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Local Fish Store Advice


Bruce
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Hey guys, I aspire to someday soon own a local Fish Store/local pet store. I would like to know what info, advice, and resources you guys can provide. I'm in New York so a very expensive market and I have no clue how to find good wholesalers. Again, thank you guys for any helpūüėĀ

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Hey,Bruce! Good on you for getting some research done. I have no specific advice about opening or owning a store but I listen to the Aquarium Coop livestream often and  that question comes up sometimes.
 

Cory suggests people work and manage a store for a while. That way you can understand the supply chain issues you were referring to. Also developing a vision of the type of store you want. Visit as many as possible and think about the things you like and don’t like about each of them. 
 

good luck!

 

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Be prepared to go without paying yourself for a year, possibly more. Work in the business to learn what you like, don't like. There are lots of wholesalers out there, but you will want to find one that has similar water to what you have. If you have hard water, like a lot of the midwest has, you might want to shy away from a wholesaler that has soft water, and work with one in Florida since they have hard water as well. Down the road, possibly look into getting an importers permit, so you can import directly from farms and wholesalers overseas. Be present on social media, make videos and posts about new fish you have got in. 

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A bankruptcy attorney once told me this. Most small businesses don't fail because because of lack of passion or expertise of the owner in providing the service or product. Most fail because of lack of passion or expertise in the "business-side" of the business. There are so many things you have to know about that may have nothing at all to do with your fishkeeping expertise - how to manage, train, and deal with employees (difficult employees can sometimes ruin a business), learn all kinds of local, state and federal laws, insurance requirements, how to budget and plan, building/zoning, etc. Good luck!

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Where in NY are you?

My only advice is to research your area. How many big box stores and how many independents there are and if that area could even support another aquarium store. If there are no independents look if there were any in the past. There may be a reason there are none there.

I live in an area where I assume the fish hobby is either non-existent or not very popular. There are no local independent fish stores close by. Also, the closest Petco's aquarium section is VERY basic compared to others I have seen. Very few fish, no employees in that section most times I go, and they don't even sell bettas.

Also, as mentioned above, try to browse some of Aquarium Co-Op's videos, because Cory has discussed this subject numerous times.

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I have worked at a few shops, and one of the things I learned was to be flexible when pricing things, especially fish.

One of the owners I worked for had a hard fast rule that fish were priced at 3 times what he paid for them. Even if he was paying 12 cents for neons from over seas, or if he was paying 8 dollars for a baby arowana. (this was 20+ years ago)

The point is, make your money where you can. If regular price in your store for neons is 1.99 and then you trans ship some in for 12 cents each, sell them for 1.49.....not 39 cents. And when you get that big specialty fish in that cost you $10, sell it for $19.99 so you can move it before it eats $30 worth of food.

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My biggest advice, and there is so much to know/learn. Go run someone elses fish store. This likely will mean working your way up from a new hire to the manager of the place. This takes a few years, with pay only being meager. This is exactly like starting your own store, except you learn with someone elses time and money and not risk your own bankruptcy.

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11 minutes ago, Bruce said:

You guys have super helpful so quickly. @OceanTruth I live in manhattan there's a couple big box stores and a few independent stores. There's definitely a good deal of enthusiast.

Yeah, none of my concerns are a factor in nyc. Lol. Good luck to you! If you ever get it started let us know. I make a trip down there every so often. Only fish store I've visited there is Pacific Aquariums(?). I think that's what it was called.

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My first piece of advice starts with working in and managing one first, as others have said, so you will know what you're getting into.  Not doing so would be like opening a restaurant because you like to cook, even though you never worked in one (which many people have done, but very few successfully).

The second piece is to save every nickel you can toward the day you're ready to open the store.  If you can't do that then either don't really want it all that bad, or you won't have enough discipline to manage it well.  Plus, it's hard enough to make money for yourself without having to make money for the bank too (which is what you're doing if you're operating with borrowed money).

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4 hours ago, Maggie said:

A bankruptcy attorney once told me this. Most small businesses don't fail because because of lack of passion or expertise of the owner in providing the service or product. Most fail because of lack of passion or expertise in the "business-side" of the business. There are so many things you have to know about that may have nothing at all to do with your fishkeeping expertise - how to manage, train, and deal with employees (difficult employees can sometimes ruin a business), learn all kinds of local, state and federal laws, insurance requirements, how to budget and plan, building/zoning, etc. Good luck!

^^THIS.

I don't run a fish store, but I have always been manager of people and things.

My "boss" (a term I use loosely for the person who authorizes my paycheck, but actually has to listen to me) is a brilliant scientist. I am a solid scientist, but not brilliant. But without me, he would be ruined inside of a month. However, without him, there would be no vison for me to execute--I am too practical to dream as big. We are halves of a necessary team.

If you learn project/people mangement and sales you can do anything. If you learn immunology you can only do immunology. Work in ANY retail store or restaurant or anything where you face the public and get to the point that you mange that job. Those skills transfer and are valuable. Even if you find that you suck in that role and eventually hire someone else to do it, you will understand the job that they do and be better at supporting them.

 

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