Small Niche Business Owners Share How They Manage To Keep The Lights On
Owning your own business is really the dream for quite a few people. The thing is, nobody really thinks about opening a small Wal-Mart or something. The mom & pop shops we imagine are almost always something special that we love to do. Love beekeeping? Want to sell local honey? Cool. But how are you going to afford a shop and compete with the honey that exists at every grocery store ever? One Reddit user really wanted to know:
Redditors who own niche hobby shops like model shops, how the hell do you make enough money to stay afloat?
The responses gave us some great ideas on ways we can make our own business better, honestly. So thanks Reddit!
Forget Walk-By Traffic
I run a small model shop. Mostly planes. I stay afloat because I cut way back on rent by renting out a small and less desirable shop location. Model shops attract customers who have considered what they want and don't typically rely on walk-by traffic.
No Money, Just Geeks
There's an absolutely decrepit-looking model train shop in town. It's in the middle of nowhere and has faded signage that looks like it's from the '70s. Open like 2 days a week for a couple of hours.
Drove by it one day with a townie who seems to know everything about everyone in the city and I commented about how I didn't understand that place. He told me it was ran by a retiree who just does it as a hobby. Probably doesn't make a dime, just has a fancy clubhouse that pulls in fellow enthusiasts/geeks to talk with.
It kind of sort of makes sense if you've retired with a little money to burn.
Broke Kids And Cheap Snacks
There's a place where I live that I think started out as a boardgame shop but branched out into being a place where people could actually gather with their friends and play those games. They also started serving food and got a liquor license. They're absolutely killing it - place is packed every night. Esp. popular with the student crowd as the food and drinks are cheap and the "cover charge" for unlimited stay and play is like $5 or something. Floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with games of all sorts, not-too-complex yet tasty food that's easy to handle and munch on while playing, good amount of tables, nice vibe/employees & owners, etc. Pretty neat place.
Could be an idea for people reading this thread who are thinking about starting/expanding on their own small business.
Wait Out The Competition
I work in a model shop (kits, trains, RC cars and aircraft). Due to other model shops in the UK shutting down we're quite few and far between, so we get customers from all over our county coming to buy things. In general business is quite good, enough to stay open at least
My Dad used to own a shop that sold model trains and mostly he made money selling on eBay. He'd paint them and build landscape and stuff and sell on eBay. There was little profit from the brick & mortar store itself.
On The Road
I lived in a small, very rural town in Texas that had an amazing BBQ restaurant that struggled for years because the local crowd just wasn't large enough to really keep it afloat. The locals were loyal, just not enough of them, and the off-the-beaten-path tourist trade was a hit-or-miss proposition at best, not to mention very seasonal.
The owners were locals who were invested in the community, owned the building, employed other locals and really wanted to stay in business but really didn't want to move at the same time they couldn't eke out much of an existence without moving. Quite the conundrum.
Until they figured out the far flung oilfield workers didn't have time to come into town to get meals. They started running multiple trucks out to the oilfields every day packed with BBQ, and sold out as much as they could keep up with. They were so busy making so much money taking their product to the customers they shut down the dining room of the restaurant--the part that wasn't all that profitable anyway--and they're still going great guns because they found a way to keep doing a good thing for a customer base that is willing to pay to have it brought to them. Win-win.
Break It, Buy It, Break It Again
RC Car hobby shop by me, has an indoor race track. The race track keeps them alive. You come and race, break your car, buy parts, race some more.
Game shops, that sell board games and tabletop RPGs and the like, stay afloat almost entirely through the cardboard crack that is Magic: the Gathering.
It's A Display
So I know someone who runs a multimedia shop, his sales are primarily in trading card game sales and board games.
In his case, he owns the building and is self-employed, so the regular expenses aren't too bad. His main earnings come from attending various conventions big and small, and selling them online through our version of eBay.
The physical shop is more of a display that people browse through for things they might be interested in.
In a suburb where my friend lives there is a fruit and vegetable shop that only has a handful of items and often sells out of things and closes at 11am. It is run by old people who own the building and live upstairs. They just run it for something to do.
Even more bizarre (to most people not from here,) they'll have an unmanned stand at the end of their driveway with a price list and a money jar. Take what you want and put the money in the jar, honor system.
