So, you think you want to open your very own retail shop of witchy wonders, pagan romance and magickal whimsy? Good idea! This mundane middle world needs way more portals to our wondrous realms. But HOW does one go about getting those doors open here in the rigged business of commerce in America? Here are 13 steps with my advice for what worked (and didn’t work) for me.
**Warning: If you have no interest in opening a Witchcraft shop, save yourself and turn back now.**
Still here? Masochist, eh? Fair enough.
1. Start with Witchcraft.
Well, start with witchcraft (always start with witchcraft.) Pray. A lot. Strike deals with your deities. There should be mucho divination and the good liquor poured out. Burnt offerings might have to be made, and many tears shed prostrate before the altars of humility. This may require your own blood to be ritually spilled into a copper bowl, during the witching hour of the Full Blood Moon in Eclipse, when the Sun is conjunct your natal Jupiter. Someone may have to die. Just kidding! <cackle>
But in my case, four people who loved me very much actually did die…of natural causes and old age…and were nice enough to Will to me some significant resources to make opening my shop possible. All hail my ancestors of blood!
But seriously, make sure that this endeavor is in alignment with your Highest Divine Will, and all the omens and portents point in favor of this hair-brain idea, because it will consume your entire life for a while. It might as well also be your sacred mission and life purpose, or soul contract, or whatever catch phrase you like, because there will be precious little time for anything else…ever…ever…again. No, seriously.
2. Choose a Good Name
Choose a good business name. Do you want your name to scream WITCHES ARE HERE? Or do you want to appeal to a broader demographic? Maybe you need to fly a bit under the radar, should you be opening where there is a danger of discrimination from any of the local hate-groups (aka “churches,” results will vary.) This is why I chose The Sojourner. I intended to serve all the progressive, inclusive, esoteric and holistic “paths less traveled by” in hopes that I could “make all the difference.” (Robert Frost) I needed to gather all the weirdoes under one banner, AND be subtle about it, just to have a prayer of a large enough target market, because this is Eastern North Carolina, for Gods sake!
Research the hell out of the business name you choose, to make sure it isn’t already registered or trade-marked. Then see if the domain you want is available. Once you’ve figured out what corporation name you can get, register it fast! (It took me three iterations before I managed to get one registered!) QUICK! Buy your internet domain!
3. Write a Mission Statement and a Start a Business Plan
Figure out what your business means to do, and why, and with which values and intentions. This is another form of magick in itself. Who are you trying to serve? Which people and demographics? With what types of products and services. Design your logo. Think of your motto and what keywords would describe you. Now do lots of research using the same keywords and see what else is out there. Research, research, research.
4. Lawyer, Accountant, Registrations, Tax Id Numbers
Hire a business lawyer to draw up your incorporation papers – my accountant recommended an S-Corp: WAY safer than a sole proprietorship. Register for a federal tax-ID number, and register for your state sales tax account number with your Department of Revenue. All of this can be done on-line relatively easily. You need those two numbers in order to establish wholesale accounts.
5. Bank Accounts and Start-up Capital
Now that you have all your various registrations and numbers, open a business checking account and apply for a credit card in the corporation’s name. I liked BB&T. You do NOT want to be running any of this stuff through your personal accounts. Keep a very distinct boundary between you as an individual citizen, and the corporate entity you will manage, even if you are the only officer of that corporation.
Gather your start-up capital. This is the money that will be invested into getting those doors opened. Try to establish in advance a reasonable budget for what you’ll need, but know that it will likely take WAY more than you think you’ll need. It took 46K to open The Sojourner’s doors but that included building renovations, and all the fixtures and equipment. We picked up everything second hand as others went out of business all of a sudden while the economy collapsed in 2008 (yes, I was the fool OPENING in 2008). On the advice of our accountant, I also budgeted for three months rent and expenses that I held in a safety net account up front, just in case the start was slower than I we needed.
You’ll also want to budget at least six months of whatever YOU NEED to make as a salary for your own living expenses, and have that saved or borrowed up front. I don’t mean to discourage anyone but it took me two years of working full time at my business before I saw a personal dime. It was year five before I made a regular salary. As of our 9th year in business I was finally making minimum wage consistently, but I had other income streams I could depend on. Again, not advisable to open a risky business during a recession.
