
III: Using YouTube
Use YouTube to make videos about your company, and then link those videos to your Facebook page to attract more attention to your business. Brief videos are recommended to ensure you don’t exceed potential customer’s attention spans. Make every second of your videos count.
IV: Instagram (and how it ties to Facebook)
Instagram is owned by Facebook but hits a different market, with a lot of younger people using it compared to Facebook. Therefore, it is important to have both a Facebook page and an Instagram page to hit both audiences. Post regularly on both accounts to make sure your business shows up on feeds and stays relevant. Make sure you have links to your business on both sites.
V: Using Drive-by Sign Marketing
An easy way to get people to notice your business is by placing a sign in your yard with your business information. If you rent or donate signs to a school or similar place, you can ask to have a business sign of yours in their yard as well.
You can also set up signs in your own yard (make sure to include your business sign) to show off your skills. Signs catch attention easily, especially elaborate displays with plenty of letters and objects.
When you put your website url on your sign, remove the “www” part of your url. Web browsers automatically add it when people search on the internet. Eliminating those letters helps save space on your sign.
“When you put a web address on a sign or anywhere, do not put the www. It wastes space, and browsers don’t need it anymore.”Steve Grubbs
VI: Word-of-Mouth Marketing
An easy way to get positive word of mouth marketing is to donate a sign to a local school or similar organization for an auction. Tell them the value of the sign, and let them keep all of the proceeds from the sign/signs being auctioned to create goodwill and positive word of mouth. For more frequent customers, you can offer a discount if they use your signs more often. As an example, reduce the price of your signs from $75 to $50 for a school that rents your signs frequently.
Sending an email thanking your customers for renting your signs (and maybe even a coupon as well) also generates positive buzz. If you choose to mail a thank you letter, include your business card as well. Having a referral discount encourages your customers to tell their friends about your business, bringing in even more customers for you.
“We leave a little informational brochure with every sign and five business cards. We ask them to pass them on to their friends, and every time they get a referral, they get $5 off their next order, and a free sign after their fourth referral.”-Kristen Peterson
PAID MARKETING ON FACEBOOK AND OTHER MEDIA
Paying for marketing on Facebook is a great way to get attention. Facebook marketing allows you to reach an even greater amount of people, and helps do some of the work of attracting customers for you. It costs $50 a week to advertise on Facebook, which is a total of $2,600 a year, but it pays for itself. When you buy a starter kit on VictoryStore you get free Facebook advertising for 30 days, which considerably boosts the amount of people who see your company in their feeds.
Another good way to get marketing exposure is to be in your local newspaper. You can either pay for an ad or get featured in an article. Local newspapers love to have articles on positive change and uplifting news, so your business’ story should be attractive to them once you gain enough customers and traction. Don’t wait for newspapers to come to you. Instead, contact the newspaper and offer them the opportunity to write an article about what you’re doing.
“Anytime you are able to get in front of a news organization, whether it’s free marketing or with a donated sign in exchange for reciprocating PR is great.”Lesley Cross
If you choose to use your phone as part of your business, add that phone number to your signs, business cards, and other advertising to further attract customers. Make sure to let customers know if you accept phone calls, texts, or both. If you do choose to use your phone as a business tool, be vigilant about responding back to customers. Don’t make them wait.
For your own website, make sure it has all of the information for your business, your products, and, most importantly, a form people can fill out for requests and rentals. Being able to place an order directly on the site makes things even more convenient, and more convenience means customers are more likely to purchase your services.
HOW TO PLACE SIGNS IN A YARD
You should make sure the colors you choose work well together when you place signs in a yard, along with using the correct stakes. If you’re unsure of how a design will look, you can always use your own yard to test it out. Practice makes perfect, so make sure to experiment some and find what looks best. And if you’re embarrassed at the possibility of people seeing something less than stellar, you can always use your backyard as a testing area instead.
“I set up everything in my yard. Whether I lay it on the ground or put it up in my yard I do it, because colors just should not go together.”-Kristen Peterson
Having your signs pre-staked saves a lot of time, as you don’t have to spend time attaching and detaching the stakes when you arrive at the customer’s house.
“You’re wasting too much time when you get to the house if you don’t have your stakes in.”Kristen Peterson
It is also important to accommodate for yard sizes. Not all yards can accommodate large letters, so having backup smaller letters for yards that are not as large is a smart plan. It’s essential that your sign is “filled” with decorations throughout the space it covers, to make sure there is little-to-no blank space on the final product.
“We went with the 18 inch letters because some of our yards are not large enough for 24 inch letters, and they are affected by the wind more.”-Lesley Cross
A little trick you can do to reduce the possibility of running out of a certain color or design is to ask for a “top three” or “top five” of their favorite colors and designs, so you can use multiple of them in the product, and have backups in case you run out of a specific color or design. You can always improvise if you run out of a certain letter, like using a candle instead of an I or a beach ball instead of an O.
“We’ve gotten away from asking what color they want because if they all want blue, then someone’s not getting blue.”-Lesley Cross
Being able to place signs in almost all weather is very important, to make sure that you are still able to serve your customers even if conditions aren’t good.
“We received an order, this is what we’re doing, as long as it’s safe we still need to continue with it.”-Lesley Cross
A: The starter package includes: three alphabet sets, two number sets, one punctuation set, one st/nd/rd/th, sixteen stars, ten presents, sixteen balloons, four balloon clusters, ten birthday candles, six birthday cakes, two basketballs/soccer balls/volleyballs/baseballs/softballs/footballs, six American flags, twelve Emojis, fifty short stakes, and fifty EZ stakes. It also includes three yard signs with your business name, a pair of car magnets with your business name, and free Facebook advertising for 30 days.
Q: For the car magnets and business sign, do we have to send you a design, or will you make one for us?
A: Either is fine, and proofs are sent before they are made to make sure you approve of the design.
Q: Should you start with hiring other people to do the signs for you?
A: Start with just yourself, and wait until you have a constant stream of jobs each week before you bring other people onto your workforce.
Q: What kind of customization does VictoryStore offer?
A: If you can think of it, they can do it. Just ask and they’ll let you know.
Q: For advertising, are there certain policies or procedures that need to be presented to customers?
A: It is recommended to have a one-pager to explain your company’s standard policies and procedures for your customers to read. You should also have an email address/contact form so people can contact you/tell you specific requests.
Q: How many stakes should I use per sign?
A: Using two per sign helps make sure they do not spin in the wind. Most signs come with only one stake per sign, though, so you may have to buy extra to have two each.
Q: How should I keep track of my inventory?
A: Using a spreadsheet is an excellent way to keep track of what you currently have, especially for things such as the amount of letters and colors currently being used in others yards. In terms of physically storing, organizing by color or type works very well, and makes it easy to find signs when you need to rent them.
Q: My customer wants us to set up earlier/later than our usual times. What should we do?
A: If you know the area well, then doing it a bit earlier/later should be alright, if you’re comfortable with the time. Above all, being comfortable with the location and time should decide whether or not you should do the order at that time. Putting in your contract that you can cancel an order if you don’t feel comfortable with the location is a good idea, just in case a situation occurs.
(“I have in my contract that if I get to an area and I don’t feel comfortable with it, I can cancel the order at my discretion.”-Kristen Peterson)
Q: How long is a normal rental period? -Gina Chirico
A: From sunup to sundown is a good time frame, or the night before until sundown.
Q: Do you charge extra for weekends or holidays? -Sue Chasteen
A: It is recommended to do one fee for typical days (ie non-holidays) as it makes understanding rates easier for your customers. However, it is recommended to charge a little extra for holidays, as there will be a lot of demand/orders that day.
Q: How can I store my inventory in a neat/organized way? -Gina Chirico
A: Using totes sorted by color and alphabet is a wonderful way to store your signs that is very space-efficient.
Q: What are some essentials you take with your orders you wish you took earlier? -Trav Bri
A: Extra tape, clear stakes, rag, hammer, Benadryl, water, mosquito spray, extra shoes in case you step in something bad, no-slip grip gloves
Q: Should I pull signs early from a customer because of pending storms and high/damaging winds? -Aimee Schluter
A: It is worth putting in your contract you can do such at your discretion, (mainly if high winds or hail is oncoming) as you don’t want your signs to get damaged/blown away.
Q: Is anyone serving (x location)?
A: UseYardwowzato see for yourself if anyone is in your area. This is useful for finding people to do your signs,orfor getting an idea of how much competition is in your area.
Q: Should I make a website, or just use social media? -Rachel Trumbull
A: It’s good to have both. You can use your site for order forms and to show all your products, while using your social media for marketing
Q: Has anyone tried/does anyone have advice for…
A: Join the Facebook group VictoryStore Yard Decoration Rental Business Owner Group to share and ask for all sorts of tips on what to do for your yard decoration business!
Q: How do I deal with a request/event that takes place at a random time? (ie a baby being born)
A: Extend the rental time, or ask them to call you 24 hours in advance to give you time to set up and not get too surprised by it
MARKET RESEARCH ON YARD DECORATION BUSINESSES
We asked 100 yard decoration business owners about their companies. These are the results of that survey.
