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How to Open a Seashell Business

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Whether your seashells appeal to hobbyists, crafter or conchologists -- collectors of seashells, it takes time and research to get a seashell business started. She sells seashells by the seashore can be more than a tongue twister -- it can be a successful business, whether you live by the seashore or not.

Choose Your Seashell Product

A seashell such as Sphaerocypraea incomparabilis is a prized collectible shell costing thousands of dollars. At the other end of the scale are common small shells sold at $1 a bag. Seashells are used to create jewelry and adorn accessories such as picture frames, mirrors and chandeliers. Your first step in opening a seashell business is to choose the seashells you want to sell. If you don't have much knowledge about rare shells or the funding to purchase those shells, it's better to stick with the more common shells or those that are purchased in bulk for decoration.

Select The Sales Venue

Select where you will sell the shells. Options include an online store such as, online auction sites, your own website, a retail bricks and mortar location, arts and craft shows, flea markets or a kiosk in a shopping mall. The venue should be relevant to the types of seashells you're selling. Shells that cost more than a few dollars each wouldn't appeal to flea market customers looking for bargains.

Obtain Licensing

Acquire a business license from the state. You may also need a license from the city where your business is located. Sales to the general public require obtaining a sales privilege license and collecting sales tax from buyers in your state. Register your business with the state and city as well. Different states and cities have contrasting requirements regarding the information that's required, the application itself and whether you can complete the application online. For example, five states -- Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware and Oregon -- don't require the collection of sales taxes.

Find Vendors

Unless you plan to collect all the seashells yourself, it's necessary to find vendors. Vendors could include individual collectors, professional collectors, overseas companies or wholesale shell dealers. Check with online wholesale sites and wholesale craft material sites, or visit sites dedicated to seashell collecting. Online auction sites are another venue to find vendors. When determining which wholesaler to do business with, take the cost for delivery and minimum order quantities into consideration. Having to buy $100 of one type of shell depletes your cash reserves.

Determine the Market Niche

A market niche is a group of potential customers with similar demographics, such as age, gender, income, hobbies and geographic locations. Avid shell collectors would be one niche; customers who buy shells for craft projects is another niche; and rare shell collectors would be a third niche. There isn't much similarity between shell collectors and crafters who need shells, so trying to market to both niches results in confusion. For example, crafters want inexpensive shells while collectors are willing to pay for rare shells. Focusing on one niche results in more effective marketing strategies because you can tailor your marketing strategies to the needs of your niche.

Create Marketing Strategies

Create your marketing message -- the sales themes you emphasize in all of your communications with customers. Your points of emphasis could include offering the best prices, the greatest variety of shells or having unusual shells. An online presence is a requirement for just about any business. Pew Research states that most adults who have Internet access use it to review products and services. The quality of your website might be the difference between getting the sale and having your potential customer click away. Photos of your most attractive or unusual shells on your site show off your merchandise to visitors. Post those photos to social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest as well. Announce your latest acquisitions of unusual shells to followers and friends.


Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

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