Getting Started in an Occult Business
"I am in the process of watching one of your YouTube videos and I was wondering what your thoughts are on spiritual/New Age stores.
I do know that it is best to have a business location that has some sort of draw, and I am located in between two cities with retail shops like this, making it, what I feel, a good place to locate a shop like this right on the main strip. If you have a moment, could you tell me if you think it would be a good idea? The shop would be a spiritual/New Age/occult shop and coffee shop. I am also licensed to do fortune telling. (Licensing is required here.)
The majority of our sales would come from things like figurines, books, crystals and my readings along with the coffee and snack sales. The proposed location is close to a deli and a high school, and across the street from a very popular bar in town."
First of all, if you are a professional fortune teller, shouldn't you already know if the business will be successful? (Sorry, couldn't resist that.)
I have nothing against spiritual, occult or New Age businesses. I actually represent several, including one that specializes in "past life regression analysis" -- putting you under hypnosis to determine who you were in your past lives. I keep trying to work out a barter deal with this client, but she keeps telling me, "You don't want to know ..."
You seem to be combining two very different types of business, and I'm not sure I see the synergy between the two. I get that you want the coffee shop to generate foot traffic for the fortune telling and occult merchandise business. I also get that you want to balance the fortune telling business -- which will likely attract customers in the evening -- with a business that will generate traffic during the day. But I fear that nonbelievers will be nervous about frequenting a shop like yours just to get a cup of coffee that they probably can get at the deli next door or the Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts down the road. An occult business is by definition a "destination" business that shouldn't need a "main drag" location to be successful.
The most successful occult businesses I know are in large cities, amusement districts or in neighborhoods catering to a hipster or "alternative" clientele with piercing and tattoo parlors nearby. Most of your customers will likely be "impulse" buyers who, after an evening out on the town doing other things might see your sign and say, "hey, that looks like fun, let's have our palms read." For that reason I like the idea of your business being located across the street from a popular bar, especially if they feature live music, and ESPECIALLY if they host rock, metal or blues bands.
You are not likely to have much repeat business, except perhaps for the occult tchotchkes you are selling (and I would keep a wary eye on those folks - anyone who needs more than one Pentagram pendant for their wardrobe is someone who might have, shall we say, issues?) Being close to a high school might be an advantage in that students who are rock, punk or metal fans might want occult items as fashion accessories. But, depending on the part of the country you are operating in, you might attract accusations of promoting Satanism and corrupting the minds of religious young people.
Your location will be key to the success of this business; it should be discreet (some people won't want to be seen frequenting a fortune teller) yet visible enough to generate the "impulse" customers you want. A second story location with a neon sign in the window would be ideal, if local zoning regulations allow. I would keep the floor space as small as possible, and because your cash flow will be extremely unpredictable (at least for a year or two), I wouldn't lock myself into a long-term lease.
Check and see if there are any alternative weekly newspapers in your area -- the type of publication that tells you what bands are playing in which venues locally. These often feature ads for New Age-type businesses and will give you an idea both of the size of your market and the number of competitors in your area.
Finally, remember that you are in "show business." While I don't doubt that you sincerely believe in what you do, most of your customers will be there for the experience. Give them what they're looking for -- dress the part, act the part and promote the heck out of your business in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
After all, to some extent you and I are in similar businesses: One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a woman in Romani clothing standing in front of a shop window with a sign saying "Reader, Advisor, Attorney at Law."
Cliff Ennico (email@example.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.