Top-selling Categories (Ranked Score)
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDATIONS
There are many ways to start a small business. Instead of trying to find one for yourself, however, the Small Business Administration has ten recommendations to help ensure that your business will get off the ground successfully.
1: Conduct market research
Market research will tell you if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Use that information to find a competitive advantage for your business.
Use market research to find customers
Market research blends consumer behavior and economic trends to confirm and improve your business idea. It’s crucial to understand your consumer base from the outset. Market research lets you reduce risks even while your business is still just a gleam in your eye. Gather demographic information to better understand opportunities and limitations for gaining customers. This could include population data on age, wealth, family, interests, or anything else that’s relevant for your business. Then answer these questions to get a good sense of your market.
Demand: Is there a desire for your product or service?
Market size: How many people would be interested in your offering?
Economic indicators: What is the income range and employment rate?
Location: Where do your customers live and where can your business reach?
Market saturation: How many similar options are already available to consumers?
Pricing: What do potential customers pay for these alternatives?
You’ll also want to keep up with the latest small business trends. It’s important to gain a sense of the specific market share that will impact your profits. You can do market research using existing sources, or you can do the research yourself and go direct to consumers. Existing sources can save you a lot of time and energy, but the information might not be as specific to your audience as you’d like. Use it to answer questions that are both general and quantifiable, like industry trends, demographics, and household incomes.
Asking consumers yourself can give you a nuanced understanding of your specific target audience. But direct research can be time consuming and expensive. Use it to answer specific questions about your business or customers, like reactions to your logo, improvements you could make to buying experience, and where customers might go instead of your business.
Here are a few methods you can use to do direct research:
Use competitive analysis to find a market advantage
Competitive analysis helps you learn from businesses competing for your potential customers. This is key to defining a competitive edge that creates sustainable revenue.Your competitive analysis should identify your competition by product line or service and market segment. Assess the following characteristics of the competitive landscape:
Strengths and weaknesses
Your window of opportunity to enter the market
The importance of your target market to your competitors
Any barriers that may hinder you as you enter the market
Indirect or secondary competitors who may impact your success
Several industries might be competing to serve the same market you’re targeting. That’s why you should make sure to differentiate your competitive analysis by industry. Important industry factors to consider include level of competition, threat of new competitors or services, and the effect of suppliers and customers on price.
2: Write your business plan
Your business plan is the foundation of your business. It’s a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. You’ll use it to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice.
Business plans help you run your business
A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You’ll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It’s a way to think through the key elements of your business. Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners. Investors want to feel confident they’ll see a return on their investment. Your business plan is the tool you’ll use to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice.
Pick a business plan format that works for you
There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan. What’s important is that your plan meets your needs. Most business plans fall into one of two common categories: traditional or lean startup. Traditional business plans are more common, use a standard structure, and encourage you to go into detail in each section. They tend to require more work upfront and can be dozens of pages long. Lean startup business plans are less common but still use a standard structure. They focus on summarizing only the most important points of the key elements of your plan. They can take as little as one hour to make and are typically only one page.
Traditional business plan format
You might prefer a traditional business plan format if you’re very detail oriented, want a comprehensive plan, or plan to request financing from traditional sources. When you write your business plan, you don’t have to stick to the exact business plan outline. Instead, use the sections that make the most sense for your business and your needs. Traditional business plans use some combination of these nine sections.
Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful. Include your mission statement, your product or service, and basic information about your company’s leadership team, employees, and location. You should also include financial information and high-level growth plans if you plan to ask for financing.
Use your company description to provide detailed information about your company. Go into detail about the problems your business solves. Be specific, and list out the consumers, organization, or businesses your company plans to serve. Explain the competitive advantages that will make your business a success. Are there experts on your team? Have you found the perfect location for your store? Your company description is the place to boast about your strengths.
You’ll need a good understanding of your industry outlook and target market. Competitive research will show you what other businesses are doing and what their strengths are. In your market research, look for trends and themes. What do successful competitors do? Why does it work? Can you do it better? Now’s the time to answer these questions.
Organization and management
Tell your reader how your company will be structured and who will run it. Describe the legal structure of your business. State whether you have or intend to incorporate your business as a C or an S corporation, form a general or limited partnership, or if you’re a sole proprietor or LLC. Use an organizational chart to lay out who’s in charge of what in your company. Show how each person’s unique experience will contribute to the success of your venture. Consider including resumes and CVs of key members of your team.
Service or product line
Describe what you sell or what service you offer. Explain how it benefits your customers and what the product lifecycle looks like. Share your plans for intellectual property, like copyright or patent filings. If you’re doing research and development for your service or product, explain it in detail.
Marketing and sales
There’s no single way to approach a marketing strategy. Your strategy should evolve and change to fit your unique needs. Your goal in this section is to describe how you’ll attract and retain customers. You’ll also describe how a sale will actually happen. You’ll refer to this section later when you make financial projections, so make sure to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales strategies.
If you’re asking for funding, this is where you’ll outline your funding requirements. Your goal is to clearly explain how much funding you’ll need over the next five years and what you’ll use it for. Specify whether you want debt or equity, the terms you’d like applied, and the length of time your request will cover. Give a detailed description of how you’ll use your funds. Specify if you need funds to buy equipment or materials, pay salaries, or cover specific bills until revenue increases. Always include a description of your future strategic financial plans, like paying off debt or selling your business.
Supplement your funding request with financial projections. Your goal is to convince the reader that your business is stable and will be a financial success. If your business is already established, include income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the last three to five years. If you have other collateral you could put against a loan, make sure to list it now. Provide a prospective financial outlook for the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. For the first year, be even more specific and use quarterly — or even monthly — projections. Make sure to clearly explain your projections, and match them to your funding requests. This is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business.
Use your appendix to provide supporting documents or other materials specially requested. Common items to include are credit histories, resumes, product pictures, letters of reference, licenses, permits, or patents, legal documents, permits, and other contracts.
Lean startup format
You might prefer a lean startup format if you want to explain or start your business quickly, your business is relatively simple, or you plan to regularly change and refine your business plan. Lean startup formats are charts that use only a handful of elements to describe your company’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. They’re useful for visualizing tradeoffs and fundamental facts about your company. There are many versions of lean startup templates, but one of the oldest and most well known is the Business Model Canvas, developed by Alex Osterwalder. You can search the web to find free templates of the Business Model Canvas, or other versions, to build your business plan. We’ll discuss the nine components of the Business Model Canvas version here.
Note the other businesses or services you’ll work with to run your business. Think about suppliers, manufacturers, subcontractors and similar strategic partners.
List the ways your business will gain a competitive advantage. Highlight things like selling direct to consumers, or using technology to tap into the sharing economy.
List any resource you’ll leverage to create value for your customer. Your most important assets could include staff, capital, or intellectual property. Don’t forget to leverage business resources that might be available to women, veterans, Native Americans, and HUBZone businesses.
Make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market.
Describe how customers will interact with your business. Is it automated or personal? In person or online? Think through the customer experience from start to finish.
Be specific when you name your target market. Your business won’t be for everybody, so it’s important to have a clear sense of who your business will serve.
List the most important ways you’ll talk to your customers. Most businesses use a mix of channels and optimize them over time.
Will your company focus on reducing cost or maximizing value? Define your strategy, then list the most significant costs you’ll face pursuing it.
Explain how your company will actually make money. Some examples are direct sales, memberships fees, and selling advertising space. If your company has multiple revenue streams, list them all.
3: Fund your business
Your business plan will help you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business. If you don’t have that amount on hand, you’ll need to either raise or borrow the capital. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to find the capital you need.
Determine how much funding you’ll need
Every business has different needs, and no financial solution is one size fits all. Your personal financial situation and vision for your business will shape the financial future of your business. Once you know how much startup funding you’ll need, it’s time to figure out how you’ll get it
Fund your business yourself with self-funding
Otherwise known as bootstrapping, self-funding lets you leverage your own financial resources to support your business. Self-funding can come in the form of turning to family and friends for capital, using your savings accounts, or even tapping into your 401k. With self-funding, you retain complete control over the business but you also take on all the risk yourself. Be careful not to spend more than you can afford, and be especially careful if you choose to use tap into retirement accounts early. You might face expensive fees or penalties, or damage your ability to retire on time — so you should check with your plan’s administrator and a personal financial advisor first.
Get venture capital from investors
Investors can give you funding to start your business in the form of venture capital investments. Venture capital is normally offered in exchange for an ownership share and active role in the company. Venture capital differs from traditional financing in a number of important ways. Venture capital typically:
Focuses high-growth companies
Invests capital in return for equity, rather than debt (it’s not a loan)
Takes higher risks in exchange for potential higher returns
Has a longer investment horizon than traditional financing
Almost all venture capitalists will, at a minimum, want a seat on the board of directors.
So be prepared to give up some portion of both control and ownership of your company in exchange for funding.
How to get venture capital funding
There’s no guaranteed way to get venture capital, but the process generally follows a standard order of basic steps.
