Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >

How to Start a Small Business without a Storefront

The traditional way to start a new business with a storefront is changing . While many do open start-up retail outlets successfully more and more entrepreneurs are setting up their new enterprises without a storefront.

In this post, we explore different ways to do this and offer a few ideas about the types of businesses that are flourishing with a portable or online-only presence.

How to make a retail business work without having any premises

As we’ve already touched on, starting a small business, whether online or not, requires time, attention, and planning! If you haven’t started the business planning process yet, take a look at our article How to Write a Business Plan for some practical tips and guidance.

Thanks to technology and a global supply chain, there’s never been a better time to start a new online-only or portable retail business. There are numerous ways you can make a retail business work well without a traditional bricks-and-mortar retail store. Here are the key things to consider if this is something you are looking to do.

When we refer to a portable business, this means a store that you can set up and run from any location. It might be a kiosk in a mall or a stall at a market. It could also be an online-only store that occasionally makes a guest appearance at craft fairs or other events. Essentially, it’s any type of business that does not have a fixed, open-to-the-public business address.

#1 – Select the right type of business

For some people, the type of business they want to open is already a given, because it’s a lifelong hobby or passion that they are now trying to monetize. Others have more freedom of choice. Before you decide which line of business to pursue, you need to consider your supply chain, your pricing, your target audience, your shipping options and costs, and your competition, as well as what’s currently trending.


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#2 – Get a website

Nowadays, you don’t need to be particularly tech-savvy to create a website for your business. Regardless of whether you plan to use the site to sell products or not, it’s important that you give your business an online storefront, especially as it will not have a physical storefront.

There are lots of website builder that are simply click-and-drop; other platforms, such as WordPress, are a little trickier. Consider your budget and skills, then create a website that represents your business well online. Don’t worry too much about the website at this point – simply having an online presence and a functioning website is key. If you want to sell products, take orders, and do other things with your site in the future, that’s fine. At this point, your main goal is giving yourself an online storefront.

#3 – Develop your portable business

If you plan to create a portable business, you need to consider your intended location. Will you rent a in a mall? Do you plan to tour local markets from week to week? Or are you going to invest in your own portable kiosk?

While renting a kiosk is likely to be more affordable in the short-term, research the difference in cost compared to buying your own kiosk; you might be pleasantly surprised. There are lots of reputable kiosk-builders out there, some of them creating truly striking and unique-looking kiosks.

If you are getting into the food or events business, you might be able to buy a ready-made kiosk or van that is suited to your needs. This could save you a considerable sum of money compared with buying a new one.

#4 – Make a catalog or a menu

Most business owners have a menu of their services on their website. If you are attending lots of events and you have lots of products available but not all on display, then creating a catalog is a great way to showcase your collection. Working with a graphic designer is a quick and easy way to get a professional-looking catalog made quickly. All you need are product photos, descriptions, and prices, and the rest is taken care of for you.

Running competitions to collect email addresses, either online or offline at your events, is a great way to build up a list of people you can ; other types of marketing for your small business can work promote your products or services.

Ideas for New Businesses with no Storefront

In this section, we wanted to share a few types of businesses that can be started online with either little or no required. There are plenty of great ideas out there for online start-ups, so we have selected just a few to inspire you.

Note that you will still need to invest time and effort into writing a business plan, marketing your business, branding, using social media to build a presence, and everything else you would expect to have to do for any business.

  • Drop-shipping partnerships

A drop-shipping business is relatively easy to start, and it means a third-party business will manage the entire order-fulfilment (spelling) process on your behalf. All of the storage and shipping is taken care of, and overhead costs are minimal. Drop-shipping is renowned for being one of the quickest and cheapest types of business to get started with. All selling, customer support, and marketing will still be handled by you, but everything else is taken care of by others.

You can follow your passion and select products that align with your own personal interests: pick a theme, such as sporting goods; or review some of the most trending products to sell in 2020. Whether you choose to work with international or local suppliers, you must establish a trustworthy, respectful relationship that you can depend on. If you’re going to start drop-shipping a new product, always make sure you order a sample to ensure it’s a high-quality product.

  • Digital products

Digital products include pre-built templates, online courses, digital music, and other downloadable assets. There are no shipping costs to worry about, maintenance costs are minimal, and margins are fixed. For this reason, selling digital products is a great way to start a business without a storefront.

The trickiest part is figuring out the market, the angle, the product, or the service you are going to offer. If you have in-depth knowledge of a specific area or a talent you can exploit, you might be able to monetize that information and transform it into something you can resell.

  • Homemade or handcrafted products

Are you a natural-born creator? Whether you make edibles, candles, soap, or craft beer, you can probably transform your handcrafted goods into an online business without a storefront. As you are 100% responsible for the production process, the quality and design of the products are in your hands.

You will need to think about stock levels, production capacity, and shipping, but these things are relatively easy to understand and easy to forecast. Lots of artisans start out small selling on Etsy, selling through social media platforms, or making custom products for friends, family, and close connections.

Before you start a new business in which you make your own products, be sure to check any local regulations. Make sure you are correctly insured as soon as you start selling products to the public.

Final Thoughts

Starting any type of small business from scratch is a significant undertaking. Regardless of whether you have experience running a business, you must take the time to work through all aspects of a business plan prior to making any important decisions. This planning process will help you establish a clear window of opportunity, as well as lay out some of the tasks you need to do to get things started.

There are so many opportunities to start a business without a storefront. The key is to find something that you believe in and feel passionate about – something you are happy to invest your time, and potentially your money, into.

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