I used to work at a pottery painting studio. While working there we saw tons of other pottery places go in and out of businesses, the owner told me in the fifteen years she'd had it open she'd seen 15 go up and down.
She told me she was able to keep it open because she's a real estate agent and refers to it as a "non profit" because she makes no money from it. She loves it though.
Three Things In Common
The yarn and knitting/ crochet shops near me tend to have three things in common:
- They leverage social interaction. They provide big group tables where people can sit and craft and chat and make new friends, and they offer drop-in classes or coffee hours.
- They carry some high-end products that chain hobby shops don't. If people come in for #1 often enough, eventually that hand-painted silk/alpaca blend might crack them.
- They are run by retirees who don't rely on the shop as their sole source of income.
I know someone with a geocaching shop. He makes money selling lemonade to people passing buy. And his wife has a proper job. His core business is next to nothing.
My parents owned a card store. Baseball, basketball, magic, yugioh and all of that.
It basically broke even, but youth needed something to do so they'd come in and play magic or warhammer or something for a few hours.
It was either barely broke a profit or had a small loss for a decade, but was something they did to help out the community. I got a lot of experience running register or playing card games I suppose.
Then one day someone broke the back door down and stole a bunch of stuff, and my parents decided that if that was what their reward was for trying to help out people in the community then they weren't going to bother so they just closed up shop.
Responses were split 50/50 between people being understanding and people complaining they didn't have any place to throw their kids at now and that we should have stayed open anyway ignoring that they'd have to go into debt to re-buy stock that was stolen and that if they did it would probably just get broken into over and over again.
Partnerships And Design
I know someone who owns a small train modelling shop, he makes money through partnership with model manufacturers, hiring booths in modelling shows as well as designing his own models and selling them. Niche markets such as railway modelling relies more on reputation and how established they are, so he saves money by operating out of less desirable locations as well as modelling at home.
Cheaper Than A Locker
Dad used to run a model train store in a dying mall. He used it mainly as a storage space since it was cheaper than a locker and has always primarily sold on eBay
A buddy of mine has parents that own a hobby shop. They do 3 things.
- They sell games and CCG stuff, which takes up less than a quarter of their shop.
- They cultivate clients through conventions, Meetup groups, host events, and they really work on developing relationships.
- They get real creative with the taxes. The husband owns the business and the wife instead the property, so the husband makes virtually zero money but his business pays his wife (the landlord) almost every dime in rent. There is more but that's all I can remember.
Keep It Clean
I work at a board game store, one of the top teir levels with Asmodee (most modern board games, we are a top 100 Asmodee store) and Wizards of th Coast (Magic, advanced premium store).
We have been told our service and cleanliness and variety of stock keep them coming back despite not going below MSRP. Probably toss in my "i have played way to many games and read too much gaming history" to get reviews of how we were able to quickly give info on specific games. We get lots of non saavy gamers, which is a big demographic.
A Point of Sale system with SQL has been a fantastic plus, as i can get many metrics to analyze and save craptons of time with stock.
Corner The Student Market
My model shop sells supplies to the architecture students. It's the only place I can get basswood I-beam, scale figures, and tiny mesh. The other students and I spend $100+ when we go.
Only Used For Events
Yeah I used to live near a store front that said it was a high end crafts and hobby retailer. I never saw it open. The one day at like 8pm I walked by and it was open. I stepped inside and there was a lady setting displays and tables. She said hello and asked if I wanted help with anything. I said that I just wanted to ask how she stays in business because this is the first time I have ever seen the shop open. And she says "oh! The internet honey! This place is only used for events for the local hobby community."
It made so much more sense to me after that. She said he husband owned the building and ran a hardware store for decades but home depot arrived one day. So they looked into selling and it wasn't as profitable as they would have liked so they rented it out for a few years and then she moved her business into it. After the internet became ubiquitous she was losing business and then found out running a small store online was way easier than she had imagined. And now it is what it is.
Some of our possessions are no-brainer, have to have them, best things in the universe. Others are total beaters, through and through liabilities, that should have been trashed years ago.
But what about those possessions that fall right in between?