I can’t advise about loans because the bank wouldn’t give me one (2008, remember.) If you have personal money to invest, have your lawyer draw up loan papers between yourself and the corporation. Loan that capital to the business rather than “giving it to the business.” Establish a reasonable amount of interest to charge, with payments to be made on demand by the officers of the corp. (That would be you, paying you back, with interest.) I went easy on myself with a 6% loan, when the banks at that time wouldn’t even talk to me, let alone cut me so great a deal.
Note that this is a way to get some cash back from the business, only if and when you can manage it. Capital Loan repayments to yourself would NOT be taxable income for you, nor would it come with the necessary tax liabilities. This is the best advice my accountant and lawyer gave us. However, eventually you’ll have to start paying yourself a proper salary and taxes. The IRS will give you the stink-eye after about 5 years.
6. Location, Location, Location
Find a location to rent that will allow this type of shop (some of them won’t) be honest with your landlords, because the last thing you need is to set all this up, only to have them harass and drive you out later. This happened to a local shop near us prior to me opening. Negotiate a solid lease, and read every single line. Don’t let them con you into paying insurance on the building itself, or for paying for maintenance on the building structure. That is their job. Pay as little rent as you can manage at first, by starting small and working your way up, is my suggestion. If you can find a place you can both live and work (tricky with zoning) you’ll have far less to worry about for your own income needs. Besides, you’ll be “living there” for a few years anyway. Why waste a second rent on a home you’ll barely ever see?
Now is the time to interview insurance agents and let a couple respected companies make you quotes. Read all the fine print. Buy a general liability policy, and insurance on the building contents that will protect you in case of difficulties – do not scrimp because you will only hurt yourself if you do. If you are going to have employees, you’ll need workers comp insurance, too. No one said business ownership (or witchcraft) was cheap or easy. Do the boring, responsible, expensive things.
If you aren’t already a computer guru, master of the interwebs, website design artiste, graphic design software ace, social media hound, small business accounting expert and cunning diplomat, you might consider legally marrying one right quick – polyamory might become the only way to survive – or bring in other business partners who do know those things, and will trade expertise for your worthless stock.
This is where you should start getting a website put together – even if it is just informational and doesn’t sell anything on-line. There is a reason I don’t sell on-line… I don’t have the expertise, nor does my partner, and we can’t afford to pay the experts we’d need.
Note: This mixing of business and friendship will inevitably destroy your relationships and leave you stranded holding all the liability. We’re talking a 75% likelihood of a Ten of Swords, Tower, Death Card situation. Make sure the legal contracts are all well in order. Been there, done that, got a couple sets of “divorce” papers.
8. Software and Hardware
Invest in a slick point-of-sale and inventory software that has an on-line capability, and maybe even on-board Credit Card processing. I use Lightspeed Retail for my 100% Mac house. They’ll set you up with register drawers, scanners, label and receipt printers, and the whole shootin’ match.
You’ll also need an accounting software; I use Quickbooks, and that has it’s own Point-of-Sale and inventory package if you are a Windows/PC house. These are all outrageously expensive, and you’ll be forced to upgrade them and your operating systems, and your hardware every few years, because planned obsolescence becomes the quicksand you’ll never escape. Refer to #7.
9. Credit Card Processing and the Darkest Secret of All
Should you choose not to use on-board credit card processing, there are flebinty-seven-thousand companies who would love to exploit…erm…I mean, process your credit transactions for you. Be very, very careful when dealing with these bastards. Employ the same caution and discernment as though you were cutting deals with demons, or the Fae, or Loki, because there is no greater trickery on earth. <snark>
Processing companies will blow your mind with the outrageous cost of the equipment, then offer you a means to “rent” that wee machine over a 5 year contract or some other stupid deal. DO THAT MATH! If they are selling the machine for $300, but the rent is $9/month for 5 years, that is $540. DON’T TAKE THE DEAL! Because the fine print will say that if you attempt to break the contract, there is a cancellation fee of extra $100’s.
Here I share the ultimate secret, my witchy shopkeepers-to-be. Refuse to pay these outrageous things. Throw up a terrifying glamour like Galadriel at the well in LOTR and speak with your Voice of Power.
Whip up a honey jar spell to sweeten your dealings.
Tell them you’ll go elsewhere unless they give you the machine for free, and then propose your own terms. Do not waver; they will break. If they don’t take your proposal, someone, somewhere else will, because they are a bunch of feckless vultures swirling around starving in a saturated market.