1: Find an investor
Look for individual investors — sometimes called “angel investors” — or venture capital firms. Be sure to do enough background research to know if the investor is reputable and has experience working with startup companies.
2: Share your business plan
The investor will review your business plan to make sure it meets their investing criteria. Most investment funds concentrate on an industry, geographic area, or stage of business development.
3: Go through due diligence review
The investors will look at your company’s management team, market, products and services, corporate governance documents, and financial statements.
4: Work out the terms
If they want to invest, the next step is to agree on a term sheet that describes the terms and conditions for the fund to make an investment.
Once you agree on a term sheet, you can get the investment! Once a venture fund has invested, it becomes actively involved in the company. Venture funds normally come in “rounds.” As the company meets milestones, further rounds of financing are made available, with adjustments in price as the company executes its plan.
Use crowdfunding to fund your business
Crowdfunding raises funds for a business from a large number of people, called crowdfunders. Crowdfunders aren’t technically investors, because they don’t receive a share of ownership in the business and don’t expect a financial return on their money. Instead, crowdfunders expect to get a “gift” from your company as thanks for their contribution. Often, that gift is the product you plan to sell or other special perks, like meeting the business owner or getting their name in the credits. This makes crowdfunding a popular option for people who want to produce creative works (like a documentary), or a physical product (like a high-tech cooler).
Crowdfunding is also popular because it’s very low risk for business owners. Not only do you get to retain full control of your company, but if your plan fails, you’re typically under no obligation to repay your crowdfunders. Every crowdfunding platform is different, so make sure to read the fine print and understand your full financial and legal obligations.
Get a small business loan
If you want to retain complete control of your business, but don’t have enough funds to start, consider a small business loan. To increase your chances of securing a loan, you should have a business plan, expense sheet, and financial projections for the next five years. These tools will give you an idea of how much you’ll need to ask for, and will help the bank know they’re making a smart choice by giving you a loan. Once you have your materials ready, contact banks and credit unions to request a loan. You’ll want to compare offers to get the best possible terms for your loan.
4: Pick your business location
Your business location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Whether you’re setting up a brick-and-mortar business or launching an online store, the choices you make could affect your taxes, legal requirements, and revenue.
Research the best place to locate your business
You’ll need to register your business, pay taxes, and get licenses and permits in the place you choose to locate your business. Where you locate your business depends in part on the location of your target market, business partners, and your personal preferences. In addition, you should consider the costs, benefits, and restrictions of different government agencies.
Region-specific business expenses
When you calculate your startup costs, take into account the way different expenses might cost more or less depending on your location. Costs that can vary significantly by location include standard salaries, minimum wage laws, property values, rental rates, business insurance rates, utilities, and government licenses and fees.
Local zoning ordinances
If you buy, rent, build, or plan to work out of a physical property for your business, make sure it conforms to local zoning requirements. Neighborhoods are generally zoned for either commercial or residential use. Zoning ordinances can restrict or entirely ban specific kinds of businesses from operating in an area. You might have fewer zoning restrictions if you base your business out of your home, but zoning ordinances can still apply even to home-based businesses. Zoning laws are typically controlled at the local level, so check with your department of city planning, or similar office, to find out about the zoning laws in your area.
State and local taxes
Consider the tax landscape for the state, county, and city. Income tax, sales tax, property tax, and corporate taxes can vary significantly from place to place. In fact, some states are well-known for creating tax environments that are very friendly to certain kinds of companies. That’s part of the reason why tech startups, financial institutions, and manufacturing tend to concentrate in certain areas of the country. Visit state and local government websites to find out what the tax landscape for your area looks like.
State and local government incentives
Some state and local governments offer special tax credits for small businesses. You might also find state-specific small business loans or other financial incentives. Incentive programs and benefits are often related to job creation, energy efficiency, urban redevelopment, and technology. Visit local SBA Offices, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers state and local government websites to find more information.
Federal government incentives
The federal government offers benefits to small businesses that contract with the government and are based in underutilized areas. Check into the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program to see if you qualify for preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.
5: Choose a business structure
The legal structure you choose for your business will impact your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability.
Your business structure affects how much you pay in taxes, your ability to raise money, the paperwork you need to file, and your personal liability. You’ll need to choose a business structure before you register your business with the state. Most businesses will also need to get a tax ID number and file for the appropriate licenses and permits. Choose carefully. While you may convert to a different business structure in the future, there may be restrictions based on your location. This could also result in tax consequences and unintended dissolution, among other complications. Consulting with business counselors, attorneys, and accountants can prove helpful.
Review common business structures
A sole proprietorship is easy to form and gives you complete control of your business. You’re automatically considered to be a sole proprietorship if you do business activities but don’t register as any other kind of business.
Sole proprietorships do not produce a separate business entity. This means your business assets and liabilities are not separate from your personal assets and liabilities. You can be held personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. Sole proprietors are still able to get a trade name. It can also be hard to raise money because you can’t sell stock, and banks are hesitant to lend to sole proprietorships. Sole proprietorships can be a good choice for low-risk businesses and owners who want to test their business idea before forming a more formal business.
Partnerships are the simplest structure for two or more people to own a business together. There are two common kinds of partnerships: limited partnerships (LP) and limited liability partnerships (LLP). Limited partnerships have only one general partner with unlimited liability, and all other partners have limited liability. The partners with limited liability also tend to have limited control over the company, which is documented in a partnership agreement. Profits are passed through to personal tax returns, and the general partner — the partner without limited liability — must also pay self-employment taxes.
Limited liability partnerships are similar to limited partnerships, but give limited liability to every owner. An LLP protects each partner from debts against the partnership, they won’t be responsible for the actions of other partners. Partnerships can be a good choice for businesses with multiple owners, professional groups (like attorneys), and groups who want to test their business idea before forming a more formal business.
Limited liability company (LLC)
An LLC lets you take advantage of the benefits of both the corporation and partnership business structures.LLCs protect you from personal liability in most instances, your personal assets — like your vehicle, house, and savings accounts — won’t be at risk in case your LLC faces bankruptcy or lawsuits. Profits and losses can get passed through to your personal income without facing corporate taxes. However, members of an LLC are considered self-employed and must pay self-employment tax contributions towards Medicare and Social Security.
LLCs can have a limited life in many states. When a member joins or leaves an LLC, some states may require the LLC to be dissolved and re-formed with new membership — unless there’s already an agreement in place within the LLC for buying, selling, and transferring ownership. LLCs can be a good choice for medium- or higher-risk businesses, owners with significant personal assets they want to be protected, and owners who want to pay a lower tax rate than they would with a corporation.
A corporation, sometimes called a C corp, is a legal entity that’s separate from its owners. Corporations can make a profit, be taxed, and can be held legally liable. Corporations offer the strongest protection to its owners from personal liability, but the cost to form a corporation is higher than other structures. Corporations also require more extensive record-keeping, operational processes, and reporting.
Unlike sole proprietors, partnerships, and LLCs, corporations pay income tax on their profits. In some cases, corporate profits are taxed twice — first, when the company makes a profit, and again when dividends are paid to shareholders on their personal tax returns. Corporations have a completely independent life separate from its shareholders. If a shareholder leaves the company or sells his or her shares, the C corp can continue doing business relatively undisturbed. Corporations have an advantage when it comes to raising capital because they can raise funds through the sale of stock, which can also be a benefit in attracting employees. Corporations can be a good choice for medium- or higher-risk businesses, businesses that need to raise money, and businesses that plan to “go public” or eventually be sold.
An S corporation, sometimes called an S corp, is a special type of corporation that’s designed to avoid the double taxation drawback of regular C corps. S corps allow profits, and some losses, to be passed through directly to owners’ personal income without ever being subject to corporate tax rates. Not all states tax S corps equally, but most recognize them the same way the federal government does and taxes the shareholders accordingly. Some states tax S corps on profits above a specified limit and other states don’t recognize the S corp election at all, simply treating the business as a C corp.
S corps must file with the IRS to get S corp status, a different process from registering with their state. There are special limits on S corps. S corps can’t have more than 100 shareholders, and all shareholders must be U.S. citizens. You’ll still have to follow strict filing and operational processes of a C corp. S corps also have an independent life, just like C corps. If a shareholder leaves the company or sells his or her shares, the S corp can continue doing business relatively undisturbed. S corps can be a good choice for a business that would otherwise be a C corp, but meet the criteria to file as an S corp.
A benefit corporation, sometimes called a B corp, is a for-profit corporation recognized by a majority of U.S. states. B corps are different from C corps in purpose, accountability, and transparency, but aren’t different in how they’re taxed.B corps are driven by both mission and profit. Shareholders hold the company accountable to produce some sort of public benefit in addition to a financial profit. Some states require B corps to submit annual benefit reports that demonstrate their contribution to the public good. There are several third-party B corp certification services, but none are required for a company to be legally considered a B corp in a state where the legal status is available.
Close corporations resemble B corps but have a less traditional corporate structure. These shed many formalities that typically govern corporations and apply to smaller companies. State rules vary, but shares are usually barred from public trading. Close corporations can be run by a small group of shareholders without a board of directors.
