Grand Opening Basics
by Debra Schweikowsky | February 18, 2020
Opening a business is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of thought, commitment and perseverance. Because of this dedication, for many business owners, opening a business is like having a child or another spouse.
After putting in all of the time and effort to open up shop, it is time to let everyone know you’re here and ready to serve. The best way to do this is by hosting a grand opening.
Though some may believe that a grand opening is just for show and theatrics, in reality, it is a very important event for business owners, as it introduces them, and the business, to the community.
It’s Not One-Size Fits All
Just as no business is the same, neither should grand openings be. The business owner must choose the right opening to fit their business. There are many ways to host this special event:
- Soft Opening: A soft opening allows a business owner to open the doors to friends, family, local politicians, stakeholders and high-end guests, without having all of the added pressure of worrying if everything is perfect. It’s essentially a trial and error period in which the owner can spot any issues and figure out any improvements that need to be made.
- Ribbon Cutting: A ribbon-cutting ceremony can be a small event with local dignitaries, politicians, community leaders and people who have helped the business owner with their vision. It can also be conducted on a grand scale that features live music and entertainment, media coverage and fanfare.
- Support a Cause: Partnering with a local charity introduces the company to the community and allows them to understand what the business owner cares about. This has the potential to attract social awareness, local media and curious potential clients.
- Community Grand Opening: This is an event filled with prizes, food and entertainment, in which several businesses get together and collectively reach out to the community. It is ideal if the businesses complement each other and not be in competition. Each business will highlight its services and could offer specials and additional promotions.
No matter which style a business owner chooses, it should be aligned with their brand and what the business has to offer.
A grand opening is a perfect opportunity to establish brand awareness for the business. It is important to include the business logo on all of the promotional products, business cards, flyers/brochures and on employee T-shirts, etc. Many businesses can even capitalize on selling branded merchandise which continues to provide name recognition long after the event has ended, and adds to profitability.
Timing is Everything
There is a common misconception that a grand opening must happen right when the business opens its doors. This is simply not true. Whether it is a month, six months or even a year down the road, the business owner must have the grand opening when they know that they are ready.
When that feeling sets in and a business owner is finally ready, there are other things that they must keep in mind when choosing the date. Depending on the type of event, it needs to be held on a day of the week that is good for all of the prominent guests, including local politicians, media and stakeholders. Weekday events tend to be better for most people’s schedules, as the weekends are typically reserved for family and personal commitments.
Spreading the Word
Now that the business owner knows the type of event and the date, the final element to a successful grand opening is spreading the word. Using the power of social media is essential. This includes Facebook (and Marketplace), Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, as well as the company’s website. When using these platforms, consistency is key. It is important to use the right platforms that align with the business.
Another important way to spread the word is by attracting local politicians and media. This can be done by using press releases and submitting requests through various government offices.
You’re Ready – Now What?
A grand opening can often be viewed as a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Here is a cheat sheet of things to keep in mind when you’re ready to host your event:
- Choose the type of event that works best for you and your business.
- Set a date and send out invites, e-vites, or personal invitations. Invite local businesses, politicians, community leaders, suppliers, potential business partners, family and friends.
- Have a plan with a checklist. Conduct a dry run and practice what you will do and say.
- Have food such as finger foods, beverages, desserts, and snacks – keep it simple but plentiful.
- Have your branding visible on marketing materials, giveaways and promotions.
- Collect information. Have customers sign in with emails so that you can send them promotions.
- Get media coverage. Some local stations have community events that can be listed at no cost.
- Post teasers on your social media sites and ask family/friends and customers to share and share often, create a buzz.
- Have a budget and stick to it. Be realistic.
- Ask for help from family and friends the day before to set up and do any running around.
- Take a deep breath, relax and have fun – don’t stress!
Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development
Specialty: Finance, Capital Access
Debra Schweikowsky is a business professional with experience in business management, administration, banking and finance. She was a small business owner with more than 20 years of experience, including being a franchisee. As a business owner, she successfully implemented a variety of revenue enhancement strategies and is results driven. Schweikowsky successfully sold her business by following an established exit strategy. Four years ago, she entered the banking industry and gained a wealth of knowledge in assisting consumers and businesses to meet their financial and borrowing needs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from State University of New York, Empire State College.