The summer is always a popular time for seasonal businesses. Ice cream stands pop up, new food trucks start roaming the streets, and lots of beach-related products start to make an appearance. Running a seasonal business is different from running a regular, year-round business, so we asked some seasonal business experts for tips.
Here are our ten favorite answers:
“I am one of the co-founders (my wife and sister are the others) of the sun care business, Block Island Organics. We primarily sell sun care products – sunscreen and moisturizer with SPF – although have recently expanded into some non-suncare products to smooth out our seasonality. Still, our sales season is primarily the late spring and early summer.
One of our big challenges around seasonality is inventory planning. It’s important to estimate three aspects of your inventory needs: how much do you need to cover your high season, how much do you need to cover the rest of the year and when to manufacture all with an eye towards optimizing cost savings. For example, for us the ideal is to have new inventory manufactured at the end of winter with enough to cover our spring / summer high season and enough that we don’t need to re-manufacture until the following winter. If you can manufacture / order in smaller batches you can avoid some of this timing but that often leads to increased per-unit costs until your volume goes up significantly. Figuring out how to balance this is important for inventory and cash flow reasons.” – Will von Bernuth, Block Island Organics
“As a kids’ formal wear clothing company we are a seasonal business with summer being our busiest season. The best advice I can offer for new potential seasonal business owners is to have a back up savings when you start your business. There will be plenty of months where you will generate very low revenue and if you aren’t able to sustainable the cost you will be out of business. Having an emergency saving can help you get through the tough months so you can reach your peak business season.” –Lisa Chu, Black n Bianco
“I am the owner of a startup tutoring company, Suprex Learning, and my company primarily operates during the summer. Here are some tips I would give to new business owners:
1. Limit costs- As a seasonal business, cash flow is not steady. You should limit all expenses when possible. I would even advise new owners to avoid the expensive technology until they can confirm their business will succeed.
2. Rent Equipment- Don’t buy equipment for the long term use, you would have to deal with expensive storage fees. Instead, just rent the equipment necessary, down to the credit card machine.” –AJ Saleem, Suprex Private Tutoring
“I lock people in a room during the summer: I run a company that provides a source of amusement. We are a room escape company that typically does well during the summer as it attracts a lot of high school age kids.
The business has been thriving and the people that participate in it absolutely love it. We are opening a location in Tom’s river nj which is right next to the beach. We have three locations all over north jersey currently.” –Marc Aschoff, Last Minute Escape
“One of the most powerful things I have done for my seasonal business is follow up via email or phone call and see if my customers are satisfied with our services and if they would mind leaving an honest review for us online. Then when people are searching for us online, they see reviews, which are a strong trust-signal for the modern day customer. I’ve brought in so much new business using this alone, and the beauty is, it’s free.
Use your downtime wisely and plan, plan, plan. In your off-season make a budget for your business and stick to it. Meanwhile, be aggressive about marketing your business during your off time and look for more opportunities to generate revenue. Try to cut your expenses for the first few years if possible. Chances are you are going to need the capital to re-invest in your business and you don’t need the added stresses of money along with your new business.” –Anthony Mancuso, Home Inspector Experts
“To make winter more bearable (and avoid making a loss in those months!) we do two things:
- Find less-seasonal products to stock. In our case, hammock chairs and baby hammocks are less seasonal than regular hammocks, since they are more commonly used indoors.
- Reduce fixed costs such as our ecommerce website provider and warehousing (we have cheaper warehousing for seasonal products, and premium warehousing for year-round products).” –Daniel Brady, Heavenly Hammocks
“I’m Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, which is best described as Uber for Lawn Care.
We have over 500 small business owners that use our platform to get new business throughout the warm periods of the year when the grass grows.
However, in most parts of the country the lawn care business comes to a grinding halt after November.
What we do is offer discounts to our existing clientele for ancillary and complementary services such as gutter cleaning, pressure washing, leaf removal, deck staining, and even garage clean outs.
My advice is if you have a recurring customer base offer them deep discounts to accomplish side projects during the off-season to keep cash flow going and employees busy during the dead parts of the year.” –Bryan Clayton, GreenPal
“The hardest part about owning a seasonal business is trying to reignite interest every year. Previously we would rely purely on flyers and newspaper adverts to reach our customers, but found it took too long to get them into circulation. Online advertising campaigns can be launched immediately on platforms like social media and Google, and can be targeted to only appear in front of relevant users within your target market.” –Sam Williamson, Fife Man Removals
“We distribute our frozen yogurt for dogs product line nationally to independent dog stores. As many of these stores don’t have planograms or even a way to track inventory, it’s very seasonal.
Here are our tips:
1. Hoard cash in up times so that it’s there when you need it
2. Start ramping up for your season 1-2 months prior to build inventory
3. Cut all unnecessary monthly expenses in down times
4. Work on ways to sell your most margin-rich items in up times so that
you’ll bring in more cash later
5. Although it may not be great for your ego, consider getting a part-time
job when you know it’s going to be slower” –Meg Meyer, The Bear & The Rat
“Here are my seasonal summer business tips:
- For hoteliers: Use yield management to get the most out of your
100 days of summer. Try to forecast busy times and price your rooms
- Be prepared for burnout on the home stretch. Every August there
comes a time when your staff starts to get fried. This is a great time to
find ways of showing your appreciation. A little morale boost goes a long
3. Blog about seasonal summer events and activities in your area. At
the end of your blog post, connect everything back to how your business can
help the reader to more fully enjoy those experiences in your area.” –Mark Phillips, Old Rittenhouse