Nonprofit corporations are organized to do charity, education, religious, literary, or scientific work. Because their work benefits the public, nonprofits can receive tax-exempt status, meaning they don’t pay state or federal taxes income taxes on any profits it makes. Nonprofits must file with the IRS to get tax exemption, a different process from registering with their state. Nonprofit corporations need to follow organizational rules very similar to a regular C corp. They also need to follow special rules about what they do with any profits they earn. For example, they can’t distribute profits to members or political campaigns. Nonprofits are often called 501(c)(3) corporations — a reference to the section of the Internal Revenue Code that is most commonly used to grant tax-exempt status.
A cooperative is a business or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Profits and earnings generated by the cooperative are distributed among the members, also known as user-owners. Typically, an elected board of directors and officers run the cooperative while regular members have voting power to control the direction of the cooperative. Members can become part of the cooperative by purchasing shares, though the amount of shares they hold does not affect the weight of their vote.
Combine different business structures
Designations like S corp and nonprofit aren’t strictly business structures — they can also be understood as a tax status. It’s possible for an LLC to be taxed as a C corp, S corp, or a nonprofit. These arrangements are far less common and can be more difficult to setup. If you’re considering one of these non-standard structures, you should speak with a business counselor or an attorney to help you decide.
6: Choose your business name
It’s not easy to pick the perfect name. You’ll want one that reflects your brand and captures your spirit. You’ll also want to make sure your business name isn’t already being used by someone else.
Register your business name to protect it
You’ll want to choose a business name that reflects your brand identity and doesn’t clash with the types of goods and services you offer. Once you settle on a name you like, you need to protect it. There are four different ways to register your business name. Each way of registering your name serves a different purpose, and some may be legally required depending on your business structure and location.
Entity name protects you at state level
Trademark protects you at a federal level
Doing Business As (DBA) doesn’t give legal protection, but might be legally required
Domain name protects your business website address
Each of these name registrations are legally independent. Most small businesses try to use the same name for each kind of registration, but you’re not normally required to.
4 different ways to register your business name
An entity name can protect the name of your business at a state level. Depending on your business structure and location, the state may require you to register a legal entity name. Your entity name is how the state identifies your business. Each state may have different rules about what your entity name can be and usage of company suffixes. Most states don’t allow you to register a name that’s already been registered by someone else, and some states require your entity name to reflect the kind of business it represents.
In most cases, your entity name registration protects your business and prevents anyone else in the state from operating under the same entity name. However, there are exceptions pertaining to state and business structure. Check with your state for rules about how to register your business name.
A trademark can protect the name of your business, goods, and services at a national level. Trademarks prevent others in the same (or similar) industry in the U.S. from using your trademarked names. For example, if you were an electronics company and wanted to call your business Springfield Electronic Accessories and one of your products Screen Cover 5000, trademarking those names would prevent other electronics businesses or similar products from using those same names.
Businesses in every state are subject to trademark infringement lawsuits, which can prove costly. That’s why you should check your prospective business, product, and service names against the official trademark database, maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Doing Business As (DBA) name
You might need to register your DBA — also known as a trade name, fictitious name, or assumed name — with the state, county, or city your business is located in. Registering your DBA name doesn’t provide legal protection by itself, but most states require you to register your DBA if you use one. Some business structures require you to use a DBA. Even if you’re not required to register a DBA, you might want to anyway. A DBA lets you conduct business under a different identity from your own personal name or your formal business entity name. As an added bonus, getting a DBA and federal tax ID number (EIN) allows you to open a business bank account.
Multiple businesses can go by the same DBA in one state, so you’re less restricted in what you can choose. There’s also more leeway in the clarity of business function. For example, a small business owner could use Springfield Electronic Accessories for their entity name but use TechBuddy for their DBA. Just remember that trademark infringement laws will still apply.
Determine your DBA requirements based on your specific location. Requirements vary by business structure as well as by state, county, and municipality, so check with local government offices and websites.
If you want an online presence for your business, start by registering a domain name — also known as your website address, or URL. Once you register your domain name, no one else can use it for as long as you continue to own it. It’s a good way to protect your brand presence online.
If someone else has already registered the domain you wanted to use, that’s okay. Your domain name doesn’t actually need to be the same as your legal business name, trademark, or DBA. For example, Springfield Electronic Accessories could register the domain name techbuddyspringfield.com. You’ll register your domain name through a registrar service. Consult a directory of accredited registrars to determine which ones are safe to use, and then pick one that offers you the best combination of price and customer service. You’ll need to renew your domain registration on a regular basis.
7: Register your business
Once you’ve picked the perfect business name, it’s time to make it legal and protect your brand. If you’re doing business under a name different than your own, you’ll need to register with the federal government, and maybe your state government, too.
Find out if you need to register your business
Your location and business structure determine how you’ll need to register your business. Determine those factors first, and registration becomes very straightforward. For most small businesses, registering your business is as simple as registering your business name with state and local governments. In some cases, you don’t need to register at all. If you conduct business as yourself using your legal name, you won’t need to register anywhere. But remember, if you don’t register your business, you could miss out on personal liability protection, legal benefits, and tax benefits.
Register with federal agencies
Most businesses don’t need to register with the federal government to become a legal entity, other than simply filing to get a federal tax ID. Small businesses sometimes register with the federal government for trademark protection or tax exempt status. If you want to trademark your business, brand or product name, file with the United States Patent and Trademark office once you’ve formed your business. If you want tax-exempt status for a nonprofit corporation, register your business as a tax-exempt entity with the IRS. To create an S corp, you’ll need to file form 2553 with the IRS.
Register with state agencies
If your business is an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation, you’ll probably need to register with any state where you conduct business activities.Typically, you’re considered to be conducting business activities in a state when:
Your business has a physical presence in the state
You often have in-person meetings with clients in the state
A significant portion of your company’s revenue comes from the state
Any of your employees work in the state
Some states allow you to register online, and some states make you file paper documents in person or through the mail. Most states require you to register with the Secretary of State’s office, a Business Bureau, or a Business Agency.
Get a registered agent
If your business is an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation, you’ll need a registered agent in your state before you file. A registered agent receives official papers and legal documents on behalf of your company. The registered agent must be located in the state where you register. Many business owners prefer to use a registered agent service rather than do this role themselves.
File for foreign qualification
If your LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation conducts business activities in more than one state, you might need to form your business in one state and then file for foreign qualification in other states where your business is active. The state where you form your business will consider your business to be domestic, while every other state will view your business as foreign. Foreign qualification notifies the state that a foreign business is active there.
Foreign qualified businesses typically need to pay taxes and annual report fees in both their state of formation and states where they’re foreign qualified. To foreign qualify, file a Certificate of Authority with the state. Many states also require a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of formation. Each state charges a filing fee, but the amount varies by state and business structure. Check with state offices to find out foreign qualification requirements and fees.
File state documents and fees
In most cases, the total cost to register your business will be less than $300, but fees vary depending on your state and business structure. The information you’ll need typically includes:
Ownership, management structure, or directors
Registered agent information
Number and value of shares (if you’re a corporation)
The documents you need — and what goes in them — will vary based on your state and business structure.
Register with local agencies
Typically, you don’t need to register with county or city governments to actually form your business. If your business is an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation, you might need to file for licenses and permits from the county or city. Some counties and cities also require you to register your DBA — a trade name or a fictitious name — if you use one. Local governments determine registration, licensing, and permitting requirements, so visit local government websites to find out what you need to do.
Stay up to date with registration requirements
Some states require you to provide reports soon after registering depending on your business structure. You may need to file additional documentation with your state tax board or franchise tax board. These filings are typically referred to as Initial Reports or Tax Board registration, and most often need to be filed within 30–90 days after you register with the state. Check with your local tax office or franchise tax board, if it applies to you.
8: Get federal and state tax IDs
You’ll use your employer identification number (EIN) for important steps to start and grow your business, like opening a bank account and paying taxes. It’s like a social security number for your business. Some — but not all — states require you to get a tax ID as well.
Get a federal tax ID number
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) is your federal tax ID. You need it to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits.
It’s free to apply for an EIN, and you should do it right after you register your business. Your business needs a federal tax ID number if it does any of the following:
Operates as a corporation of partnership
Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
Works with certain types of organizations
Apply for an EIN with the IRS assistance tool. It will guide you through questions and ask for your name, social security number, address, and your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. Your nine-digit federal tax ID becomes available immediately upon verification.
Change or replace your EIN
If you already have an EIN, you might have to change or replace it with a new one if certain changes have occurred with your business.Types of business changes that might require you to change or replace your EIN are:
Changes in ownership
Changes in management
Change in tax status
Your requirements will depend on your business structure and the kind of change that occurred. Check with the IRS to determine exactly whether you need to change or replace your EIN.
Get a state tax ID number
The need for a state tax ID number ties directly to whether your business must pay state taxes. Sometimes, you can use state tax ID numbers for other functions, like protection against identity theft for sole proprietors. Tax obligations differ at the state and local levels, so you’ll need to check with your state’s websites. To know whether you need a state tax ID, research and understand your state’s laws regarding income taxes and employment taxes, the two most common forms of state taxes for small businesses. The process to get a state tax ID number is similar to getting a federal tax ID number, but it will vary by state. You’ll have to check with your state government for specific steps.
