5 Shoestring Retail Ventures Anyone Can Start

Is it possible to start a retail business on a shoestring budget?

Absolutely! As a matter of fact, many shoestring entrepreneurs have started and continue to run very profitable retail businesses.

Starting a retail business does not necessarily require a large investment, massive overhead, a large payroll, a 5-10 year lease, or a large inventory. Many people are experiencing success selling their wares through more non-traditional methods than ever before. In fact, it’s never been easier to compete against the big boys and their million dollar budgets.

Many opportunities exist for the shoestring entrepreneur as long as he/she is willing to think creatively and embrace new ways of doing business.

Whether you’re selling items at a flea market, selling goods over the internet, or running your own food vending cart, you can succeed and cut out a profitable niche – even in an area dominated by the big conglomerates.

Start small, work smart, be original, and grow your business from the ground up.

Here are 5 retail businesses that you can start now!

Food Truck

While this business is hardly a shoestring start up, I have included it to show you that you can compete with most restaurants. Instead of spending millions on a brick and mortar building, you can get a foot in the door, make your money, then expand if warranted. Not a bad way to do things, really.

This is one business that has the potential to take off if you do it right. Usually, that means having a fantastic location and a great menu. In the beginning, you are going to have a lot to deal with as you need to get all the permits from the city and health department once you have your truck. This will likely involve physical inspections also. Every municipality is different, so your first stop should be a fact-finding mission to City Hall – even before you buy your truck and equipment.
Check Craigslist, auto websites, and business opp magazines/websites for deals on used food trucks, then have it painted using your own cool graphics so people recognize you. Branding is important.
It helps to have a background as a chef/cook, but people have done it without experience. Plan your menu and try to be unique. Don’t be the 10th truck on the block that is offering burgers, dogs, and fries. You have an opportunity to stand out with your food. Don’t be afraid to go a little exotic.
Obviously, there is a lot involved. That is why there are books like this: How to Start a Food Truck Business

Flea Market

Running your own flea market booth allows you to get your foot in the door of the retail game without forking over a small fortune for a building lease, large inventory, and staff. In fact, most of these booths are run by one or two people.
Your first step here should be to register your company and get set up to collect sales tax.
Next, you should start thinking about what you are going to sell and how you’re going to source it. Many operators buy their goods in bulk from wholesalers or buy skids of merchandise from bankruptcy liquidations and such. Look on Craigslist or buy from a liquidation company.
Next, decide on where you want to set up. Visit different flea markets and have a walk around. Once you decide where you want to be, talk to the management and negotiate a deal. There is usually no commitment needed, but you are going to get a better price for longer terms.
If you’re serious, check out books on starting a flea market here.

Online retail

Anyone can sell online these days. Ebay and Amazon are two of the most common ways an average person can start selling physical goods. The advantage of using a company like this is that you don’t have to worry about having any sort of infrastructure in place. No storefront or office is necessary. You don’t even need to have a website if you don’t want to.
Ebay is the easiest way to start. Sign up for an Ebay account (and Paypal account) and you are set. Just make sure you don’t have any issues with the quality of your goods or delivery problems. Make sure you have a refund policy and that is about it. All money is deposited into your Paypal account after Ebay takes a percentage. You don’t have to worry about having a merchant account to accept credit cards.
The one thing to remember about Ebay is that it is an auction site.

Amazon is more of a direct retailer. You have to register with your legal company name, give them your credit card number, and verify your account via your phone number. Then you list your items for sale. The best thing about Amazon is that you take advantage of their huge reputation and online presence. Your items will list beside items that are sold by Amazon themselves. How does it get better than that?
Once an item is sold, you print your address label (Amazon provides this), attach it to your box and send it out. Amazon handles the customer payment and sends you the money once the item is received by the customer.
Whether you use Ebay or Amazon, the number one thing to remember is to sell quality items, package it professionally, and deal with customers in a professional manner.
How to sell on Amazon
How to sell on Ebay

Flipping Items

If you’re good at pricing things, you can make good money by buying low and selling high. Usually, you are going to need some sort of storage location. If you are really strapped, you can simply rent a locker/stall from a public storage company.
Buy items from yard sales, Craigslist, estate auctions and such. Make sure you know the price of whatever it is you’re buying and buy below that. Store your item and list it on Ebay or a local classified website like Craigslist, Gumtree or Kijiji.

Here is a great book that covers it in detail.

Seasonal Retail Business

Start a retail business that flows with the seasons, and you just might be surprised at how lucrative it is. Get yourself an outside lot and source items such as Christmas trees in December, plants and flowers in the spring, vegetables and pumpkins in the fall, firewood in the fall and winter, and so forth. The great thing about changing with the seasons is that your inventory is always going to be in high demand. Rarely will you have to discount things in order to bring in sales.
Negotiate some space from a non-competing retail business (gas station, strip mall, etc), in the far corner of their property. Make sure you are legal as far as city regulations go and start selling. You shouldn’t have to worry about credit card machines and such, as most people would expect to pay cash.
Make sure you negotiate a solid supply-line for all items far in advance (as well as firm prices). You need to know what you’ll be paying for Christmas trees while selling your spring flowers.

And there you have it – 5 retail businesses you can start now. What are you waiting for?