Tips for Pagan Business Owners

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Tips for Pagan Business Owners

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Now that you're open for business, how can you STAY open?. Marc Romanelli / Getty Images

So you’ve opened a Pagan business of your own – congratulations! If you’re running a brick and mortar store, and not just an online business, you’ve definitely got your work cut out for you (and hopefully you read our article Before You Open a Pagan Shop before you opened your Pagan shop!).

Now that you’ve hung out your shingle, the shelves are starting to become stocked, and you’re hearing the doorbell ring as shoppers – and your friends, and the merely curious – stop by to visit, there are still a few more things to keep in mind. After all, if you’re running a shop that sells goods and services, you’re running a business. It’s important for you to treat it like one, or you’ll find yourself closing your doors permanently within just a couple of years.

We surveyed a few current and former Pagan shop owners for their input about a variety of topics, but in general, there were some common themes in their answers. Here are some of the top tips we’ve received for Pagan business owners to keep in mind.

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Learn to Take the High Road

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Remember that your shop will be a magnet for the curious - and those with ulterior motives. Image by LillyBeth Carman; used with permission

Deal with the haters by taking the high road. LillyBeth, co-owner of Blessed Be Spiritual Shop in Grove City, Ohio, had a problem with a local resident, who “stopped by our shop one afternoon just to check it out. She asked questions, engaged in some great open dialogue about what paths are represented here. When she left we wished her "Blessed Be," and felt really good about meeting her. That didn't last long. It turned out her husband was a deacon at a fundamentalist church in a neighboring town, and she apparently went home and filled him in on the "Satan worshiping witches in Grove City." She then took to Facebook and started pulling her neighbors and church members into a group bent on running us out. She started a petition to try to have the chamber of commerce force us to close or at the very least change our name from Blessed Be Spiritual Shop to “Gateway To Hell,” saying that Blessed Be leads people to believe that we are a Christian shop and the only reason we chose that name was to 'lure impressionable teens and other lost souls in and convert them to Satan worshipers.” She did indeed take the petition to the Chamber and they all but laughed her out. She was so upset that we heard rumors she and her family moved out of the area.”

When you've got people who've decided you don't belong in their town, sometimes it's best to take the high road and not stoop to their level. Remember, if it gets really bad, you have legal protection as well.

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Keep Your Inventory Fresh

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Keep an eye on what products sell, and which ones don't move as quickly. Image by James (Seamus) Dillard; used with permission

Keep your inventory fresh. If people see the same product every time they come in the store, they’ll stop coming. Make sure your merchandise is a mix of things people have seen before, and things that are new and unique to them. You might even want to work with local artisans to showcase some of their work on consignment – and keep in mind that if their products don’t sell, you can always send the items back and free up that space for something that will.

Seamus, co-owner of The Magical Druid in Columbus, Ohio, suggests you track all of your inventory. He says, “Create categories and keep an eye on what is moving and what isn’t. Sometimes it might be that the item just hasn’t found the right home. Sometimes you must admit to yourself you made a bad buying decision. Look at your margin and mark the item down. Remember cash flow is as or more important than gross revenue and margin. Dead inventory is tied up money you can’t use to pay rent. Also, unless you are blessed with a huge startup, then learn to do more with less. A big upfront investment is fixtures. Being a handy person can help. Make it if you can. Use Freecycle and Craigslist to upcycle when you can."

04
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Treat Your Pagan Shop As a Business

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Don't become a space where people hang out and refuse to spend money. Image © Photographer's Choice/Getty; Licensed to About.com

Remember you’re running a business, not a charity or a therapy office. Your shop should be welcoming, for sure, but if you have people coming in and spending hours on end chatting with you but not purchasing anything, you’ll have to put a stop to it.

Cassa, who used to own a small Wiccan shop in southern California, says, “I had customers – and I use the term loosely, because they never bought stuff – that would stop by and stay all day. I mean, we’re talking six to eight hours straight they’d be in the store, talking to the staff, just hanging out. I only had two other employees, but finally I put a policy in place, which was that if someone had been in there talking to you for more than half an hour, it was time to say, “It’s great that you stopped in and I’m glad we got to chat, but now I’ve got work to do. Let me know if you have any questions about the merchandise, but otherwise, I have to get back to earning my paycheck.” It sounds harsh, but there are things to do that can’t get done when some guy is following you around telling you about every detail of his life because he’s lonely.”