State income and employment taxes for businesses
Seven states have no income tax, and another two only impose tax on income from dividends. States that do tax income will determine figures based on business structure. Taxes also vary by state on employment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Understand these and other implications in calculating startup costs and choosing a business structure. Visit your state’s website to identify whether you need to get a state tax ID number in order to pay state taxes.
9: Apply for licenses and permits
Keep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by industry, state, location, and other factors.
Federal licenses and permits
You’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency.Check to see if any of your business activities are listed here, and then check with the right federal agency to see how to apply. Requirements and fees depend on your business activity and the agency issuing the license or permit. It’s best to check with the issuing agency for details on the business license cost.
State licenses and permits
The licenses and permits you need from the state, county, or city will depend on your business activities and business location. Your business license fees will also vary. States tend to regulate a broader range of activities than the federal government. For example, business activities that are commonly regulated locally include auctions, construction, and dry cleaning, farming, plumbing, restaurants, retail, and vending machines.
Some licenses and permits expire after a set period of time. Keep close track of when you need to renew them — it’s often easier to renew than it is to apply for a new one. You’ll have to research your own state, county, and city regulations. Industry requirements often vary by state. Visit your state’s website to find out which permits and licenses you need.
10: Open a business bank account
A small business checking account can help you handle legal, tax, and day-to-day issues. The good news is it’s easy to set one up if you have the right registrations and paperwork ready.
Benefits of business bank accounts
As soon as you start accepting or spending money as your business, you should open a business bank account. Common business accounts include a checking account, savings account, credit card account, and a merchant services account. Merchant services accounts allow you to accept credit and debit card transactions from your customers. You can open a business bank account once you’ve gotten your federal EIN. Most business bank accounts offer perks that don’t come with a standard personal bank account.
Protection. Business banking offers limited personal liability protection by keeping your business funds separate from your personal funds. Merchant services also offer purchase protection for your customers and ensures that their personal information is secure.
Professionalism. Customers will be able to pay you with credit cards and make checks out to your business instead of directly to you. Plus, you’ll be able to authorize employees to handle day-to-day banking tasks on behalf of the business.
Preparedness. Business banking usually comes with the option for a line of credit for the company. This can be used in the event of an emergency, or if your business needs new equipment.
Purchasing power. Credit card accounts can help your business make large startup purchases and help establish a credit history for your business.
Find an account with low fees and good benefits
Some business owners open a business account at the same bank they use for their personal accounts. Rates, fees, and options vary from bank to bank, so you should shop around to make sure you find the lowest fees and the best benefits.
Here are things to consider when you’re opening a business checking or savings account:
Interest rates for savings and checking
Interest rates for lines of credit
Early termination fees
Minimum account balance fees
Here are things to consider when you’re opening a merchant services account:
Discount rate: The percentage charged for every transaction processed.
Transaction fees: The amount charged for every credit card transaction.
Address Verification Service (AVS) fees.
ACH daily batch fees: Fees charged when you settle credit card transactions for that day.
Monthly minimum fees: Fees charged if your business doesn’t meet the minimum required transactions.
Payment processing companies are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional merchant services accounts. Payment processing companies sometimes provide extra functionality, like accessories that let you use your phone to accept credit card payments. The fee categories that you need to consider will be similar to merchant services account fees. If you find a payment processor that you like, remember that you’ll still need to connect it to a business checking account to receive payments.
Get documents you need to open a business bank account
Opening a business bank account is easy once you’ve picked your bank. Simply go online or to a local branch to begin the process. Here are some of the most common documents banks ask for when you open a business bank account. Some banks may ask for more.
Employer Identification Number (EIN) (or a Social Security number, if you’re a sole proprietorship)
Learn from the Professionals on how to start and run your own, successful Yard Card Rental Business. From inventory to customer service to being your own boss, Chet D. Arnold of Etc Yard Art offers up his advice and tells us how he created his own, flourishing yard card business.
Thank you all for joining us. My name is Steve Grubbs, and Patti Glover, our sales director, is with us today. I am the founder of VictoryStore.com. And we’re so thankful that all of you joined us here today. We had a couple of technical glitches as we got started here. But we’re going to talk today about how to build your own yard card rental business. And there’s a lot of talk now about the gig economy; driving for Uber, driving for Lyft, Airbnb, that type of thing. But one of the great things is how to become your own boss. And this is one of the ways that we have a lot of customers who started yard card rental businesses. And we’re going to talk to you about a business model for it, how you can make money, how you can market it and build a steady clientele. So, let’s go ahead and start with the first slide.
So, this is how it works. The yard card business is pretty simple. Yard card greeting rentals are a great fit for working with your own time schedule and you can rent to businesses and families and schools and churches. And so essentially, what we’re talking about here are congratulatory messages that might be for birthdays, new birth, retirement, or it could be some other more significant message about an event. So, continuing on, on how it works, the second piece is, you need a starter kit. If you haven’t done this before, you get a starter kit. And we have themes that accommodate most major events, you can buy custom-themed packages, you can have us create something, or you can buy packages that we have online and just put a combination of letters, numbers, or characters together. Each kit and package come with pretty much everything you need. It’ll include stakes, and if you have other designs that you want, we can include those as well.
There are a lot of advantages of starting a lawn greeting business. And we’re going to just talk about a few of those now. So, one of those is you can work out of your house, be your own boss and create a flexible schedule. So, I know there’s a period of time when I had kids and a lot of activities. And because of that, we were looking to have a flexible schedule. And this is one of those things that allows you to do so. Second of all, unlike a lot of businesses, this has a low startup cost. If you’re going to open a McDonald’s franchise, it’s a million dollars, but a yard card greeting business can, you know, our starter kit $999. There are packages that are less than that, but it has fairly low startup costs to get started. And the nice thing is that it doesn’t really matter what size your vehicle is, you don’t have to have a truck to deliver a lawn greeting, you can use pretty much any car. And for most people, they find that it’s fairly easy income. And I don’t want to say it’s easy, because anytime you’re starting a new business, it’s not easy. There’s a lot to it.
But, having said that, most people find that through their natural social connections, and by promoting these through various social media accounts, they’re able to pick up clients pretty quickly. People who are having events, graduations, weddings, birthdays, that type of thing. And most people don’t want to buy one permanently, because they’re just going to use it one time. So, this is a great way that they can rent it, they can pay you to set it up and take it away. The other great thing about this is it really has unlimited potential. So, you might work for someone, or you might have some jobs where your potential is somewhat limited. And in this, you can grow it as big as you want it to be, and you can hire people to put them out for you. And to the extent that your social media reach keeps growing and you get more recommendations from friends, that potential just keeps moving forward. And so that’s pretty exciting for people.
The other thing is most people will make back their initial investment in the first few weeks of operation. You know, for some it’s within the first month and others it might take two to three months. But if you are very active with this, and you are renting two to five times a week, you’re going to make that investment back within the first month. So, sometimes it might take a little while to get off the ground, but a lot of people find it takes off pretty quickly. And finally, it’s great that you can deliver smiles daily and love what you do. It’s a great way to bring happiness to the world. And, you know, you’re not Mother Teresa, but you’re still bringing happiness to your neighborhood. So, that’s a pretty great thing.
Let’s talk about a sample business model. So, in thinking about how you put this together, let’s say that you just dip your toe in the water, and you’re able to get one yard greeting rental a week, just one a week for a month, and you charge $75 for a 24-hour rental. Well, over a span of the year, you’re going to gross $3,900, you’re certainly not going to put your kids through college on that, but it can be decent spending money.
Let’s say that you go to the next step, and you’re hitting your stride, getting some momentum, and you have 10-yard greeting rentals a week, and you’re charging $75 for that 24-hour rental. Well, now, over the span of a year, you’ve grossed $39,000 in revenue, and your cost for your products is significantly less than that.
Let’s go one step further and let’s say that this is really humming now. And you’ve got 25-yard greeting rentals a week. And you’re going to take orders and you’re spending about 20 to 25 hours a week putting these up. Well, over the span of a year, you can gross, almost $100,000. And so suddenly, it starts to look like more than just a hobby business. It starts to look like a business where you can really begin to make some significant revenue.
So, we guesstimate -- this is different for everybody. You know, if you’re doing this in a town where traffic is not a big challenge, then it probably takes 20 to 30 minutes to drive and set this up in a yard and then go back and pick it up, it can be pretty quick. But if you’re in a larger area, maybe driving a little further, it might take an hour. And I’m sure there are some people it might take a little bit more than an hour. But we guesstimate that it takes about an hour to drive and install a yard greeting and get it picked up. And so, you’ve got that time investment in it.
So, let’s talk about a potential initial investment. So, with the starter kit, and the starter kit has over 150 individual lawn decoration pieces. You can go on the website, VictoryStore.com, we’ll show you a link a little bit later. But you’ll find that the starter kit for $999 has everything you need to have a robust lawn greeting business. And the cool thing is that there are so many different themes. We have over 100 different lawn greeting designs, so pretty much everything you can imagine. They’re fun birthday greetings and fun retirement greetings and so much more. So, for $1,000, it gets you a pretty good distance along.
