How to Open a Food Market

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Fresh food markets bring better nutritional options to under-served communities.
Fresh food markets bring better nutritional options to under-served communities. (Image: vegetable market image by Bionic Media from Fotolia.com)

Even though everybody has to eat to live, some communities don’t have their own food markets. Residents have to travel to neighboring communities or even longer distances to get to the nearest grocery store. To compensate for time and distance, many shoppers go to convenience stores to buy food items that are canned, pre-packaged and prepared. Convenience stores don’t sell as many food products as a supermarket, so their prices tend to be higher. The lack of choice opens up an opportunity to start a fresh-food market in an under-served community.

Things You'll Need

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Cash register
  • Business license

Choose the items to sell at your market. Think niche. Go organic, and only sell foods produced without pesticides or animals injected with hormones. Sell only fruits and vegetables. Choose your niche to help make your food market stand out. In the book “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference,” author Glenn Croston suggests you look at current trends in other countries such as Europe and Japan.

Name your market. Describe the business concept in the name, such as “Fresh Foods Austin” or create something catchy that is a play on words or rhymes such as “Best and Fresh.”

Apply for a business license. Request an application from your city or county tax clerk. Also request an application for a reseller’s license because you will be selling products to the general public. This license relieves you of a tax burden. If you sell pre-cooked foods, you may need a license from the state’s department of agriculture.

Find a location for your food market. Consider a “delivery only” concept in which customers don’t have to visit your market at all. For physical locations, look in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic. Look for convenient access for your customers from side streets and highways. In the book “The McGraw-Hill Guide to Starting Your Own Business,” Stephen C. Harper writes, “You should look for areas where your target market is not served well enough or at all by your competitors. Areas that are under-served or not being served at all may represent opportunities for developing a competitive advantage by having a better location.”

Find funding for your food market. Write a business plan. Include all expected expenses for leasing the location, buying inventory and advertising costs. Forecast your expected earnings. Submit your business plan to a commercial bank for a business loan.

Get business liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Discuss options with an insurance provider licensed in your state to protect you if someone gets food poisoning from something they’ve eaten from your market. Contact the state’s workers’ compensation authority to determine the sufficient coverage for your employees.

Hire a contractor familiar with building commercial spaces. Get recommendations from other business owners before choosing a contractor.

Buy store supplies. Purchase a cash register that’s easy for all employees to use. Order cleaning supplies to keep the store clean and inviting.

Schedule a safety inspection with the state’s department of health. Most states require any business that sells food to the public, cooked or pre-packaged, to undergo a health inspection.

Find food vendors. Compare prices from wholesale vendors as well as delivery options and payment terms. Contact local farmers who may want to get rid of their next harvest. Order your food inventory.

Price your inventory. The Food Trust suggests: “To come up with a fair price for your product, refer to your survey results, and check out what other local businesses are charging for the same or similar product. Be sure the price of the product covers your costs and affords at least a small amount for profit.” Plan for perishables, because food doesn’t last on shelves indefinitely.

Promote your food market. Give away a free bag of fruit in a raffle to encourage visitors to your store. Hold promotional sales like "All the Green You Can Eat Wednesdays for Less Green" and discount all your green vegetables on that day. Post flyers throughout the community with directions to your store.

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