When our clients Monika and Kerry Crossley opened Sno-La Snowballs, demand for their product was overwhelming. New Orleans already had plenty of snowball shops, but Sno-La was different. Kerry created one mouth-watering masterpiece after another in flavors like Bananas Foster Cream, Oreo and Key Lime. He stuffed each one with cheesecake and offered fresh fruit and other toppings.
Demand was so great, it wasn’t long before the couple started thinking about opening a second business location in nearby Metairie. They found even though the second location was just 15 minutes from the first, there were significant differences and new challenges.
We had the privilege of walking alongside them as they opened their second business location. Later they went on to open Sno-La Kenner and Sno-La Uptown. Here we share the process they used to decide whether or not it was time for expansion and the steps they took to ensure their grand opening was a success.
Look for Signs It’s Time to Grow
The Crossleys were thrilled with the almost overnight success of the original Sno-La location, but they also knew the amount of work it took to start a new business and the daily challenges they faced keeping it running. When they started considering a second business location, they asked themselves the following:
- Do we have enough money to open and run two separate snowball stands?
- Is there a market elsewhere similar to what we have here?
- Will our lifestyle allow us to manage more than one location?
- Will a second location provide enough revenue to make it worth the risk and effort?
- Is there more business than our current location can support?
- Is opening a second business location the best way to grow (or are there better alternatives?)
Answer Questions Realistically
The answer to most of their questions was yes. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Monika is also a financial advisor. She crunched the numbers to make sure they had enough financial reserves to fund the second location until it began to generate revenue. Plus, the first Sno-La was generating enough cash flow to keep both running if the second business location didn’t perform as well as planned.
Metairie is an upscale community with 1920s-era homes and high-end boutiques. Median household income is well above the state average and cost of living is below the national average. The population is largely young professionals and retirees, two groups who have disposable income for things like gourmet snowballs.
The biggest challenge, they both felt, was going to be the fact they were both already extremely busy. You can’t add hours to the day, but they had already had success training employees and delegating responsibilities at their first location. They were reasonably confident they could apply the same training at Sno-La Metairie. And, if the second business location performed like the first, they’d be looking at double the revenue for their time and money investment.
Second Location vs. Online Store
Some businesses don’t need to open another location to sell to a wider audience. Instead, they can offer products and services online to reach a national or global audience. If that’s an option for your business, contact us to find out how we can bring that audience to you. But for Sno-La, a second location was the way to go. They sell merchandise online, but you just can’t ship a snowball.
Evaluate Current Strengths
The couple had a sense of what they did and didn’t like about their current location, but at this point, they took time to commit some things to paper. First, they listed factors they believed were critical to the first location’s success.
- Consistently excellent snowballs – From the beginning, they wanted to ensure whether Kerry made an order or any of the employees prepared and served it, the customer received a perfectly prepared confection every time.
- Atmosphere – The first location had a laid back coffee shop vibe. While many snowball stands are on street corners leaving customers to bake in the New Orleans heat, here patrons could come inside and take time to savor their purchase.
- Snoball tastings – Sno-La has a pretty extensive list of flavors, and customers often express the desire to try them all. Snoball tastings allow customers to sample popular flavors and try new ones as they develop.
- Year-round accessibility – Many New Orleans snowball vendors close in the winter. Sno-La stays open, so customers can rely on them to always be there.
At first, Sno-La had problems managing their online presence, and it cost them business. At Spade Design, we helped them get that straightened out, but they knew a second location would bring a whole new set of digital marketing issues.
Plus, they knew what it took to manage one location with customers, employees, inventory and payroll. They looked at each aspect to anticipate problems and develop possible solutions.
They brainstormed problems they might face getting the same high-quality ingredients in Metairie. They listed the cost and time commitment necessary to train new hires. They faced the fact that at the new store, they wouldn’t be adding just one employee at a time, they would need to train a whole new workforce before day one. All those employees meant a mountain of paperwork.
The original Sno-La’s success was in part due to its location. Monika and Kerry knew finding the perfect spot for a new store wouldn’t be easy.