So, now we’re moving on to marketing and advertising. So, let’s think in terms of social media, for marketing, and advertising, we use this a lot. If you’ve run across VictoryStore.com, you’ve probably run across us through Facebook or Instagram. And it’s a great model. So, we’re going to move on to slide number 11. And this talks about how to create a business Facebook page, because that’s the first thing you need. So, we have seven steps here. And you can find this, if you go to Google and you just type in setting up a business page on Facebook, you’ll find the same information. So, you don’t have to memorize or write down what we have here.
But essentially, it’s pretty easy. You go to Facebook, you register for a business page, you enter your business information, upload your initial photos, your profile pic, cover photo, that kind of thing. And we would recommend using potentially one of our photos. We’ll give you -- if you’re our customer, you certainly have permission to use our lawn decoration photo. So, that gets you a long way there. And then you start inviting your friends to like your page, it’s pretty easy. Once they see what you’re doing, suddenly, they’re pretty excited about calling you and saying, “Hey, would you bring over a birthday greeting for my daughter’s sweet 16?” Or retirement greeting and that type of thing. So, you want to, ideally, invite as many friends as possible to like your page because that’s a really fast way to grow your business.
And they’re going to ask you for some additional business details, hours of operation, that type of thing. You know, they’ll ask you to add a button to your page and you can figure all this out pretty quickly or use some of the resources they have. But make sure you get your business page set up on Facebook. Now, we’re going to moving on to the next slide, and we’ll talk about the optional marketing investment. And if you look at the weekly advertising budget that you can use on Facebook, it can be any amount of money. But let’s say that you’re boosting $50 on a post. So, you put up a post that says, “This is our birthday lawn greeting.” And you can see an example of it down at the bottom of the slide where it says happy birthday.
And let’s say you spend $50 a week; you are probably going to reach 2,500 to 5,000 people for $50 a week. And the more people that like your page, the greater reach you’re going to have. So, suddenly, a lot of people are seeing what you’re doing. And even though they may not pick up the phone and order, the very first day they see it. Remember, in marketing, you want to touch people, six to 10 times with your message before they’ll finally take action. But let’s say that you do that week in, week out, $50 a week, you just stick to a budget on that. At the end of the year, you’re going to have spent $2,600. But you should get dozens or hundreds of inquiries and orders by spending that amount of money.
So, let’s look at the next slide and understand the business model here. So, your total investment, potentially, for the first year, might be more than this, might be less than that. But this is an example, could be $999 for the starter package that includes the more than 150 items. And then $5,200 in marketing or excuse me $2,600 in marketing. And you add that together, and it’s 3,599 -- basically $3,600. Now, the other option is just to go for a full $100 a week, but start it at 60 at the $2,600 level, and then test larger amounts and see if that brings you in even more business. You know, if you think about it, if you spend $50 and you get two clients, well, you paid for your marketing budget. If you spend $100 and get four clients, not only have you paid for your marketing budget, but you’ve also made a decent amount of money that week. So, that’s what you want to constantly be testing.
So, let’s go on to the next slide and look at how the business model plays out. So, your revenue if you’re renting 10 times a week and you’re bringing in $39,000 a year, you subtract out your startup cost and your budget of $3,600, and you have a net of $35,401. Which, for a side gig, isn’t too bad. That’ll pay for something out there, almost pay for college, a year of college these days. So, that’s a good way to think of how you might get a business like this off the ground.
Let’s look at some of the really just great designs that we have. Moving on to the next slide. So, you can use the photos from our site. And that’s why we have them on here if you’re our customers. So, we have a lot of different Happy Birthday greetings. We have more than 25 different Happy Birthday Greetings. Not all of them are up on our site at the same time, but you can check in with our sales team and they’ll make sure that whatever you’re looking for, we probably have it, and they can guide you in the right direction. People really love it when you don’t just put up like a generic Happy Birthday sign but when it’s personalized. And that’s why in our starter packet, you’ll find some individualized letters and you can add additional letters, that type of thing.
Some people will say okay, for $75 we will put up a lawn greeting, but for $100 we’ll personalize it with the year and the name. So, there’s some add-ons that you can charge to make a little bit extra money. But when somebody comes home and they see something like this Happy Birthday yard greeting, ‘Happy Birthday Jack’. That’s a pretty cool thing, something that they never forget. We also have birthday party yard greetings. So, in this next slide, you see Hannah and Emma had a joint birthday party. So, this is one that they recognize that their friends showed up and it looked pretty cool, ‘Happy 13th birthday’. This just gives you a sense on the level of customization that you can do with names and that’s a big deal.
Moving on to the next slide, the Fall Festival yard greetings. So, this is just an example of a festival. Now, there’s two ways to do this some of our stock items will be for a particular event. So, you can have stock items that are in your inventory, or what a lot of people do is they just buy two or three different sets of letters. And then they can spell out whatever it is that their customer wants. And so, this one requires, other than the pumpkins, everything else would be standard, and maybe the doll in the middle. And it might be something that you’ve got a big client who’s willing to spend $300 to $500 on a customized greeting. And you know, you work with our team and have something made, and you can do something really, really cool and still make some decent money.
Let’s move on to the special events yard greetings. You know this is one that we did for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and it was so cool. It is a place that if you’re starting the race or ending the race that tells people not only at the beginning or end of the race. But if it’s up for a week or two in advance, then it helps to advertise that the race is occurring. And that helps to drive more participation. And if you think of it, a road like the one you see in front of you is probably getting around 5,000 to 10,000 drive-byes a day. So, let’s say, for easy math 10,000, well over 10 days, that’s 100,000 eyeballs, over a month, it’s 300,000 eyeballs. So, that’s a lot of visibility for a fairly inexpensive product that you’re able to provide for customers. So, there are a lot more examples of this if you can think about it. And if you go to our VictoryStore site, VictoryStore.com, and search for yard decorations, you’ll find a lot of different options out there.
You know, moving on to our last slide, a lot of people make this sort of a family adventure. So, if you’re like me, your kids needed money when they were growing up, they wanted to go out and have fun with friends or they had activities at school, this is a way that kids can be a part of and learn some valuable lessons about money and work and the values that will help build them into strong adults. And so this is one of those great things.
Written By Victorystore Webmaster - February 25 2021
Starting A Yard Sign Business with Steve Grubbs & Tricia Reese
Steve Grubbs: Welcome everybody. I am Steve Grubbs, your host of the Victory Store Yard Decoration Rental Business Podcast Interview. Today, we have a very special guest, Tricia Reese from St. Louis, Missouri. If you're watching beyond the borders of the United States, Missouri is right in the middle of the country on the Mississippi river. So, Tricia tell us a little bit first of all, what is the name of your Yard Decoration Rental Business?
Tricia Reese: We are Happy House Cards.
Steve Grubbs: Happy House Cards. And let's talk a little bit of about your origin story. Every good superhero, every good super business has an origin story. How long have you been working in this business?
Tricia Reese: Our official first sign was Valentine's day of last year.
Steve Grubbs: So, you've got 12 months under your belt. Is it safe to say that you're still in business?
Tricia Reese: Yes yeah, it's safe to say good.
Steve Grubbs: That's good, because you know about half of all new businesses fold within the first 12 months. So, you have surpassed the first hurdle. Congratulations on that.
Tricia Reese: Okay, I didn't know that, but yeah, we're doing good.
Steve Grubbs: 80% in the first five years. So, you know we have obviously VictoryStore. We're in our 23rd year, I think. So, we're trying to keep it going as well. Tell me why in the world, would you want to get involved in this type of business?
Tricia Reese: Well, my husband was wanting to come up with, you know, kind of a side job that would bring in, maybe, I don't know, five to ten thousand dollars a year. Just something to do on the side. He would pitch something at me like a food truck or anything he would throw my way, it just seemed to just be too involved. He's a high school principal and was talking to a co-worker who has some friends that do this type of business. This is their fourth year, they're more in the city of St. Louis and they're also educators. They were making about ten thousand dollars a year and I thought you know that's pretty good. He was showing me the starter kits and about how much they run. And I thought, you know, I'm not a risk taker, he's more the risk taker. To me, that seemed like, you know, a very manageable risk if it didn't take off.
I also am a very creative person and it sounded like a nice creative outlet in a way to bring happiness to people, you know just something different. We were looking, I was needing something different.
Steve Grubbs: Sure, so you've led me to two questions then.
Tricia Reese: Okay.
Steve Grubbs: Number one, roughly, you don't have to give us the exact number, but roughly, how much money did you spend in your initial launch of the business then?
Tricia Reese: Initially, it was right around $2,000 for the starter kit. We added a couple of other yard card sets, Mike got the website going and that kind of thing. It was roughly $2,000.
Steve Grubbs: Great. In understanding that year two should be more profitable than year one, did you reach your goal of five to ten thousand dollars in year one?
