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Expecting the Unexpected in Small Business Expansion First, build—then, expand. Most small business owners dream that their business will become successful enough for them to open another location; that dream came true for Candle Pour owners Misty and Dennis Akers.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Candle Pour

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Thinking of opening a second location for your small business? Congratulations—expansion, while stressful at times, is a sure sign of your business' success. After all, you've done so well at your primary location that you need another to keep up with demand.

This is the stage that the Candle Pour, a Tampa-based custom candle-making shop, was in during the fall of 2019. Co-owners Misty and Dennis Akers had opened their primary location earlier that year, but in 2020, COVID-19 put their expansion plans on the backburner.

Given the in-person nature of the Candle Pour experience, Misty and Dennis had to be creative as they reopened, including navigating an unforeseen leasing problem in 2021 that forced their second temporary closure until they could move to a different location.

"The Candle Pour is synonymous with change, and that's not to say a bad thing," Dennis said. "I never knew that mentality or that culture would actually make way more sense when we hit something as big as a pandemic or [our relocation]."

'From day one, you have to think bigger than the shop'

As the Candle Pour approached its first year in business, Misty and Dennis felt it had outgrown its original space. With relocation imminent, the shop closed down for three months—during the holiday season—to prepare for the move.

"That time of year is rough as it is, because that is the busiest time of year for us," Dennis said. "It was a blessing because there was a lot of stuff we were able to get creative and do. We opened a warehouse, so we were able to house all the products we have and then focus on wholesale and online—just do the best we could."

Setting themselves up for success meant finding the right location for the second site. The concept was new to the area, and the Akers wanted to keep it close to home—especially after receiving confidence boosts from their existing customer base in St. Petersburg. They eventually decided on the Hyde Park neighborhood for its close-knit, village feel.

Next, the couple had to determine the best way to use the new space. Even though they had dealt with an unexpected six-week construction delay, the Akers took their time tying up loose ends before welcoming customers back into the shop.

"You don't want to go in guns blazing and the next thing is something's off in the space and people have a bad experience. That starts to spread," Dennis said.

Staying flexible to succeed

Business owners constantly contend with the unexpected—with or without a pandemic. Material scarcities, contractor disappointments, shipping delays, and more can throw a wrench in any carefully laid out plan. That's why only having a plan A can limit your avenues for success.

"With our business, we have had to do some pivots. We've had to adjust what we initially thought we were gonna look like, which is completely different now, but in a great way," Misty said. "And it was because we really listened to our staff. We listen to the customers. And that's a big part of where I think a lot of people just have it too set in their head of what they wanna be or do. And that can handcuff you a little bit at times."

Especially when considering a second location, being flexible in the building materials, uniforms, or other brand aesthetics can help ease the stress of opening.

When small business owners think on their feet, prepare for the unexpected, and embrace change, business runs more smoothly. In the episode, learn more top tips from Misty and Dennis on adaptability as you approach business expansion, including:

  • Develop a plan B…and a plan C. The pandemic proved that your next hurdle is most likely one that you don't expect. Strategize how to recover should plan A fail.
  • Build up your team. Employees feel pride in their workplace when they have a sense of ownership and goal to work toward—and loyal, knowledgeable employees are invaluable in a competitive labor market.
  • Location is key. Carefully consider your target market when scouting for a new location. Will they frequent the area? Does the location's personality or aesthetic match the ideal you have for your business?

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Misty, Dennis, and Emily, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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