From the August 1999 issue of Startups

It's hard to believe . . . it all happened so quickly. We've watched Scott Fiore, 32, grow from an entrepreneurial embryo into one heck of a small-business success story. Folks, get out your memory books, because in April, Fiore approached a new milestone: moving out (of his original location, that is).

The Herbal Remedy, Fiore's Littleton, Colorado, natural pharmacy, was born October 17, 1998, in a strip mall alongside the best of neighbors, including a busy fitness center and a massage therapist. Word spread as fast as his product selection grew. Attendance at in-store health-related seminars increased from small crowds to standing-room-only events. "We could've stayed [in our original location] if we were just dealing with products," says Fiore, "but some of the seminars were getting packed. I was putting 25 chairs wall-to-wall in my [300-square-foot] education center."

You may question the feasibility of a 6-month-old business embarking on an expansion mission, even if its seminars are extremely popular. Fiore himself acknowledges the problems some start-ups encounter when they jump the gun, but he's got a trick up his sleeve: His first step to expansion was assessing what aspects his business lacked--and what elements of healthy living the immediate community didn't offer. Right away, two words entered his mind: juice bar. That always-packed, lucrative fitness center two spaces away from The Herbal Remedy's new home (in the same strip mall)? It doesn't have one. And as far as Littleton goes, "There's nothing like that around here," says Fiore. "We're 15 minutes from the nearest juice place."

But even if you've assessed demand, how can you be sure expansion will be profitable--and not regrettable? You can't, really. You can only consider how you're doing currently, as Fiore did in February, when he felt the first signs of growing pains. "Most days, we were breaking even," he says. "Everything I'm reading says you shouldn't expect to do that for at least a year. At this rate, I think we're going to be in good shape."

The bill for expansion was more than Fiore expected, but it didn't put him out. "Initially, we predicted $20,000 would do it, but all the [Health Department-required] improvements and additional stuff put us [closer to] $30,000," he says. Luckily, Fiore had financing options. (Note: You're doing well when you have more than one option.) He could extend his existing $50,000 credit line with his bank, at 10.75 percent interest, or extend his existing loan through his father's "investment guy" in Phoenix--a shoe-in at 7 percent. He went with the latter, and construction became a reality.

"My hands were cut and bleeding," says Fiore of the sweat equity he invested in his expansion. He and the rest of the staff painted, laid tile, demolished walls, and moved trash and cement--all to make the weekend move before the April 15 grand opening go as smoothly as possible. Nothing that "a couple cases of beer, pizza and a bunch of friends" couldn't handle. "Hiccups," as Fiore calls them, included a custom shelving company with which he'd placed a $5,000 order declaring bankruptcy.

Now The Herbal Remedy, with That Juice Place located smack dab in the middle, is enjoying 1,000 additional square feet of space in its new home. That's not all that's expanded: Hours are now 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., rather than 9 to 7, and the store's now open on Sundays, too. Fiore even brought a new full-timer on board--a pharmacy intern, and the store's first female employee. "We needed somebody to level out [our testosterone levels]," he jokes.

And although Fiore isn't quite ready to franchise The Herbal Remedy just yet, he's agreed to help a duo of entrepreneurs (a pharmacist and a health industry expert) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, clone his store to see if franchising could be in his future. Oh, the possibilities of growing up.

Contact Source

The Herbal Remedy, (303) 795-8600, http://www.theherbalremedy.com