Tricia Reese: Yeah, the first two months were tough, I remember my husband saying this was a mistake. Because we started February and March of last year. I think we had five paying orders and then COVID hit. In April, we did 128 signs and May hit and we did 186 signs. So, we went from two months of five signs to the third month and then the fourth month. April and May were complete insanity. That's when we just had basically the starter kit. So, it was quite a challenge. I mean talk about being thrown into the fire!
Steve Grubbs: Just thinking about that real quick. If you average, what do you average per sale? $75, $100.
Tricia Reese: That's what we charge. $75 and we will travel up to 20 miles. For an additional day I just charged $25. So, most of our orders are one day orders.
Steve Grubbs: So, you must have broken even on your initial investment by the end of March. To break even you'd be somewhere around 27 setups.
Tricia Reese: Yeah, something like that. Well April for sure yeah, March we weren't.
Steve Grubbs: Okay, so April. Yeah, I can tell you when the when COVID happened, as you may recall, if you did business with us, it broke our business model. We quickly invested a million dollars in new machines and cutting machines and printing machines to just to be able to dig ourselves out of the hole. We had a lot of unhappy customers and we had apologized for months. But you know, it was a once in a lifetime deal and we all went through it together. So, all right. Let's get down to some really important questions. First of all, lesson number one I think that I’ve picked up already is that, with or without COVID you're probably going to start slow and build up.
Tricia Reese: Exactly.
Steve Grubbs: Fair enough, okay. Next question. What have been the best two or three marketing tools that you have used to get the word out on your business?
Tricia Reese: Okay, well before my phone started blowing up, I think it was the last day of March. We did a free sign for one of my husband's co-workers and she lives in a very large subdivision that's just down the street. A lot of the subdivisions around here are probably the same where you live. They have Facebook pages just for their subdivision. And another family saw their sign and Facebook post and hired us, and when they posted that little girl's sign, we got over ten thousand hits.
Steve Grubbs: Wow.
Tricia Reese: It was crazy, and I honestly believe that that sign right there, I mean that was a paying customer but it was stemming off of a free one that we did in this huge subdivision. From that moment on, I could not keep up with my phone.
Steve Grubbs: Sounds like a great feeling!
Tricia Reese: Yeah.
Steve Grubbs: So, I often have thought and I want to get back to your other marketing ideas in a moment. But I have often thought that it could be a good idea to, I know some gated communities allow this type of thing and some have regulations and you can't have these types of signs up, but most seem to allow it.
Tricia Reese: Yeah.
Steve Grubbs: I’ve often thought that it would almost be of value to knock on the door of one of the first three or four homes in a gated community and just offer them one for free for three days. And just say, you know whatever you want just give me a call and then put it up. You know that everybody has to go in that gate. So, if there's a thousand people that live back there, you're gonna have literally a thousand people who see your free advertising. So, the other thing that I encourage people to do is, you can go to most State Department of Transportations. I bet you every single one. We'll give you a list of how much traffic goes on each road, so you can actually look and say okay there are, like for example, one of the roads that I’ve used for this type of thing in the past. There are 15,000 cars that drive on that road a day. In 10 days, that's 150,000 eyeballs in a month 450,000 eyeballs. So, if you put up a sign just for a week, you know you're gonna get close to a hundred thousand eyeballs on your setup. So, those are the some of the things to think about you just need to make sure that people can see, a lot of people will stop and slow down to see what company it is. But I think, hey that's a great idea, is your placement.
Tricia Reese: Yeah.
Steve Grubbs: What else have you done that has worked well?
Tricia Reese: Right off the bat other than our website, I set up a business page on Facebook. I also set up a VIP page on Facebook. So, it was a lot of word of mouth that way. Customer service is so key like just making sure that, okay here's our pros, here's my process. I think I should be contacting; I get the order on my calendar so that contact is made. And then the day that I'm going to set it up that night, I text them and say I’ll be out tonight. When I can, I try and give them a time frame. Sometimes I text them 15 minutes before I get there. As soon as I'm done, I stand back and I take a picture and I text it to them. So, that they can sleep well that night knowing that it's there.
They're not worrying all night; did she show up. So, that's kind of my process. I let them know I'll be back after dark the next day to pick it up. But I have said this so many times, the renter this is as much about the renter as it is the recipient. They get so excited, the mom the grandma the friend, whoever it is that is purchasing this card is so excited. They can't wait for me to text them that picture. So, I think for them this is as much fun as it is for the person that gets up the next morning and has the surprise.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah.
Tricia Reese: So, I mean really and I always say, you know you can get a good picture you'll have this keepsake memory. So, it's fun as for me, because I love getting those texts back. And not everyone texts back all excited but I would say 95% do. It's usually "It's better than I expected" or "OMG, this is perfect". And it makes you feel good. They're excited, they can't wait for their person to see it in the morning. So, it's a real, especially in the days that we're living in, it's just a really satisfying, gratifying job.
Steve Grubbs: I always say we are in the business of happiness and I love that.
Tricia Reese: Yeah, I’ve been called sign Fairy, the sign Lady. People have equivalent like I'm Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny type, you know showing up at night and then they've got this surprise in the morning. So, that's fun.
Steve Grubbs: What about Mike, your husband is principal at a school? Have you done anything at the school so far?
Tricia Reese: Yes, we have several schools in our district and I’ve been hired multiple times for, ‘We love our teachers’, ‘Welcome back’ signs. ‘Our principal over here at the elementary just turned 50, so his wife ordered a sign to be put up. I’ve done several signs for our school district. I’ve done some free ones. Before we got real busy, I was doing some free ones over here at our local elementary. It's just a half mile down the street. But most of them since have been paying signs.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah, you know that's the whole deal. One of your best marketing budget items is to do a few free ones now and that kind of exposure makes a difference.
Tricia Reese: Yeah.
Steve Grubbs: Do you have a marketing budget; do you spend any money on marketing through Facebook or something else?
Tricia Reese: I don't know, you know you can boost posts on Facebook I think I’ve done that once.
Steve Grubbs: So, all word of mouth so far.
Tricia Reese: Yeah, we've hardly spent any money on that.
Steve Grubbs: Talk to me about the categories of setups, everybody does birthdays. What percentage of setups would you say are birthday related?
Tricia Reese: 95%.
Steve Grubbs: Really interesting. So, it's all about the birthdays. What are the other 5%?
Tricia Reese: Well, we have a ton of letter inventory. So, I can do about any message you want but I would say the next biggest, well there was a season where it was graduations. I did order some sets from VictoryStore that were specific to graduation and then I added to those. Like added their name and that kind of thing. But I’ve done Happy Retirements, we've got a It's A Girl set, a baby girl set up a baby boy set up. We've got a Mr. and Mrs. that married, just married set up. But honestly, I’ve only used that two or three times. I don't know maybe my second business is It's a Boy or It's a Girl and Happy Retirement. But it is mostly birthdays.
Steve Grubbs: In an average week now, I mean I know its winter and we're all cold and so my guess is you probably do. Our experience with most customers is they do fewer in the winter, more in the spring and summer. But during these cold months, how many setups would you be doing per week roughly?
Tricia Reese: Well, we're averaging 50 to 60 per month right now.
Steve Grubbs: Okay, all right.
Tricia Reese: I'm thanking God, this is the slowest week we've had since we started at 5. I’m just so thankful, because we're having to use yard card stands. I mean the ground is just frozen solid and it's just miserable to be out. So, we have two tonight, we have one for the next few nights in a row. So, it slowed way down. Last week I had 17, the week before that I had 20. So, this weather has caused us to almost come to a screeching halt, but I needed a break.
Steve Grubbs: Let's talk about that, because you know when I teach entrepreneurs, sometimes I’ll do some talks and such. I always talk about the philosophy of buildup, build under. So, as you may or may not know, I’ve got four different companies. And if I were doing it all myself I couldn't do it. So, many of you might work with Patty or Spencer or Trevor or any of our VictoryStore sales people. And I can only do it because they are the build under. It seems like most of the Yard Decoration businesses that I talk to have some sort of way that they, you know, hire others to do part of those setups. Are you doing any of that yet? Do you have children or friends or retired friends?
Tricia Reese: We needed a break after last April and May, so we went to the Smokies for a week. I hired a good friend of mine and her teenage daughter to take that week that we were off. We have a 21-year-old daughter who we have, she doesn't like doing it. So, he's helped us a little bit but we're getting ready to be gone here for a couple nights. I’m getting ready to turn 50. Yay, so we're getting away for a couple nights and then we're going to be gone over spring break. I honestly don't think I'm gonna take orders for that time. Because even when I’m away and someone else is doing it, I can't relax.
Steve Grubbs: You're a bit of a perfectionist, aren't you?
Tricia Reese: Very much and that's my problem, but that's just how it is that's how I am. So, for me to actually be able to take a true break from the business, I think I’m not going to hire someone to cover for us.
Steve Grubbs: Well, that's the beauty, you can do. You can just block out time on your calendar where you're not doing them. I assume there are others in the area that can do this.
Tricia Reese: Yeah, and I don't. There's the risk you run, oh well then, they'll like, we have so many repeat customers, oh my goodness so many. I mean once they've done a sign for one kid, they've got to do it for the other kids. So, you run the risk of losing that customer but I don't know that doesn't concern me too much.
