Boston-area resident Kyle Waring started his seasonal business by making the best of a natural disaster.
In the wake of last year’s epic snowfall in New England, Kyle launched ShipSnowYo.com. He turned precipitation into profit by shipping Styrofoam ice chests filled with 6 pounds of the “historic” snow to anywhere in the US for $89. Too pricey, you say? Don’t worry – for those on a tight budget, bottles of the melted snow (also known as “water”) are available for just $20.
When the snow finally ran out in July, Kyle came up with another brilliant seasonal business idea. During peak foliage season, Kyle and his staff hike all around the Northeast in search of perfect autumn leaves for his new venture, ShipFoliage.com. The leaves undergo a proprietary preservation process to enhance the colors and keep them bright and beautiful for years to come.
Three perfect color-balanced leaves – one red, one yellow, and one green or mixed color – are packaged attractively and then shipped to recipients (usually expatriate New Englanders nostalgic for a touch of home) for $20.
(This falls into the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?” Because every fall there would be about a million dollars’ worth of leaves in my backyard!)
Seasonal businesses can be holiday-based (Halloween costumes or Easter baskets, for example), others are linked to a specific date (Fourth of July fireworks or April 15th tax help), or they may be literally “seasonal,” operating primarily in summer, fall, winter, or spring.
Kyle’s companies are good examples; his leaf and snow businesses are mostly active in the fall and winter months, just as a lawn care or pool maintenance business generally operates in the warmer months of the year.
Is seasonal entrepreneurship for you? Don’t forget these three keys to success:
Put aside enough money during your busy times to cover your costs until next season.
Because most seasonal businesses generate the lion’s share of their profits during a relatively short window of time, it takes careful financial planning to stay financially viable. Even during your downtime, you need to take care of maintenance, accounting, and marketing. You also have to squirrel away sufficient cash to pay the bills and purchase next year’s inventory, not to mention paying yourself and any permanent employees in the meantime.
Develop alternative income streams.
If you’re lucky, your seasonal business will be so profitable that you can take the rest of the year off. But for most seasonal entrepreneurs, that’s not the case. Your options are to turn your original business into a year-round moneymaker and/or start other seasonal businesses to help stay afloat during your downtime.
A smart strategy is to launch other seasonal ventures that complement your original business – you may already have some of the equipment, and your existing customers may also be potential clients for your new business. For example, your warm-weather lawn care business could offer winter snow removal, or your outdoor pond maintenance business can expand into year-round indoor aquarium or fountain care.
Keep your customers engaged during the off-season by staying in touch.
Even when your business isn’t actively operating, you have to stay top of mind with your clients and prospects. Regular contact through social media, blogging, and regular emails will attract visitors to your website and keep them engaged until busy season comes around again.