It’s easy to imagine why you would want to start a health food store. The health and wellness foods industry is, itself, pretty healthy. According to Statista, “in 2016, the global health and wellness food market was valued at 707.12 billion U.S. dollars and is projected to increase to 811.82 billion U.S. dollars by 2021.” On top of that, a health food store gives you the opportunity to sell a product in which you believe. You provide customers with a real opportunity to better their lives with wholesome fare and nutritional aids.
But how to start a health food store? How can you claim these potential profits and meaningfully intervene in your community’s diet?
Starting a small business doesn’t have to involve dystopian nightmares of bureaucracy and paperwork. Break the project down into steps that make the journey manageable:
- Make a business plan.
- Turn your health food store into a legal entity.
- Open a business bank account.
- Get all necessary licenses and permits.
- Set up your inventory tracking and ordering system.
- Find the best vendors and develop those relationships.
- Set up your website.
- Get the word out.
- Open your store — online and on the ground.
You’ll have to make plenty of tough decisions along the way, but keep moving forward. Before you know it, you’ll be selling that very first bunch of local, organic kale.
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Step one: Research.
If you want to learn how to start a health food store, there’s good news. You’ve already started your research, which is the first step to success.
In order to craft the best business plan possible, you need to spend some time researching.
- What are the legal requirements to open a health food store? What permits or licenses do you need?
- What are the associated costs?
- What is the standard markup on the products you want to sell?
- Who are your local competitors?
- What are the demographics of the neighborhood you’re considering?
While your immediate competition may not want to help you lure away their customers, you might try speaking to a health foods store owner outside your area. They may be willing to speak to you about how they got started and to answer your questions.
Researching your target market
While all of the above questions have concrete, factual answers, the identity of your target market is a little more complicated. You’ll want to consider who is most likely to purchase your foods. Consider both the populations and personalities of your customer base:
- Income level
- Education level
- Family status
- Attitudes and values
- Interests and hobbies
While you can and should target multiple groups, the more specific vision that you have of your consumers, the more successful your plans — and, later, your marketing — will be.
Researching possible locations
Location matters. You’ll need to find a storefront in an area that is zoned for both commercial use and food services in an area that caters to your target clientele. In order to attract walk-ins as well as loyal repeat customers, you’ll want to set up somewhere with high foot traffic if possible.
Step two: Make a business plan for your health food store.
Your business plan can take many different forms. You can even use ready-made templates to help you with the writing.
At its heart, the business plan is a roadmap that details everything you need to get your business off the ground. They can be more or less detailed, but you likely should include the following sections:
The executive summary lays out your elevator pitch, the overarching layout of your business and what will make it a success. Many find it easier to write this section last, using the highlights of the other sections to flesh out a two-page document.
Business description and structure
Outline every element of your health-food business. Describe your suppliers, likely inventory, business infrastructure, and operations. Detail the start-up expenses you expect to incur and the legal structure of your business (more on this later).
Market research and strategies
How is the local health food market? What need can you solve, and how can you separate yourself from your competition?
Go over sales forecasts, marketing strategy, and any strategic relationships you have in the community.
Management and personnel
Lay out the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in starting up the business. Who else will you need to hire, and how will they fit into the organization?
Back up your projections with numbers. Be conservative, but try to account for as many details as you can.
Step three: Become a legal business.
It’s time to turn your business into a legal entity. You’ll have to decide whether you want your business to be a sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC. An LLC allows you to separate the business from the person, which has potential tax and legal benefits.
Find a catchy name for your store, and register your business. States and cities have different laws for business licenses. Look into the proper protocols for your store.
You’ll also need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, which is like a social security number for your business.
Step four: Open a business bank account and credit card.
You need to separate your assets as well as your legal status from your new business. A business bank account also helps when tax season comes around, and a business credit card makes transactions easier. Building your credit as a business can also make you a more attractive candidate for loans and investments later on.
Step five: Apply for all necessary permits and licenses.
The goal here is to learn how to start a health food store legally. What pieces of paper do you need to set up your market? Again, different states and cities will have different laws in place, which is one reason that your initial research is so important.
For one thing, in order to operate a storefront, you or your landlord will likely need a Certificate of Occupancy.
Step six: Get business insurance.
Give yourself some peace of mind and protect against future calamities with business insurance. You will likely want General Liability Insurance to protect you against a variety of claims that could arise.
Step seven: Set up your business infrastructure.
You need to get everything in place that you’ll need to run your business. In addition to the physical components such as your store facilities and transportation, you’ll need to establish:
- Computing, network, and IT services
- An inventory tracking and ordering system
- A point-of-sale system that allows you to ring up customers
- Payroll and financial controls
The more complete your infrastructure, the more smoothly your business will run.
Step eight: Find the best vendors and develop those relationships.
As a health foods store, you need to sell the highest quality products. Research the various products currently on the market. When you know what you want to sell, reach out and start developing those relationships.
Cultivate local vendors as well. You can often find the best — and most eco-friendly — products in your own neighborhood.
Step nine: Set up your website.
Make sure that your customers can find you online as well as on the street.
To start, give visitors the basic information for your store, the types of goods that you feature, a way to contact you, and a chance to sign up for your email list to be alerted about new deals and promotions.
In order to attract more traffic to your site — and be more visible to Google — you should consider adding a blog to your website. A blog is a natural fit for a health food store, and there’s no shortage of ideas on what to post. You can start by:
- Posting healthy recipes
- Correcting common misconceptions
- Spotlighting your vendors
- Spotlighting customers and their own culinary adventures
You can even add an online store to your site, increasing the amount of business you can attract and handle beyond the confines of a solely brick-and-mortar shop.
Make sure your site is mobile-responsive, so you don’t miss out on healthy patrons on the go.
Step ten: Start your digital marketing campaigns.
First things first, get the word out through email, probably the most effective marketing tool at your disposal. By using an email tool, you can automate much of this work. Use email to:
- Promote events
- Announce sales and promotions
- Share health tips
You should also set up your social media accounts and get them involved in your marketing efforts. Start with Facebook, which is the most popular, but lush pictures of fruit and prepared foods also lend themselves to Instagram. Post regularly to keep in touch with your community.
When you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, look into paid digital advertising. Google Ads are a natural fit for local businesses, and Constant Contact can help you craft your Google Ad campaign.
Open Sesame (seeds).
That’s it. You know how to start a health food store, and — after making it through step ten — you’re ready to start welcoming your customers as they walk through the front door.