Steve Grubbs: Well, I want to develop a mobile app, a phone based app where all of this can be managed through the app. Where you've got the location and you take a photo of it and it automatically sends it to your customers and then it's all sort of right there. We got the first piece of that done by getting the website option and we can now build websites for Yard Card Decoration companies. I assume you have a website or not?
Tricia Reese: Yes, my husband, well it was over a year ago when he went through Wix.
Steve Grubbs: And built his own then.
Tricia Reese: Yes, and it's not perfect by any means. There’re some things about it that I wish were different, but anyway that's what we've got for now. But I do so much personally just through texting.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah, so let's talk about that. How do you receive payment?
Tricia Reese: Our website only accepts PayPal at $75. So, if they don't have PayPal or they're paying for an additional night or there's extra mileage, then I have to explain how they need to still submit for offline payment. Then I contact them for either Venmo or I get a lot of personal checks mailed to me, which I’ve not had any issues yet with that. So, you know that's one of the downfalls we're facing with Wix, it's limiting. But most people have PayPal I’ve found.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah, and the fact that you can let people Venmo you or use the cash app, that's a big deal. So, let's talk about stakes. Let's say the grounds, obviously while the ground's frozen you're using the yard card stands. Are those the VictoryStore stands or did you build your own?
Tricia Reese: Mike built some way back in the summer when we have a lot of clay around here. We had two seasons of drought last summer. We're in Jefferson County, where we live is basically just on a rock, a big rock. And some of these subdivisions are literally just a thin layer of sod over rock. So, he needed to build a few stands on his own that we could use in case of emergency when we just simply couldn't get stakes in the ground. And thankfully, we've not had to do that very often because I hate them. I hate using stands.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah.
Tricia Reese: Since you've come out with stands, but this was before then.
Steve Grubbs: Let's say the ground's not hard. What types of stakes do you generally use? You know everybody sells different types. We sell the easy stake, the H-Stake and then the slim H-Stake. What's your preferred method?
Tricia Reese: Our preferred method, oh shoot hold on, phone call sorry. We get H-Stakes. The 6x30 H-stakes and I should have brought one up here with me. My husband cuts them, so that where the horizontal is you've got about this much above and maybe this much below. So, our back row is what we call on a medium height and then our front row is real low. You know where we stick it in the ground. The way I install and a lot of our yards around here are on incline. So, we don't need that second row to be real high.
Steve Grubbs: Okay.
Tricia Reese: Now if we come across a flat yard, I don't do two rows I just go all the way across. So, I put the age on the tall ones, so on your tall EZ stake on the tall.
Steve Grubbs: The slim, yeah, the easy stake, okay.
Tricia Reese: So, we do all what we consider medium and then we do short. And then we have some 6x30s and then some even wider ones 12x30s whatever they are. You know I’ve got those huge balloon clusters that you sell. Those are of course we don't cut those; those are even higher behind the happy birthday.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah. What about business insurance? Do you carry business insurance? Use your homeowner's insurance?
Tricia Reese: Yeah, we've not had any issues. We're real careful, we're usually right in the center of the yard. So, if someone has a sprinkler system or whatever, I mean we're probably taking a risk not having that insurance but we've not had any issues yet. And people, if there is something in their yard that they want us to be cautious about, they'll usually give us a heads up.
Steve Grubbs: And different types of flair that you have in your collection. What are your favorite pieces of the accessories and flairs, different people call it different things to you beyond your letters?
Tricia Reese: Beyond our letters.
Steve Grubbs: I guess, let me clear from my question. For those listening, what would be the best bang for their buck to have in their collection at least from your experience?
Tricia Reese: You've got a pretty large package of stars and then you have another one of balloons. Those are essential, stars and balloons are essential and hearts. The more specific, I don't do themes I haven't gotten into. I do have a gaming set, but I don't do themes. If they want a frozen theme or something like that, I'll send them to our competitors. Because I just don't want to get into all that. So, my stuff is more, now I have several presents and usually I have several cakes most of this is your inventory. Like I said, the hearts, the balloon clusters, the stars, oh I love those candles that you sell.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah.
Tricia Reese: I love because I like on that front row where it's their name. I love using four candles, two tall at an angle and then two shorts beside at an angle and then I usually have something on either side of that. So, you know I keep things more general.
Steve Grubbs: Okay yeah, that's a really great answer. A lot of people listening to you, to us, are just getting started. Is there a piece of advice that, maybe more than one piece of advice that you would give them other than run as far away as you can fast?
Tricia Reese: Well, I don't know what, this is a people-centered business. So, you've got to really make personal contacts. Even though I’m just texting with people all the time and my husband thinks I’m too wordy, but I think there's something to making personal contacts with people. And sharing in that excitement with them, you know that we're not a franchise, and I don't want to feel like one. I don't want them to feel like they're just dealing with an automated service or a robot or whatever. I want them to feel like, I mean they're dealing with a mom here with three children and two other jobs.
So, I think people need that, they need that connection and they need you to share that fun and happiness with them. They want that excitement, we're in such just frustrating days. So, I would recommend not going hog wild on inventory until you can see if it's going to take off or not. Here's another piece of advice that I’ve said, don't copy someone else. Come up with your own scheme. Like I love the 24 inches Bebas Yard Letters. However, you say that?
Steve Grubbs: I think I say Bey-bas, I don't actually know how it's pronounced either.
Tricia Reese: What's that word mean? But I love that, I'm a very type a structured person and I love, like I don't like overlapping things, I don't like clutter that's just me. So, I have a certain style and that's what I go with. And if a customer doesn't prefer that style, they have other options with other companies. But I am staying true to what I do. So, when I make decisions on ordering more inventory, I look at my collection and think, is this me or am I trying too hard? Like I don't know how I feel about all the sparkly stuff, I'm not a sparkly person. Does that make sense?
Steve Grubbs: You know it sounds like you have a very clean look you know.
Tricia Reese: Yeah.
Steve Grubbs: If you think about it, first of all it's great that people have different artistic styles. You know you don't want Degas to be Monet, you want everybody to be a little different and that's because people appreciate that. So, I appreciate your point here and the great thing is you know between us and I'm sure others, there are so many different types of alphabets and flair that everybody can create their own look and their own feel. I don't think it's bad when you're first getting started to look at what others are doing and how they're doing it. But over time, you have to develop your own look especially as the landscape becomes more competitive.
Tricia Reese: I totally agree, and you also have to know your demographic. There is a definite area of St. Louis that has accepted us as their company. Our competitors have a whole another area that has accepted them in as their, you know, as their company. So, you need to be aware of that as well. So, anyway.
Steve Grubbs: You got that as part of your starter kit I assume.
Tricia Reese: Yes, and I’ve since ordered more. So, we've got three vehicles that I tell you what, my main vehicle is my Pacifica. That is my work van and I hit it, you know it was bound to happen, I see deer all the time and I hit a deer about a month ago. So, I just got my Pacifica back, because I’ve been having to use a pickup truck and that is it.
Steve Grubbs: Yeah. Any final thoughts that you would like to visit about or advice you'd like to give?
Tricia Reese: Oh, my goodness.
Steve Grubbs: Let me rephrase, if you were to go back 13 to 14 months ago, pop in your little time machine, your Pacifica time machine and go back and give yourself some advice. What would you tell yourself?
Tricia Reese: Oh, that's a good question. I honestly don't know. I'm sorry that phone's ringing.
Steve Grubbs: That's a good sign, phone's ringing making money.
Tricia Reese: You know as far as doing anything differently, things just hit us so crazy. The timing of our business, I mean I just tell people, it was God's timing because we couldn't have come up with that. I mean we were ready to roll when COVID hit. Not knowing that that was going to hit in the first place.
Steve Grubbs: Right.
Tricia Reese: And we just did our thing. I mean we didn't know what we were doing and we just did it. And we were just trying to fill orders however we possibly could, I was doing orders that said like, "Liam is Nine" because that's all I could do and then putting a few things in. I don’t know, I mean our circumstance is so unusual because the timing couldn't have been any better. And we've just learned as we go and I don't know what else I would add. I really enjoy doing this and I’m hoping that it's not just a fad. But if it is, it's been a great, good ride.
Steve Grubbs: So, we have a few new directions that we're going to offer to business companies like yourselves. And that will add some additional sources of sales and revenue for those that choose to try them. So, we'll be rolling those out over the next few weeks and months and we're very excited about that. Tricia, thank you for being a VictoryStore customer and I know you do business elsewhere also, but we very much appreciate what you do with us.
Tricia Reese: I’ll tell my husband, because he's the one that did all the research and he chose your company and he ordered the starter kit. Then I just kind of took over, that's how I do.
Steve Grubbs: Well, tell him Thank you very much and congratulations on your success in your first year. That's, you know, most start a new business, you don't expect to make money in your first year and just surviving. It is a mark of success, so congratulations on that and thank you.
Tricia Reese: All right, you're welcome. Nice to meet you, by the way.