This is LeRoy and I started my first saltwater fish store in Boise Idaho in 1972. This business plan will give you a way to teach your children about starting an American business. Small businesses are one of the most important things in our economy, and this is a good way to learn how to make a business plan.

Things as simple as a business mowing lawns in the summer and cleaning up snow in the winter during the 1960s got me ready to start my own business and I haven't looked back yet.

I grew up on a very small farm in Idaho, and it was just natural to have a small business raising rabbits. I ended up with 300 cages producing rabbit meat for the local market.

start a home school store
Remind me to tell you about my first job in a petshop in 1968 dying bunnies pink, blue, and green with 3 buckets and a box of cedar shavings:)

On a small family farm there are always ways to make money, and that's something that small farms always need. Each person tends to use a different project, such as selling eggs or growing fancy garlic, to bring in extra income. A thriving small farm may have different kinds of things that are marketed from the home, and each of those is a small business. This was extremely important in the past. The things you may have in favor are: (a) you know what type of business you want to get into, (b) It will help if you have worked for others in a fish retail store business, (c) you need to have advanced knowledge of tropical fish, and (d) you're not afraid of hard work. Those are all positive things you can build on.

start a home school store

1. Get your plan made.
Set a goal: A year from now, you want to have learned to propagate your own corals. Since you're not afraid of hard work, that's the key -- work more, make more money, get things paid off, and save a little if you can.

2. Contact SCORE and/or visit any number of websites that provide free on-line reading and "mini-courses" to help you learn about business planning and start-up. Set a goal: A year from now, you want to have purchased and repaired some aquariums.

3. Expand and leverage your existing expertise. If there's something about tropical fish and aquariums that you don't know yet, learn it. If someone in your town knows more about it than you do, find a way to help that person so you can learn something in return.

Set a goal: A year from now, you want to be THE tropical fish expert in your city. Work in someone else's store for the time being -- but when you help customers, do as though it was YOUR store (provide the best, most personal service you can).

Get to know people who are into fish, and make sure that they (and their kids) know your name and remember you. When you open the doors to your own place one day, you want everybody you've helped over the past year to be "fans" of yours and customers for your new business.

I recommend taking Introduction to Small business classes at your local junior college or high school. This will give you some lessons in business administration. Unfortunately as I have learned, business is about a lot more than what we think. I started doing it because I loved raising corals. I now find that I propagate corals very little and do a lot more of the selling and administration. Oh how I miss getting my hands wet versus all the paper cuts I find myself nursing. Remember as the owner, the boss the head honco you will need to learn to delegate responsibilites and hire and fire people.

The students were busy with the projects, and they are producing more corals than they thought they would. They have been trading corals with members of other reef aquarium clubs. They think they need to have



start a tropicalfish store
start a reef aquarium store

The students are opening a new reef aquarium store

in Mikie's garage. This reef aquarium store will start small, and then the students will grow it like a baby. They know that they will have to find a source of supplies and livestock. Small stores often can not purchase from large coral companies, because they only sell to larger stores who have been buying from them.

That is why it is often better to not buy from the places that the local stores buy from. When you find a new wholesale fish and supply source you will not have the same products the other stores stocks.

Mikie has been working at the nicest pet shop in his town, but they do not sell corals. They have been good friends to the students.

The big tropical fish store at the mall is buying the students aquarium stands. You also can learn how to make and sell aquarium stands and hoods. Some people think that any store like theirs will take away customers from them. The Frugal Reefer taught the students that the other stores can help them. The store in the mall also buys black Aragocrete sculptures that the students make. This store is owned by a family who owns an African Cichlid hatchery. When Mikie saw those fish he decided to make rocks for fresh water. The students learn how to make live rocks

The students try so hard to remain friends with all of the local fish stores, and it will pay them back in the future.

It is important to get the resale licenses you need from the city and state. The students will need a permit to have a small store in Mikies garage.

start a tropical fish store

The permit they received from their city allows them to have one sign and a store no larger than 500 square feet, but Mikies dream store keeps growing. They can have a store that is twenty feet wide and twenty five feet long. This is perfect, because Mikie will have room for his motercycle - another dream for later :)

  • Certain fish eat corals. It's a good idea to separate many Butterfly fish from the reef aquarium corals and inverts.
  • Keep the price of your fish low, but high enough to make a profit. You can have lower cost for the corals you proagate. They do cost money to grow.
  • Don't sacrifice quality when you build your equipment..
  • Keep the algae under control ; this will make your tanks more eye-pleasing to your customers.
  • Quarrantine fish before putting them in the tanks, when customers realize you have healthy fish they'll want to come back.
  • Decide if you will sell more than just salt water products, and if so divide your store by the various types of tanks you will have. (Freshwater Hi Temp/ Low Temp, Saltwater, Brackish water, Goldfish tanks, etc..)
  • Know your general corals and their needs (Lights/water movement) and what types of fish do well in similar conditions.
  • Know what corals are aggressive and which are not. You don't want to send corals home with a family and the children watch the one with fighting polyp sting the other ones.
  • Know that goldfish are some of the worst fish as far as keeping water clean and that you will likely have to filter their water 2 to 3 times as much as the others.
  • Test Often, and learn what corals you can watch to warn you if the reef needs help. We watch the Xenia in our tanks, because they will change if the tank is out of ballance. Keep everything in balance as much as possible by doing water changes.
  • One of the things you can do at your shop that other shops might not be able to do is to use the old water from your tanks to send home to start new aquarium.
    Remember Leroy's rule. Nothing is better for old aquarium then new water and nothing is better for a new aquarium in old water.