Scope Out Competition
Snowballs have been a New Orleans staple since around the time they invented ice. One of the current New Orleans snowball shops has been in business since 1939. There were lots of others with a history of success. Monika and Kerry took time to familiarize themselves with the other Snowball stands in the Metairie area.
At Spade Design, we always advise our clients to identify and capitalize on what makes them stand out, what makes them unique from and better than the competition. We also help clients conduct a market analysis to evaluate growth potential. Sno-La didn’t just elevate fine, fluffy shaved ice to an art form, they pioneered stuffing snowballs with cheesecake.
They also offered high-quality toppings other vendors don’t. They planned to use that, along with their unique atmosphere and events like snowball tasting to offer something better than their competitors.
Make Your Wish List
They had a winning recipe and key ingredients (literally) for second location success, so they decided to move forward with their plans. It was time to decide what they would reproduce from the first location and what they hoped to improve. Over the course of multiple sessions, they made a wish list for the following:
- New products
- Menu layout, design and options
- Interior and exterior features of new location
- Look and feel of the second store
- Hiring and training processes
The first Sno-La is in a fantastic location near Audubon Park, Loyola and Tulane Universities and the Mississippi River. It’s on a major road where consumers can find it, and the surrounding businesses created nonstop traffic. There’s plenty of parking nearby and the location itself has indoor space where patrons can find refuge from the heat. Monika and Kerry identified what they liked and disliked about their current location, then started looking for potential places that had their list of requirements.
Renting a business location is a long-term relationship, one that can make or break your chances of success. It’s wise not to rush through evaluating spaces, landlords and terms.
You also want to make sure you’re not competing against yourself. A second business location should always be far enough away from the first it reaches a separate audience.
If you already have a winning formula you don’t have to reinvent the marketing wheel, but it’s still a new location and audience. Most small to mid-sized businesses can’t rely on brand recognition alone. We encouraged our Sno-La clients to make sure these critical marketing elements were in place.
- Website design – People ask a lot if they need a whole new website for a second location. In most cases, it’s best to have a strong main website with pages for separate locations. If you don’t already have a rock-solid online presence that brings revenue and traffic, now might be the time to think about a website redesign.
- Mobile-friendliness – If your current website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll lose business and have a harder time appearing in top results on search engine ranking pages.
- Local SEO – Google has said up to 50 percent of mobile searches have local intent. A Search Engine Land survey found 82 percent of smartphone shoppers conduct “near me” searches. It makes sense to invest in local SEO.
- Excellent content – You’ll need engaging text, images, video and other content for your digital marketing campaigns.
- A social media marketing plan – People are going to talk about your business on social media. Have a plan for staying at the front of their mind and for participating in those conversations.
The good news is, you’ve probably already developed a system for recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training employees. The bad news is with your first location you did that on an as-needed basis. Now you might possibly have a large group to bring up to speed.
Create a clear job description and don’t compromise on the skills you require and the type of candidate who makes the right fit. Company culture is part of what made your first location a success, so it’s one thing you want to duplicate at the second.
Decide who will do the recruiting, interviewing and onboarding. Monika and Kerry divided tasks for which they would be responsible. Some business owners choose to delegate hiring and training to management and staff from the original location.
Keep documentation from the very beginning. Decide whether you’ll set up your own payroll system or outsource to an accountant or bookkeeper. Keep up-to-date and accurate records on file for each employee separately.
Expect the Unexpected
Even with the most thorough planning, things will go wrong. Allow yourself time to work out the kinks, and don’t beat yourself up over things you missed or mistakes you made along the way.
Documentation helps at every stage. Like Monika and Kerry you might find you don’t stop at a second location, but you go on to open more. Each time will bring unique challenges, but you won’t make the same mistakes twice.
Partner With a Winning Digital Marketing Team
Spade Design specializes in responsive web design, SEO, digital marketing, business strategies, social media, branding, logo design and graphic design. We can help you achieve success at every stage of business from startup to managing multiple locations. Contact us to partner with a winning team for your second business location today.