These are the things we love as much as we hate. Like some people or places in our lives, these objects and us have a love/hate relationship--and, surprisingly, almost as much baggage as the human version includes.
Some Redditors sat down and shared their best examples of these kinds of possessions.
lliorca336 asked, "What do you have a love / hate relationship with?"
Some set their sights on the elephant in the room. They described their excitement as well as all the issues that come with the expansive, unbelievably powerful internet.
The Whole Dang Thing
"The internet." -- LM1120
"Yup. On one side, it can really help people who feel alone. However, it can also breed toxicity." -- RHCube
"Back down it was as simple as don't use it but thats not really possible anymore" -- Derpsterio29
Even More Whole
"Technology in general."
"On the one hand, it's nice that I was able to deposit a check just now while sitting down on my bedroom. On the other, screw anyone who has the audacity to call me and greet me with a robot."
"I have it with none other than 'Google.' "
"I hate it when Google tracks my every move. I even feel scared sometimes. Like just the other day, I was watching 'Padmavat' on Amazon Prime. It wasn't even my account, but my husband's. We had to stop in the middle due to something."
"And as soon as I opened my Gmail next, the very first email on the top was a 'Spam' email asking me if I missed out on watching 'Padmawat?' Really Scary!"
"And then, I love it when it takes me down the memory lane. Like just today, my Google Photos app asked me if I would like to see where I was on this day in 2010? I thought why not. Turns out, I was at my friend's wedding. Which reminded me, 'Oh! It's her anniversary today!' "
"I simply sent one of her gorgeous pics wishing her happy anniversary. We had a long chat, after which I sent over all of the pics from that day. She was really happy to re-visit them and tagged them as the best anniversary gift!"
Others chose to discuss those necessities of day-to-day life that they've actually come to love completing over and over.
But that doesn't mean they don't get annoying all the time too.
"That weird thing where I'll waste time before entering the shower because it feels like such a chore that takes a long time, I'm gonna need 5 h to dry my hair afterwards etc., but then when I'm in the shower i never wanna get out."
Cruising, Until Your Not
"Driving is my biggest love/ hate relationship. I absolutely love the feel of driving when there's a small amount/ no traffic and the feel of being able to go wherever you want in your country is so freeing. Start/stop traffic, car maintenance costs, insurance, monthly payments, terrible roads, the possibility of an accident, driving through new places without clear signage etc..."
"Man, driving at its best is one of my favourite things in life but at its worst I wonder why I ever got my license and look toward busses with jealousy."
It Will Never End
"Cooking. I hate the necessity of having to prepare food and the process itself, but I usually like the result, and if I cook for other people, I get many compliments for how it's good."
"You know, when I hate to do that, then at least it gotta be tasty."
Others spoke about the luxuries in life. It almost feels absurd to complain about such wonderful, unnecessary possessions.
And yet, they are luxuries with a slight catch.
The Nut Barrier
"Probably my biggest trigger to ruin my diet. Doesn't even have to be good chocolate. Doesn't even have to be mediocre chocolate (by American standards). I'm talking about, like Palmer's Double Crisp super-cheap, probably-not-even-actually-chocolate Chocolate."
"My only saving grace is that I'm allergic to peanuts, and a lot of the really really cheap chocolate has peanuts/peanut butter in it, so it's no longer a temptation."
More and More
"Having a home gym:"
"Love: Not having to go far and not having to deal with other ppl and their bs."
"Hate: Everything you want is much more expensive than you expect... and you keep wanting more"
Another Take on Tech
"Modern technology. For every way it makes our lives easier, there's at least five ways it makes things harder."
"But overall, it's generally worth it... if you can get the stuff to finally work, which might take you all day."
So the next time you find yourself out of wits in frustration, only to come back to that same object or task the very next day, don't feel so alone.
Everyone out here is emotionally confused about their inanimate objects and abstract concepts.
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We live in an era defined, amongst other things, by the unparalleled barrage of content that blasts our eyes and ears throughout every hour of every single day.
Truly, it's exhausting to be alive in the contemporary media landscape.
Generations before had to deal with posters, billboards, and magazine advertisements, then radio commercials after that, and then TV commercials came along.
We thought the consumer seduction reached its peak with those.
