Selling Rocks: How to Start a Small Rock Shop

Learn how to make money selling rocks by following these tips from a successful small rock shop proprietor.


| January/February 1971



Polished Stones

If you are breaking into the lapidary business, try to specialize in one or two main areas. Scope out your competition, and gear the offerings in your rock shop toward what they lack.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/AUDREY DUROSE

So you want to start a rock shop — or do you? Maybe you're dreaming instead of a little candle business you can operate out of your home ... or a leather shop ... or you've decided to put your painting on a paying basis ... or you're expecting an out-of-print book service to finance your break from the 9-to-5 drag. No matter. Be it a home mail-order operation or store-front employment service: The bookkeeping, management, buying, markup, discount, zoning, credit, insurance, tax, advertising and other problems of a family business are much the same. The methods that work for a rock shop will also work for the sandal maker, pet shop and health food store — and the place to get those methods is from a successful small shop proprietor.

Arthur E. Victor, assisted by his wife, Lila Mae Victor, is that successful proprietor. The Victors, until their recent semi-retirement, operated one of the world's better known "rock hound" emporiums. Their two books, Gem Tumbling and Jewelry Making and So You Want to Start a Rock Shop, have helped hundreds of other enthusiasts establish their own flourishing rock shops. The following excerpts from the more general information from So You Want to Start a Rock Shop should help anyone start almost any small business on a sound basis.

What Makes a Successful Small Business?

Hundreds of thumbnail-sized rock shops start each year and other hundreds quit or fail — but so do the "failure" rates of all businesses make dismal reading. Statistics are against success and the saddest statistical facts are that most failures could have been prevented. Poor planning, no market analysis, insufficient capital and lack of technical knowledge are all contributing factors — but the amazing thing is that most small business men are not aware of their lack of "know how." This lack of knowledge is not a sin (who among us can assert he knows EVERYTHING about anything?). But he who knows not and knows not that he knows not, is headed for serious trouble and in a hurry.

Rather than belabor the reasons for failure, let us take the positive approach. Many rock shops prosper and their proprietors are happy, contented people — some have grown to national prominence. And to the best of our knowledge, every one started in their backyard or glassed in front porch, even as you and me.

Requirements of a Rock Shop Proprietor

First, is capital: money to start the enterprise, to buy the stock, and carry the overhead costs until sales develop to a point where income is greater than output. Certainly this amount will vary depending upon your particular circumstances, but there must be some money. Probably, five years will pass before you can take money from the business. During that time every dollar of profit will be re-invested in building up the stock and improving the shop.

Then, there is your knowledge of the Lapidary field, or a specific field if you intend to specialize. You should know the "jargon of the trade" — the descriptive terms needed to order supplies, and you must know what services and supplies your prospective customers will expect you to carry in stock. You must know something of business methods, bookkeeping, stock control, and profit and loss statements. This bookkeeping knowledge is readily available to you and can be easily acquired — but the technical "know how" is not standardized, and is not available except by long and patient digging — and we mean literally and figuratively.

Let us "personalize" this technical knowledge point by applying it to your own activities. Suppose you are a first-class machinist (or an accountant or printer or almost any occupation) and you have your own little shop. Your friend drops in and says something like this — "I have sold insurance for 30 years but I have always wanted a nice little shop like this. I have saved a few bucks. What do you think about me starting a little shop like yours?"





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