See the timeline of one small business's soft opening, and read tips on how to make your grand opening a success.
By Tara Remiasz
After a year of planning, Lisa Alexander and Douglas Lee, co-owners of Twisted Sister Bakery in Chicago, finally realized their dream of opening a small business. Below is a summary of the big day.
7 a.m. Alexander and four bakers file into the store and begin putting the finishing touches on foods like mini éclairs, fruit tarts, cookies and cupcakes.
11 a.m. The remaining staff members arrive and prepare the front-of-house for the opening. They arrange flowers, set up display cases, organize platters of desserts and cookies, and adjust the lighting.
11:30 a.m. The entire team takes a quick break to refuel with lunch from a local hot dog stand.
11:45 a.m. Alexander and Lee give their staff an inspirational talk, and thank them for their patience after delaying the soft opening several times.
Noon The doors are opened, and people immediately begin filing into the bakery. It's not long until the shop is filled with people, and it will stay this way until close. Lee and Alexander didn't formally advertise the opening, but they spread the word among friends and family.
5:15 p.m. Although the store was due to close at 5 p.m., people continue to file into the bakery. Finally, at 5:15 p.m. the doors are locked and the last of the customers file out.
Alexander, Lee and the front-of-house crew begin cleaning up the store.
7:30 p.m. With the last of the cleaning complete, Alexander, Lee and the rest of the staff head home for the night.
Hear Alexander's take on the soft opening in her own words by listening to the Taking Stock of the Big Day podcast.
12 Tips for Opening Your Business Right
Wayne Schaffel, president of Public Relations for Less in White Plains, N.Y., offers tips on how to capitalize on opening day opportunities and make sure the day is as special as you've imagined.
- Determine if you want a soft opening to work out all the kinks. A soft opening is where a business, such as a restaurant, opens, but does not publicize that it is open until a week or so later, when everyone has been trained.
- Alert local media.
- Become a member of your local chamber of commerce.
- Invite local celebrities, such as the mayor, police chief, president of the local bank, high school principal, professional athlete you might know, or publisher of a weekly paper.
- Purchase a mailing list in your ZIP code, and mail out discount coupons that are redeemable on opening day to ensure a large turnout. At the end of the day, use the discount coupons you've collected to hold a drawing for $1,000.
- Take a lot of pictures for your Web site and to share with local media.
- Give away items with your business's information printed on them, such as balloons or chocolate. Include details such as your Web site, address and phone number.
- Hold a power breakfast for a group of prospective clients, and invite another group of important contacts to an after-hours wine-and-cheese event. Don't forget to invite vendors and suppliers.
- Place an ad in a local newspaper several weeks before the opening.
- Consider partnering with other local businesses to cross-market your new venture.
- Tie your opening into the local high school. For example, hire the high school band, sponsor a school event or put an ad in the school newspaper.
- Issue press releases before the event and after the event.