If you've got a flair for demonstrations, people skills and the gift of organization, then an in-store demonstration service might be the business for you. You'll contract with food brokers and other suppliers and manufacturers to show off their products via your own on-call, personally trained demonstrators. People are more likely to purchase grocery products after tasting them, and customers of other types of goods can also be enticed by something they can see in action, feel, hear or smell, all of which makes the demonstration business valuable to brokers and manufacturers as well as store owners. You can start small and grow big--some demonstration companies manage as many as 2,000 to 20,000 demonstrators in several states. You'll probably start off by doing the demos yourself and hire others as your company grows. The advantages to this business are that you're always on the go so there's no time to get bored, you can work from home, and your start-up costs are minimal. Many owners of in-store demo businesses have a background in the grocery industry. This is helpful but not an absolute must. The must-haves are strong organizational skills to keep track of your demonstrators, their assignments and the materials they'll need to bring to each job; and top-notch administrative skills for paying your people and making sure you get paid. People skills are another must--you'll be dealing with lots of personalities, from store managers to food brokers to your own demonstrators. You'll also need a flair for demonstrating products and for teaching others how to do the same.
Your best clients will be supermarkets and warehouse superstores like Costco and Sam's Club, but you can also sell your services to department stores. Offer free demos to supermarket managers. Once they see how well you do, they can connect you with food distributors and manufacturers or hire you themselves--some stores offer demos of their own recipe ideas. You can also contact distributors and manufacturers on your own--if you've got access to a computer or a typewriter, make up a letter describing your services and requesting an appointment, then follow up with a phone call. And don't forget companies other than grocers--lots of products lend themselves to demonstrations.
You'll eventually need a computer with a laser printer and a fax machine, but to start with, you don't really need anything but a phone and a car to get to your demo sites. You can hire your staff as independent contractors or as employees, depending on the laws in your state. This can be a sticky area as far as the IRS is concerned, so be sure to check with an accountant when you reach the hiring stage. Since demonstrators supply their own equipment, you'll need an electric frying pan or griddle for serving those hot tidbits, a card table on which to operate, and a wastebasket for used paper napkins and toothpicks.