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Park It . . . Where?

The wheels are turning on your kiosk-based business. But where are you going?

This story appears in the February 2003 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine.

Congratulations! After much soul-searching, you've finallychosen your dream kiosk-based enterprise; now's the time tostart getting down to business. But where are you going to put yourkiosk? What do you need to consider? "It starts withidentifying who the target customer is. You want to locate close towhere those customers are," says Howard Van Auken, academicdirector for the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship at IowaState University in Ames.

Thinking about the target customer worked for Diane Flannery,CEO of Juma Ventures, a San Francisco organization that findsemployment for inner-city kids, and a Ben & Jerry'sfranchisee. "When we started eight years ago, we were tryingto find different venues where we could sell ice cream," shesays. "We figured young people love baseball and ice cream, sothe ballpark seemed like a good fit."

Once you've found your target customers, Van Auken says,"Visit the areas and see what the traffic pattern is. Inaddition, he suggests considering security, operating costs, cashflow, staffing, display issues and lease length. The leasingmanager for the shopping center you're interested in can helpwith these questions.

Susie Grant, specialty leasing manager for the Galleria at SouthBay in Redondo Beach, California, has a list of questions toconsider:

  • Are target customers shopping at stores near your desiredlocation?
  • What type of storage is available? While the Galleria'skiosks do have some storage space, tenants can buy more at anadditional charge.
  • Do you plan on leasing during the holidays? Rent goes upconsiderably during that time.
  • How long a lease do you want to sign? Grant offers agreementsthat last anywhere from a month to a year.

After you've balanced out cost issues, found great staffers,decided on lease length and gotten product approval from theshopping center, it's time to set a move-in date."[Location] is always based on availability," Grant says."[Kiosk owners] may have something in mind that's notavailable at the time they're coming into the mall."

While considering all these issues, one of the smartest thingsyou can do is trust your instincts. "Go with your gut,"Grant says. "If you have a good feeling about a location,it's probably going to be a pretty good place for you tostart."

Since 1994, SanFrancisco youth development organization Juma Ventures has operatedinline Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops in addition to kiosks at3Com Park, home of the San Francisco 49ers, and Pacific Bell Park,home of the San Francisco Giants. The franchise serves ice cream atall home games for the football and baseball teams (though chillyevenings during football season do impact sales), and at specialevents such as the Rolling Stones concerts in November 2002.

Running stadium kiosks provideschallenges that Juma doesn't experience in its inline stores,particularly when it comes to staffing during baseball season."Most Friday evening games start at 7:35 and end around10," says Travis Marshall, general manager of the enterprise,which employs teens between 14 and 15 years old. "Then 99times out of 100, Saturday games [start] between 12 and 1 [p.m.],which means you have to be back the next morning at 9. There'sa lot of coordination with that, making sure the kids don'twork overtime, etc."

Juma admits its mission to findemployment for inner-city kids helped get the contract, but CEODiane Flannery sees opportunities for other kiosk franchisees insimilar nontraditional venues. "It's important to watchwhere in your community you can set up these kiosks," shesays. "We watch big events, then figure out how to get intothem. We're in touch with the entertainment around the SanFrancisco Bay area, and that's something most franchisees coulddo easily."

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