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A Full Shop Looks Successful

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The more inventory you display, the more successful people will believe you are. Image by KNSY/Picture Press/Getty Images

Fill up all your shelf and floor space. An empty store scares people away, because it looks like it’s unsuccessful - a full shop is inviting, and makes people want to support you. Use walls for creative displays as well. If you don’t have enough merchandise to fill the whole space, you can make the display area smaller until you get more product, by creating a false wall out of hanging tapestries or portable screens. Also, never forget the power of a few well-placed large potted plants.

Cassa says, "When I first opened, I only had enough stuff to fill the front room of the store. I blocked off the door to the second room, with a big Chinese painted screen, because the last thing I wanted was for a customer to see a bunch of empty shelves. As I moved more inventory, and was able to add more product, I eventually opened up that second room. But I didn't do it until I had enough books, Tarot cards, candles and other stuff to actually fill two rooms."

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Learn to Love Retail

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Your livelihood depends on your loving all aspects of your business. Image by Roberto Westbrook/Blend Images/Getty Images

Learn to love selling things. This doesn’t mean you’re just committed to the Pagan aspect of the shop – the Tarot cards, the books, the crystals, and so forth. It means you really have to love retail culture. You need to learn to think like someone whose livelihood depends on his or her love of selling product, because it does. This means not just selling product, but upselling, promoting, marketing, and more.

Again, you may have opened a Pagan shop because you're committed to helping other people expand their knowledge, but if you want to stay in business, you have to honestly believe in your product and your services.

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Learn to Multi-Use Your Space

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There's no return on investment with an unused space. Image by Adrian Burke/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Learn to multi-use rooms and areas. Are you paying for space that you only use once in a while? Does your shop have an extra room at the back that you use for classes one time a week? Then you’re wasting that space and the money you pay for it. Figure out if you can rent it out to someone – perhaps a Reiki practitioner, a small study group, or someone teaching classes – for the time that you’re not using it. If you have limited space, but still want to do things that require a bit of room, figure out how you can move things around. If you slide that bookshelf a little to the left and move the display table to the back wall, can you put ten chairs into the main area for a workshop?

Cassa says, “I had a small back room that we weren’t really using, except we kept extra toilet paper and some chairs in there. When a friend told me she was looking for a place to do Tarot readings, I figured out pretty quickly that I could rent her that room for a small amount each week to help offset the cost of my lease, as well as to bring her clients into my shop as new customers. It didn’t create a conflict, because we didn’t have a regular reader on staff anyway, so everybody won.”

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Be Part of the Community

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Now that you own a shop, you could become your community's public face of Paganism. Image by wdstock/E+/Getty Images

Remember that when it comes to the media, you might become the public face of Paganism in your town. LillyBeth says, “The latest issue was with a kindhearted concerned citizen who left us several Post-it notes on our door saying that she would pray for us and that God loves us and wants us to come to him. I wanted to thank this person for their concern but, since the author didn't sign the notes I had no way of knowing who it was. So, I wrote an open letter to the community in the editorial section of the local paper thanking this person for their thoughtfulness and letting them know that we pray blessings on them also every day at opening and again at closing when we offer our thanks to the Gods and Goddesses. The editor was so intrigued about exactly what kind of shop we had that when he called to let me know he was going to run the letter I invited him to do a special interest piece on us. He took me up on it, and it was in the paper earlier this year. We have had many new faces in the shop because of it and most of them have been back for classes, workshops and open circles!”

Seamus also recommends that you “make a point to stop by and talk to your business neighbors. People fear what they don’t know. If they get to know you hopefully they will begin to at least accept you as a neighbor. Small gifts like a money charm with a brief description of what it is and info about your store is a great icebreaker. Who doesn't like gifts? And you wishing their business success couldn’t be a bad thing. Offer "Understanding Neopaganism" classes or have handy brochures on hand. Let your actions and deeds be the beacon. Join local business groups to help network.”