  • Making each tank maintain itself with the right types of fish and other living things will reduce your maintenance workload some but not all. Still it is worth it to let algae eaters to the first line of defense and other cleaning shrimp, snails and fish provide an added layer of self maintenance.

See how many new things you can see in this new image that Mikie has added in his dream store. You can look at the first picture again. picture one

building tropical fish store

Mikie learned from the Grumpy Reefer that he could buy used almost everything they would need to start their tropical fish store. They placed a simple ad in the local paper that just said "we buy used aquariums" and they planned to pay $1.00 per gallon for tanks with lights.

Several people had more than one aquarium, and when they found out the aquariums were for the students they donated their aquariums. Mikie was very happy. Now Mikie could keep his $99.00 to be used for the other things they would need to start the tropical fish store.

 sell used aquariums
The store will continue to purchase and sell used aquariums. These aquariums and the other reef equipment will be cleaned up, repaired, and matched with a stand and hood.

The store will also sell some used reef aquariums that people want to sell at the store. The students will keep the prices low so many new people start a reef hobby.

One of the things the students are going to do in their store that is different from the other stores in their town is the sale of live food. Mikie is shipping in live adult Brine Shrimp each Tuesday. These are one of the best live foods for both fish and invertebrates.

 live brine shrimp

The frugal reefer taught the students that getting regular customers to visit the store each week will increase sales. The students will sell live brine shrimp Tuesday thru Friday and until noon on Saturday. After noon on Saturday they will give away portions of free brine shrimp until they run out. Most people in the area work in companies that pay each Friday. THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO HAVE THE CUSTOMERS COME TO THE STORE!

The brine shrimp that are left on Saturday will be given away, and this will empty the last adult shrimp tank.

The brine shrimp holding tanks can be cleaned and then the students will put in more fresh Aragocrete™. The new Aragocrete™ helps filter and buffer the shrimp water. The students replace the Aragocrete™ each week and they move the Aragocrete™ from the brine shrimp system to the corraline algae systems. The students move their Aragocrete™ several times during the curing process. When the Aragocrete™ sculptures are ready for sale they are the very best reef rocks to start a new reef aquarium.

Mikie has learned that fish can make up to 70 percent of a stores sales. Mikie knows a supplier who has many rare fish, so Mikie finds out what fish his customers are wishing to buy. When the new fish come in Saturday afternoon he gets ready for the stores mini auction. When the bags are unpacked they allow any customer to bid on the fish. The starting price is both fair and it covers the cost of the fish. Mikie remembers who bids on the fish, so he can get them a chance to purchase these fish next week. The auctions also helps set the retail price for the rare fish.

start a fish store
The store will stock live food everything from rotifers to ghost shrimp. Feeder fish are a product that will bring in customers each week. The students have found a source of feeders that allows them to sell their healthy feeders at the lowest price in town. Reef aquarium people like to feed green water and micro plankton, so the students are growing several types of microalgae.

They have learned to use the library and the internet to research any subject. They are learning how to grow reef products that have a good value and an increasing demand.


Reef aquarium

The frugal reefer taught the students how to grow many types of macro algae that are great food for fish that eat plants. These are the same algae that grow in the reef to clean the water. Several customers grow large clumps of these algae, and they are happy to donate it to the students.

Mikies dream is ready for us to share with everyone. You can start a small store, if you remember the most important rule Sally Jo teaches each new dreamer. DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB

You can look at the first picture again. picture one Notice the floor :)

 macro algae
Make sure your tank setups are working. Fish might be ill. If you see signs of illness, remove the fish to a hospital tank. Check your fish daily and change the tank water often. Note: Commercialize your fish tanks as much as possible, but maintain happy fish. Healthy tanks attract customers.

* Keeping healthy fish can be a challenge. Once your tanks are set up and cycled through, you will need to care for the fish. Maintaining healthy fish will include these tasks:
o Regular aquarium cleanings and water changes
o Regular filter maintenance
o Regular feedings, using a variety of healthy foods
o Recognizing any odd behaviors in your fish
o Inspecting your equipment
* Many problems start with water quality. The quality of the water can be compromised when you overfeed, or when uncured live rock is added. Make sure the base rocks contain limestone which will make the water alkaline. You need to keep your tanks algae free, and your customers will buy the types of snails and hermit crabs you use.