Starting an off-road parts shop is now easier and more affordable than ever—especially if you set it up correctly from the beginning.
To start an off-road shop, you’ll need to develop a brand, business plan and form a legal company. Additionally, you’ll need to set up a website and find a source for products. You can have an inventory to ship from or use drop-shipping to get started.
In this article, we’ll go over the basic fundamental steps required to start an off-road business. Additionally, we’ll cover the different ways to operate an off-road shop, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.
We sourced the information in this article from reputable sources and from off-road parts companies that already exist.
Develop a Plan
Before you open your off-road shop, devise a precise business plan and determine what you’ll sell, how you’ll sell it, and who you’ll sell it to. A business plan is absolutely essential, as it will allow you to see your idea on paper as a whole instead of a mess of individual parts.
Banks also require a business plan if you want to get a loan, which you’ll probably need if you want to stock a large inventory. This is a fairly normal practice, and most people can get a business loan if they have average credit and a reasonably good plan.
Brick and Mortar Vs Online Only
What kind of off-road store are you trying to create? Are you going to lease or buy a storefront or operate entirely online? Today, it’s more than practical to operate an online-only store, and it requires a much smaller investment than a brick-and-mortar. However, without a storefront, you’ll need to invest in SEO and advertising to show people that you exist.
You can set up a vendor’s account on amazon and other popular online megastores, which can help you sell your products to people and get your name out there. You can also create an online store or use your warehouse as a pick-up location and storefront.
Develop a Brand
The whole point of a brand is to develop name recognition and a reputation. Assuming you’re running a legitimate and honest business, creating a brand along with the store can help people remember you and return for more.
Conversations and word-of-mouth, both online and in-person, can help spread your brand and increase sales. Mentions on forums, at car shows, and between off-roaders are the biggest ways to get your name out there.
Your brand should be related to what you’re selling. For example, calling an off-road company “Off-Road Supply” or something similar is usually better than naming it “Nitro” or something ambiguous like that.
Decide What You Want to Sell
What kind of off-road supplies will you sell? Will you focus just on Jeeps, or will you sell parts for a wide variety of off-road vehicles? These are all important questions to ask, and the sooner you answer them, the better.
There’s plenty of room in the market for specialty stores. Stores that focus specifically on one type of vehicle have a better chance of competing, especially on a small scale. Think of LMC Truck and JBugs—these retailers sell parts for one vehicle or one type of vehicle, and they absolutely own the market for those vehicles.
General retailers offer a much greater variety of products and generally have many more customers. Companies like Summit Racing sell millions of parts annually, but they have enormous overhead costs and storage locations.
If you want to dominate the market, you’ll want to be a general parts store—but it’ll take years to compete with Summit Racing and other corporate giants. A good balance between specific parts (like suspension parts) and general parts is a good place to start, though it’s best to specialize in one item or type of item first.
Think of “Off-Road Light Supply” and such. If you only sell lights and accessories, you’ll have a good chance to compete. And as far as brand recognition is concerned, you want to become the store people tell newcomers to go to.
Register Your Business
Registering your business is the first step you’ll need to take to be “official.” This is not optional—the law will eventually get on your back if you don’t. Registering your business and forming a company not only keeps the tax man happy—it protects you from liability.
Most of the time, a small business that sells off-road parts can be registered as an LLC or Limited Liability Corporation. Forming an LLC can make it easier to pay your taxes and write off expenses, and it shields your assets from potential legal and debt issues down the line.
Most people recommend getting an attorney to assist in this process. Forming an LLC is relatively easy, but a lawyer can speed up the process and help you understand the nuances of business law.
Build Your Website
Building a website is the first major step to take in starting your business. This is true regardless of the scale at which you intend to operate and whether or not you intend to run a brick-and-mortar store. You’ll need a website to begin, but all you need to begin is a website.
Purpose of a Website
A website serves several purposes for an off-road business. For one, it gives you a place to park your brand and allows you to publish an “About” page, so people know what your business does. It also gives them an avenue through which to contact you about products, services, and business proposals.
A website gives legitimacy to your business. Transparency is key, and providing customers with a “place” to visit you helps you establish a better reputation.
The website itself can also function as a store. E-commerce websites are designed for selling products.
There are many ways to go about building an e-commerce website. You can do it from scratch if you’re familiar with web development, or you can use an easy template from WordPress or a similar content management system.
These days, you don’t have to know a thing about coding to build a great website. You can hire someone to do it for you if you want a specific custom layout, or a company can do all the work with a template.
Drop Shipping Vs Inventory
There are a few ways to go about actually storing and selling products. The best way is to have an inventory on hand that you actually control. This will give you the greatest level of reliability, which is important for customer trust.
You can also operate a drop-shipping service. Dropshipping services don’t actually keep the products they sell in stock. Instead, they sell a product then order it to ship to the person who purchased it.
Drop-shipping is less reliable than keeping a physical inventory. However, it dramatically reduces overhead costs and protects you from spending any money before someone buys a product.
Many e-commerce companies start as drop-shipping services until they have enough name recognition and capital to have their own inventory and warehouse.
Advertising is a key component of ruining a successful off-road parts business. If people don’t know you exist, how will you sell any products? There are a few ways to advertise both organically and through paid ads.
Organic advertising can be accomplished with a blog. Blog articles, when written correctly, can rank on Google and answer off-road questions. This will draw people to your site, and it’s free if you write them yourself.
However, getting blog articles to rank well on search engines takes time. Instead, you can use social media advertising or run ads through a broker. Social media advertising is affordable—you can get thousands of ad views for $10 or less. This is a great way to start and get the word out about your business.
About THE AUTHOR
Corey has been off-roading all his life, starting from a very young age on ATV's and dirt bikes. As he's grown older, his interests have focused more on larger off-roading vehicles like Jeeps and Toyotas. He lives for the slow and calculated crawl up (or down) steep terrain.Read More About Corey Brooks