But then, lo and behold, social media came about. And now the "information" peddled by brands and advertisers is everywhere. And so so much of it is misleading, or flat out incorrect.
Some Redditors shared the examples that came to mind.
Many people chose to talk about the marketing efforts used to push health and nutrition products onto consumers.
It's no surprise that there were so many examples to choose from. People in contemporary times are obsessed with health, fitness, diet, and longevity.
So of course, marketers have taken some liberties.
"That things with 'zero sugar' can still have 0.2 grams of sugar per unit which is why tic tacs claim to be zero sugar but can still be dangerous for a diabetic person" -- Whynotgarlicbagel
"Always check the ingredients"
"I found some 'no added sugar' ice cream that had concentrated caramelised sugar syrup as a flavoring"
"Also no added sugar just means they haven't added any sugar. Not that it's zero sugar" -- EmergencyAdvance
The Natural World
" 'Natural' food isn't your definition of natural." -- Gmax100
"Cyanide is natural" -- Izwe
"Everything is natural, nuclear power plants are as natural as beaver dams" -- Skylake52
The Anti-Fat Movement
"Low fat is good for you. Well not just clever marketing, also lots of lobbying from the sugar industry" -- UltimateAnswer42
"That's a big one. Fat being the 'bad' macronutrient was something that took me a while to unlearn. I felt my healthiest when I ate a high fat, lower carb (50g or so) diet." -- Cameron213
Give Tators a Chance
"White potatoes are somehow unhealthy even though they are a very nutritious starchy root VEGETABLE."
"Just because when you smother oil and ranch on it it becomes unhealthy does not mean potatoes themselves are unhealthy."
Leave It Alone
"Vaginal odor being bad was a thing for a while, and that it could easily be corrected with over the counter treatments such as douching."
"First of all. A vagina is gonna smell like a vagina, not like flowers. If you're concerned about the way your vagina smells you should see a doctor."
"Second of all, the vagina is self-cleaning and doesn't need extra soaps to help keep it 'fresh.' In fact, those soaps and chemicals can cause harm and create real infections."
Other people chose to point out the marketing efforts that have aimed to influence our expectations of culture and the social playing field.
What is "cool" and acceptable is what sells. The question is, who decides what is "cool?"
"Makeup as a necessary norm." -- b2lose
"Man, FU** makeup! I don't wear it and have yet to have anyone I work with question my professionalism for it. I hate it, it's expensive, and I won't wear it." -- TheRedMaiden
"I love this, and I'll also throw in: shaving as a necessity. I've had so many people tell me it's 'unhygienic' for women to have leg hair." -- buriedclementines
"That teenagers are cool, tbh. Teen culture is 95% manufactured by suits trying to make a buck." -- crookedhope
"When have teenagers ever been cool to anyone but themselves?" -- troomer50
"right? this kills me as an adult. all the cool teenager sh** that 'parents don't understand' was absolutely designed by grown a** dorks just like their parents." -- likearealreptile
Passing the Buck
"The notion that climate change needs to be combated by individuals making changes in their day to day lives by buying green products. Corporations, global shipping, and factory farms all contribute massive amounts of pollution and greenhouse gasses that can't be offset by using less straws or buying a hybrid car."
"An entire city's worth of individuals couldn't even come close to offsetting the pollution created by a handful of ships used for global shipping, yet advertising would have you think that individuals could replace real systemic change and regulation."
And then there was one total, bald-faced lie. It had to do with an upsettingly common purchase that comes with an arbitrarily high price tag.
Maybe it's time to rethink it.
Pulling the Strings of Supply and Demand
"That diamonds are rare." -- icecreamterror
"That you should spend so much on a diamond and wedding, but can barely scrape by. Sure, let's throw a $30k banquet then go jumpstart the car again to get home." -- Choontz
"Futhermore on this; that 'cognac' diamonds are a desirable colour in a diamond, and are worth more than colourless. Jewellers originally struggled to sell stones of this colour so came up with a marketing concept to make them seem more unique, more special, and just as desirable as, or moreso than, colourless diamonds (which are generally far rarer, particularly if they are classified as flawless with few/imperceptible inclusions)."