Credit Card processing companies control the business world like Darth Vaders in this Evil Empire of corrupt capitalism. Their reps are there to confuse, intimidate and bleed you dry. My (free) card machine even looks like Darth Vader, so that is what I named him, just to keep reminding me what forces of darkness I’m dancing with every day.
10. Utilities and Services
Employ the same tactics with every single service provider you’ll need: utilities, high speed internet, phone, security monitoring, trash pick-up… I once went through every bill the shop had, called them up and told them they’d have to lower my rates or I’d cancel services. They tried to mansplain to me about the cost of doing business. I declared that I’d sooner close my shop before I’d pay their extortion money a moment more. They balked, but I held strong and stayed poisonously sweet in that “bless your heart” magick of a southern woman. Every single one of them lowered their rates as much as 30% and I didn’t even have to ask for a manager.
You are a witch, yes? Boundary tending is our stock and trade. Do the scary things.
11. Social Media
Make Social media accounts for the business on every platform: facebook pages, twitter feed, instagram, traveladviser, googlemaps…there is no fighting their stranglehold on information. No one uses a phone book or newspapers anymore, apps and the internet search engines will will shut you right out the game unless you pay them to bump you to the top of the search results. Verify and pay some extortion money to google, and yelp, etc, but negotiate fiercely and do your research.
If all this hasn’t killed your will to live yet, now you get to the fun part: Inventory. Establish wholesale accounts and apply for credit terms with distributors.
Here are a few tried and true New-Agey/Occulty/Witchy Wholesale vendors that will get you started out in the right direction.
- INATS (International New Age Trade Show) held in Denver every summer is one place to make a BUNCH of connections and orders all at once. If you can’t make it, find their listed vendors on their website, and you can assume that they are reasonably well vetted.
- Kheops International: Wholesale Supplier of Metaphysical and Meaningful Gifts.
- Azure Green for witchy, magickal, and occult goods – especially altar tools.
- Pacific Trading for beautiful pagan statuary.
- Nirvana Pewter for great occult and pagan jewelry.
- US Game Systems for Tarot and Oracle Decks
- Coventry Creations for magickally made candles, anointing oils and other spell craft goodies.
- Llewellyn Worldwide Publishers for great Witchcraft, Pagan and New Age Books of high quality, no matter what the Boomer Curmudgeon witch you know may be snarking about.
- Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing. Same as above, but even even more occult and some older magickal texts they are reprinting.
- Atlanta Candle and Incense
- Mountain Rose Herbs and Starwest Botanicals for organic plant materials and oils.
Oh yeah. Slatwall everything. You may not think you want that kind of display system because it isn’t as romantic and aethestically witchy as a bunch of antique tea cupboards, but I promise you’ll prefer flexibility as time goes by. Slatwall paneling costs a minimum of $70 per 4’x4′ panel, so plan accordingly.
Remember the occult lessons of abundance as taught through the coins/pentacles suit of the tarot: The hand that is already opened from generously giving of themselves on all levels, will be ready to receive wealth and abundance on all levels in return.
Be generous and kind, welcoming and gracious. Let folks sit down and read. Let them use the restroom, even if they aren’t buying something. Welcome their children. Let a mama breastfeed. Offer a kind word of advice when it is sought, and be good to our people. When that nervous teen-ager asks a naive question, give them a gentle and honest answer that builds their confidence and affirms who they are becoming. Throw social events, teach classes and provide a safe harbor in the storm for those who need it. Our shops are the equivalents of temples at this point, so let’s provide a safe and sacred space for everyone.
Moreover, fellow witchy shopkeepers, please, for the love of all things holy, stop being such loathsome assholes to other witchy business owners. Cutthroat competition doesn’t belong here. There is plenty of room here in the middle world for all of us, if we work together for the common good of supporting our people, rather than exploiting them for the highest profit. That being said, the minute you get your physical space set up, consecrate and magickally ward it against bane from all realms, because witches be bitches WAY too often, and there are some terrified hate-groups (aka churches) who may not be so glad to have you in the neighborhood.
BOOM! Now you know where to start. Best of luck to you! May all your dreams of full-time witchy business come true, be profitable, and build up our communities! For the highest good of all involved, harming none. SO MOTE THAT BE!