From the June 2003 issue of Startups

When Andy Digirgis decided he wanted to open a kiosk, it wasn't difficult to figure out what he wanted to sell. He just followed his passion: cigars. "I figured if I liked [them] that much, I might as well do something with [them]," he explains.

Three years ago, DiGirgis started The Cigar Guy, a kiosk specializing in cigars and cigar accessories, at The Galleria at South Bay in Redondo Beach, California. To choose exactly which products and product lines to carry, DiGirgis, 42, turned to industry experts. "I would poll certain salespeople to see what was selling and what wasn't," he says.

Even after his kiosk opened for business, DiGirgis' offering was constantly evolving. "I built the product selection by trying different things," he says. "Based on the first year, the whole product [line] was streamlined."

Using your hobby or passion as a launching pad is a great way to begin the process of choosing products to sell from your kiosk. "In a lot of cases, people already have a kiosk idea based on what they like or what their passion is--for example, making jewelry," says Susie Grant, specialty leasing manager for The Galleria at South Bay. "They have a concept in mind and just go with it."

Unfortunately, not all kiosk entrepreneurs know what they want to sell. But even if you're not an aficionado of some sort, it is possible to find strong sellers for your kiosk. "If you want to start a business but aren't sure what to sell, check out gift shows," Grant suggests. "They offer an abundance of ideas. If you walk the aisles of these shows, you might suddenly realize what you want to do based on the different products you see."

Whether you're selling your own handicrafts or distributing items you found at a gift show, it's important that the products you offer work within the confines of a kiosk. "Products that are bulky probably don't work as well due to space limitations," Grant explains.

Price is also a major consideration. "[Avoid] higher ticket items because kiosks offer impulse buys for the most part," Grant adds.

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The location of your kiosk can also be a deciding factor when you're selecting a product-you've got to make sure your product's audience can find you. "I wanted to be in an area where there's a lot of male traffic because it's a business that primarily targets males," DiGirgis says.

As soon as you've figured out what to include in your product line, you'll have to work to perfect it. Variety is essential in maintaining your customer base. Grant believes the Italian charm bracelet kiosk at The Galleria does well because of the array of items that are offered. "Our merchant has the best variety of charms I've seen, and that's really important," Grant says. "That particular line is ever-changing, and she's up on all the new stuff. She's always adding to the collection of charms customers can choose from."

Whether you're just starting out or already operating your kiosk, keeping up on new products and fads is always a good strategy. And remember, you're not necessarily limited to one big idea. "A few merchants out there are truly entrepreneurs. They're willing to take risks on things they may not know about. They want to jump on various trends or fads, so they open a number of carts [featuring] different concepts," Grant explains. "Those are the people I love to deal with, because they're open to different ideas."