How to Start a Christian Bookstore & Cafe
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Opening a Christian bookstore and cafe allows you to fulfill your dreams of starting your own business while at the same time honoring your religious beliefs. The first two or three years will be challenging and you will be required to work long hours for little pay. Nevertheless, if you are passionate about your business the rewards should be well worth it.
Visit other Christian bookstores and cafes. Decide which features you would like to incorporate into your own bookstore and which features you want to avoid. Write everything down so you don’t forget.
Research the various costs associated with starting your business so you have a general idea of how much start-up money you will need. Factors to consider include retail space, licenses, staff, signs, stock (such as books, food and coffee) book shelves, counters, cash registers, tables, chairs and cafe supplies. You will also need to set aside money for advertising.
Create a business plan. Outline in detail how much money you need, how you will get it, where you will purchase your supplies, where you want your business to be located, hours of operation, goals, promotions and sales tactics (such as coupons and customer recognition programs). Create a time line of when each step needs to be accomplished to keep you on track.
Apply for financing. You can do this through a bank, a business or a private investor. You may also be able to receive grant money from a Christian organization. If you are unsure of which option to choose, hire an accountant to help you. Most lenders will require you to have some start-up money — which shows you are serious about starting your business and responsible enough to save the money — and a solid business plan.
Search for retail space. Factors to consider include size, location, nature of surrounding stores, accessibility and condition of building. These factors will all affect the cost of the space. Also, you will need to decide if you will lease or buy. Buying requires more start-up money but you will own the space and be able to do what you want with it (within reason). Leasing is similar to renting. It requiring less start-up money but you will have to go through the owner when making various decisions.
Hire and begin training your staff. You can hold off on hiring staff until you are closer to the opening; however, it will be helpful to have extra hands for setting up the store and cafe.
Set up your bookstore and cafe. Begin by purchasing the items you outlined in your business plan and ordering shipments of books (either from Christian wholesalers or wholesalers that carry Christian books). Next, decide where to place everything. When designing the space, make it as accessible and pleasant as possible. When setting up your bookshelves, organize them into clear categories. When creating your cafe space, try to situate it near windows so it fills with natural sunlight.
Advertise. Set up a website, advertise on local websites, distribute flyers to Christian groups and organizations, take out an advertisement in the local paper and contact the postal office to have your flyer distributed in the mail.
Depending on where you live, you may need to apply for a license for your bookstore and/or cafe.
Crystal Bonser has been working as a freelance writer and editor for an educational website since 2009. She is also the creator of a pet-loss website on which she facilitates weekly grief support groups. Bonser holds a Bachelor of Social Work and a minor in psychology from Ryerson University.