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2511 East 6th St, Bldg 4 Unit A
Austin, TX 78702

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The Paper + Craft Pantry blog is home to our latest DIY projects, current inspiration sources, and small business advice. 

Small Business School: Going Brick + Mortar Part I

Pei Sim


Paper Craft Pantry Austin Blog Small Business Brick and Mortar

Hey guys! It's Pei here! As we've grown and barrel ahead towards closing out our 2nd year of business, I wanted to take the time to answer some of our most frequently asked questions about our journey to opening up a physical, brick and mortar shop in Austin!

I went through my emails and our contact forms to pull the most asked questions in the hopes this helps future aspiring shop owners as they navigate through growing their business!

p.s. I've broken down this blog into two parts, so feel free to leave any comments that I can answer in Part II, next month!

As a small business owner, I know I'm not the only person in my industry. How do I know if my business stands apart/is ready for a Brick + Mortar?

It's fairly easy these days to start a small business. A small business can mean a lot of—from mom & pop shops, tech start-ups, an Etsy shop, or even a stand at your local farmer's market. A huge differentiator of a small business, one that is going to be around for years to come, is the business owner behind it.

Take the time to write out a clear business plan. Do some research in your market and see what else is out there. Look at what others in your industry are doing well, learn from their areas of opportunities. Formulate a way to make your business your OWN.

No one has the proprietary ownership of owning any single small business, but a smart business owner knows that what they bring to the table is unique. Something that is innovative, ahead of the curve, and fills in the market gap that is missing.

Paper Craft Pantry Austin Blog Owning a Small Business
Paper Craft Pantry Austin Blog Small Business School Going Brick and Mortar
Paper Craft Pantry Austin Blog Owning a Brick and Mortar Store

Real estate is expensive and hard to come by! How did you find the right space?

Again, it goes back to research! Do the leg work and drive around town. Explore neighborhoods and don't be afraid to ask your friends in the small business community.

I had a hard time finding a commercial real estate broker who would work within my budget. So I got in my car every week and drove around neighborhoods to see if there were any "For Lease" signs. I looked online, on Craigslist to be specific. And I enlisted friends to accompany me to view listings.

It took a lot of time, almost a full year for me to find the right spot in town. I wanted to be sure I wasn't opening up too close to any similar businesses in town (remember, there's room for everyone!) And when I found the space we are in now, it was a diamond in the rough for sure (but that's a long story I'll spare you for now!)

When deciding on a neighborhood or part of town, I looked at places where I knew we would be able to add value while bringing something new and fresh to the community.

When creating a budget, what were some unforeseen costs?

Besides budgeting for rent and bills, make sure you have money set aside for the legal side of your business! Also, most rent is base rent that doesn't include NNN (also known as a "triple net," which is an additional dollar amount per sq. ft. a landlord will expect you to pay monthly to maintain community areas/exteriors). Don't forget to also budget for general liability insurance as well as business rental insurance! And last but not least, just a heads up that commercial utilities just cost more!

Speaking of budget, what are some things I should consider in my budget?

  • Monthly rent
  • Utilities (electricity/internet)
  • Subscriptions (merchant fees, Spotify, website, email)
  • Salary (yourself, employees)
  • Miscellaneous (savings, new equipment or furniture)

How do you know when it's time to hire someone?

There really isn't a right time, and it's hard to tell when it would make sense to bring someone on board! But taking a step back to look ahead to the future helps! I knew we would need support with the business eventually, and knew I didn't want to wait until we were maxed-out before starting to look for the right person to join our team. In the case of hiring Emily, our Studio Director, I started looking for the right person for this role almost 6 months before I knew the business would "need" a Studio Director. And to be honest, we probably could have gone another few months without needing someone. But, when you find the right fit, you'll know!

Do you have more questions you want answered? Submit them in the comments, below, and I'll answer them in next month's follow-up post: Going Brick + Mortar Part II