"Similar idea with "champagne" diamonds...they were given this name to make them sound more appealing, too, so jewellers could still use them and increase the volume of jewellery they produce and sell." -- teenytinytinkerer
Of course, this list is so far from exhaustive. Pay attention for just the next few hours and I'm sure you'll come up with your own list of at least ten in no time.
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In the age of the internet, sometimes it can be very cool to hate on things just because other people do. Bandwagons can be fun, right? But honestly, not all of the things hated on actually deserve it. Save your hate for things that actually call for it.
Wanna jump off the bandwagon? Then keep reading!
Film and media are probably the biggest contender for being hated on randomly. It may seem harmless, but not always deserved.
Actors are people too!
Actors who played characters that people didn't like.
Really if you hated the character then the actor did a good job (assuming that was the role).
The best cartoons.nice day summer GIF by PBS KIDSGiphy
Child cartoons. Some are actually really good, even as an adult.
I feel like watching cartoons aimed at generally a younger audience allows for you to be reminded of some life lessons, I know I forget some things, or didn't realise others, or it at least partially renews my awareness of something I should still like or appreciate
This doesn't deserve awards, it's just my opinion that is apparently shared by many.
This man did nothing wrong.
Guy Fieri, he literally is the nicest person in the world but since he looks like he was electrocuted by mountain dew people want to saw his head off.
Even before that, I was witness to his other charitable work. A few years back, Santa Rosa was hit by some terrible fires and he showed up at a few shelters and personally cooked up and served some killer buffet food. No cameras, no massive team of PR, just a dude with an assistant to keep him on schedule to hit up other shelters in the area. Guy Fieri legit earned a lot of respect in my book for that.
You know who DEFINITELY doesn’t deserve hate? Animals. They’re just living their best lives, and need to be left alone.
The best cats.
We got a black cat for the first time last year. I've since formulated the theory that black cats might get some of their reputation from the fact that people can't see them well in the dark and so they seemingly appear out of nowhere and they might be instinctually cautious because they know people have a tendency to kick them while walking in the dark. Our black cat is the sweetest cat I've ever known.
They get a bad rep.Discovery Sharks GIF by Shark WeekGiphy
Sharks. They are beautiful, complex creatures, deserving of respect and, like any wild animal should be left alone in their natural habitat, but they get this reputation as vicious bloodthirsty monsters. This is only because every shark attack is news, and only then because they are so rare. More people are killed EVERY DAY by mosquitoes than sharks kill in a year.
Any apex predator that has remained evolutionarily unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, whose existance predates TREES, is deserving or our respect and admiration. Shine on, you crazy cartlaginous fish, shine on.
So cute too!
Opossums. They're neat little critters. They eat tons of ticks that carry Lyme disease, (mostly) don't carry rabies because their body temp is too low, and they're the only marsupial native to North America! They get a bad rap because their first defense is to hiss and bare teeth, but failing that, they just play dead.
If you don't have the predisposition to hate them, you'll find they're pretty cute too.
E: this is about /opossums/, the north American species.
Kiwis, I feel for you, but this comment isn't about your possums.
Hating on other people for just living their lives also seems to be a big contender for things that don’t deserve to be hated on.
This is so true.
Unemployed people. A lot of people genuinely are looking for work and did not want to lose their last job/it was beyond their control (like a layoff) but they get so much hate and called lazy by most people. I know too many unemployed people that are actually really trying hard. They definitely aren't lazy. (Not saying lazy unemployed people don't exist, but to be fair, so do lazy employed people too lol)
Leave the weather man alone!Fox Raining GIF by Family GuyGiphy
Meteorologists. They try their best to predict the weather based on patterns, models, and data. They're not perfect because predicting the weather is insanely difficult. When they get it wrong, I think we should go easy on them. It was probably an outlier result almost no one could have foreseen.
I've seen people get angry over the meteorologists for getting it right. Like they control the weather - it is their fault we are having rain, that kind of BS. Never made sense to me, but hey, I have plenty of relatives I clashed with growing up.
Please stop being d*cks to these people.
Customer service associates.
I hate when customers think that I, the minimum wage person forced to sit there and listen to them yell, am personally responsible for every policy they disagree with. Like, ma'am, if I had that much power and influence, I wouldn't be sitting here on a Saturday evening serving you.
