Real-Life Tips on How to Open a Brick and Mortar Store

Apr 8, 2021

Guest Contribution by: Hannah Bangs


“A business can be a prototype for the world you want to live in.”
-Proposals for the Feminine Economy | Jennifer Armbrust

I won’t sugar-coat this post. I don’t want you to think that opening your own shop will be a dreamy or easy path. It is not. But I will tell you that opening your own brick and mortar feels good — really good. Especially when you get to call yourself Boss.

This post is for you if you’ve worked customer service (and for some reason still love it). If you’ve started entry-level jobs, and then been asked to meet management expectations. If you’ve finally gotten fed-up with difficult bosses and inefficient systems. It’s for those of you who want to leave your job, but just don’t know how. Who truly believe that you can create a better, more beautiful, and more kind working environment. This post is for you if you don’t know where to start when opening your own brick and mortar, but you want to. I see you and I am here to help. These are my tips on how to open a brick and mortar store.


Where to Start When You Want to Open a Brick and Mortar

The conception phase of your brick and mortar starts long before you open your doors. It probably started on a particularly bad day at work when you went home and amidst your venting said something along the lines of, “If it was my business I would do XYZ…”
Sound familiar?

The truth is, that business is not yours, and the person who is running that business is probably (hopefully) doing the best they can. Although you have every right to be angry, learning how to harness your frustrations is the first piece of advice I can offer. These experiences are wonderful launching points to dissect what you do and DO NOT want in a working environment. 

Knowing what you do not want is as valuable as what you do.

Once you have a clear idea of the working environment you want to create, then you can start incorporating the skills and interests you have into it. The most important thing is to not share your dreams with people who will not support you. In the conception phase, it is crucial to lean on the people who love and cheer you on and want the best for you.


Having a Plan

You will need a very detailed plan for starting your brick and mortar business. This starts with getting down and dirty with the numbers. You will need to research the start-up costs, licensing, monthly expenses, rent, water, cost of goods, and then branding, marketing, accounting, etc. There are business consultants who you can pay to do this for you, but I recommend doing as much as you can on your own! It will benefit you in the long run to learn as much as you can about your business and what you’ll need to get up and running. 

Do not be afraid if your final costs are somewhere between $10,000-$20,000. This is realistic and generally “low-budget” in the scheme of a brick and mortar business. I, personally, started saving about 5 years ago and have been diligent and honest with my expenses. I managed to save the $12,000 I started Idyll Mercantile with, and it was my choice to avoid going through investors. My entire business is crafted around what I am currently capable of and what steps I will take if I fail.


Becoming a “Business”

Now that you know what you want, have some friends to cheer you on, know how much it will cost, and have created a realistic savings / funding plan, it’s time to become official. I’ve created a step-by-step guide available for purchase over at that runs you through the different licenses, working with real-estate, insurance, etc. 

You can save a lot of money by filing the legal requirements on your own, but it can be a bit of a headache. Make sure you’ve got good coffee and proof-read everything! The last thing you want is a call from the IRS. I could not tell you how many YouTube videos I have watched to get to where I am now. It is important to note that you will have to report all address changes as you open and re-locate, so be mindful of when you file your documents. If you’re planning pop-ups or selling online prior to opening, then it’s in your best interest to register before. If you aren’t, you can wait until you have a space locked in to file your business.


Bootstrapping Your Brick and Mortar

Bootstrapping: v.  get (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources

This was the most fun (and the most challenging) part so far. A lot of things are easier if you have money. With a high overhead, you will need to be diligent and careful of where and how you spent your capital. As you go, there will be things that you will want to pay people for, but again I recommend doing as much as you can on your own. 

So far, the only people I have hired are my Brand Guide Consultant and an Accountant. Both of these were after I had gone through and set up my business and branding to the best of my abilities, and needed a review to make sure everything was consistent (and legal). 

Here’s a breakdown of how I worked within my budget (while working a part-time job and moving states) and created a brand / brick and mortar that I am proud of:



    • I designed my icon on the app Procreate on the iPad
    • I designed my logo, care-guide, business cards, posters, window displays, etc. (all things marketing) in Canva.
    • After I had a product I was mostly proud of, I paid my friend Alyssa Gonzalez to review and tweak my colors/ fonts (I had to buy one font)/ compile everything into a Brand Guide.


    • I use Squarespace which is a template-based platform that allows me to create a beautiful and user-friendly website without prior experience. 


    • My boyfriend takes all of my film photos and I take the rest.
    • Lightroom is an incredible tool for editing photos and creating consistencies.


    • This is something I recommend getting professional eyes on before signing leases. In the guide on my website, I go over some things to pay attention to while committing to legal documents.
      **I’m not a legal advisor and all advice is a personal suggestion. 
    • I paid another friend who is an accountant to go over how to properly file taxes, organize my papers, and make sure I am Legal.


    • Quickbooks Online is an incredible tool that allows you to track your spending, label your expenses, and send and receive invoices.
    • SquareUp: This is my POS and transfers sales directly into Quickbooks. I am familiar with this software which is why I chose it, but there are many others such as Clover and Revel that are worth researching.


    • All of my furnishings are second hand, and/or have been built by my dad with wood we have lying around. I sourced a lot from Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
    • Get crafty with it. You want your shelves to be sturdy and safe, and your aesthetic to have a flow. But you definitely don’t need those $1,000 shelves unless that is built into your budget.


    • Last but not least, is YOU. You need to prioritize yourself, your living expenses, your current job, your relationships, and your physical and mental health. I cannot stress this enough.
    • Pro-Tip: Find yourself a sexy ass guy (or gal) to help you put up your shelves, remind you to go for walks, and be a shoulder to cry on when things seem just a bit too overwhelming. Not necessary but highly recommended. 😉 


Building a business requires you to dream, and then to put those dreams up to a mirror. It requires honesty, wit, and good humor. Mostly though, it requires your determination and attention. Like a plant, what you love well, will live well. This requires meeting the needs of your business, not what you want your business to need. But more importantly, building a business whose needs you are able to meet. It is yours, after all.


Are you the owner of a brick and mortar business? Because we know the expenses and the effort needed to, quite literally, build a business from the ground up, Curate Well Co. is offering a discount code available upon application for qualifying candidates for a limited time. Take a look at our current offerings, and then click here to apply for 20% off a Curate Well Co. program.



Hi, I’m Hannah and I am the founder of Idyll Mercantile, a small houseplant and homegoods shop in Downtown Santa Barbara. As a person, I love good coffee, conversation, red wine and long (very long) walks on the beach. As a professional, I have followed a circuitous path after achieving my BA in Environmental Sciences from UC Santa Cruz. This path has been an adventure of traveling and working in/managing cafes around the world to support myself, while learning an incredible amount on how many ways there are to live in the world. At the end of the day, it is people that keep me doing what I do. I pinch myself when I think about what I have created, and I am thrilled to watch the community continue to evolve and form around my business.


Find Idyll Mercantile at: 703 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
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