Wholesome and necessary.
People don't deserve hate they give themselves when they are not doing too good at the moment.
If you haven't heard it from anyone else today, I'm proud of you.
It seems like people hate on things simply because they think they're meant to hate them. But you can always be the change and make an effort to stop being an a**hole about certain things.
No matter what though, sometimes haters gonna hate
Money means different things to different people.
Reddit user, u/TopTierUsername101, wanted to hear what you would do when they asked:
Just Get The Basics Out Of The Way
There's the standard responses, where people ran down the list of the essentials they could get out of the way.
Making The Unmanageable Manageable
Could pay off all debt and put a very nice down payment on a house.
Would make the mortgage manageable.
Give All The Money To The Kids
insanely.. i'm 19 and i'd be able to pay for university, pay for my car and help my parents who are on the streets rn get back on their feet and get my siblings out of foster care
You're the person I'd want to get the 100K. I don't need it; tons of people on this thread don't need it, but you my friend sound like you could use it for good.
Allowing You To Focus On Other Things
5-6 years of rent while i get my Ph.D sounds pretty fantastic
I hear this. I'm about to move with my partner so they can continue their education and would love to have $100k to live off of while I find work.
Wouldn't Go As Far As You Think
Then there's those other people who wouldn't be greatly affected by $100k, instead saying it would continue to help them comfortably move forward. Who doesn't like to be comfortable?
It would be almost enough for a downpayment on a house for us in our area. Housing is crazy expensive.
It would be less than half of a downpayment on an avg house in my area. This is basically keeping my generation from owning property and it's terrifying.
(avg. House here is about 1.2million)
A Slow Burn
Immediately? Not much at all. I'd pay off all my debt, take a chunk out of the house Im about to sign on. The monthly savings however would really allow me to change my life though.
Same here. A lot would change on paper, but the real effects wouldn't be apparent for several years.
This, also the peace of mind that would come along with it would be the most significant Change
Preparing For The Future
Just more money for retirement. That's all, business as usual.
Same. I mean, I'd say I'd spend some and go on vacation, but my vacations are typically camping somewhere cool and then hiking, so it's pretty frugal as far as vacations go. I'd like think that I could retire a little earlier if I had an extra 100 grand thrown at me, though.
Making A Huge Impact
Finally, there's those people who would do quite a bit if you were gifted $100k. This runs the length of saving lives to crafting a livable future.
Eliminating That Feeling
I'd be able to afford my own apartment instead of living with 3 ppl. I'd be able to focus more on building my life instead of just trying to survive every day. I'd be able to donate to charities and less fortunate ppl in my area.
Overall it would make my life less stressful and make me feel like less of a failure.
America Isn't Very Good Sometimes
Dude, that's almost 7 years worth of insulin. Can you imagine not having to wonder how you were going to manage your life threatening disease for 7, well technically 6.9, years? God, I could actually put money toward my future rather than trying desperately to stay alive in the present.
If the current rate of inflation continues, and if I am lucky enough to live until 75, I will have spent over 7 million dollars on insulin alone, not including other absurdly expensive diabetic supplies, like test strips, that are absolutely necessary for my survival.
Just for some context, each test strip, without insurance, runs you around 1.50 ($75 for a 50 pack of strips) and as someone who leads an active lifestyle and is insulin sensitive, I need to check my blood sugar roughly 6-8 times a day, more if I'm sick or an unforeseen event occurs that affects my blood glucose levels.
It's f-cking criminal what my country is allowing to happen to type one diabetics like myself.
Money Can't Buy Happiness, Until It Does
It would: pay off my husband's student loans and some medical bills that he has left, pay off my dental bill, pay off our credit cards, and then maybe we could get some upkeep/fixit stuff done around the house. The rest would go into savings. We'd have a good amount of money freed up each month, and that would also go into savings.
So, really, $100k would change my life by finally giving me a decent savings account that could be used in the future to hopefully avoid debt. It would be a very nice thing to have.
Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments who became famous when he cut his 1.1 million dollar salary to ensure every one of his employees received a $70k a year salary, probably said it best when he noted, "Money buys happiness when you climb out of poverty. But going from well-off to very well-off won't make you happier. Doing what you believe is right will."
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