The “grand opening” is one of the oldest tools in the small business marketing playbook, and judging from its staying power, one of the most effective. Designating a day, weekend or week of special events to mark the opening of a business can bring significant traffic through your door and build a buzz that gets people talking and generating interest organically.

The phrase “grand opening” alone can overwhelm a business owner trying to navigate their way through the endless decisions required to start a business, so we asked five small business owners to share how they celebrated their milestone event in a way that reflected their company’s mission, their community’s values and their consumers’ desire for all things new and fun.

 Smiling young business owner stands behind the front desk at her shop.
Makeup and Skincare by Claud’s Claudia Jones believes that building pre-grand opening momentum with tactics like countdowns and “sneak peeks” generates buzz and excitement. — Makeup and Skincare by Claud

Claudia Jones, owner, Makeup and Skincare by Claud

Who we are: Licensed cosmetologist and skincare professional offering the latest, most innovative professional products and services from a studio located in Middlesex, NJ.

When planning a grand opening, not only are you celebrating the start of your new business, but you’re also celebrating the union between you, your clients and the community. Small businesses are all about family, personalization and truly creating a space where people stay excited and look forward to seeing you. If you approach everything with one goal in mind — that's treating your clients and giving back to them — you will always have an army behind you showing their support.

One thing I've learned since opening is that passion and kindness mixed with hard work and dedication go a long way. Be transparent with your customers. Be relatable. Be human. Use your platform, especially social media, to inspire others. With that being said, something to consider when creating buzz around a new event is advertising "sneak peeks" and countdowns. This brings an element of curiosity to your audience that will draw attention and interest to your page. Keep it fun and unique; don't forget to tie in elements like promotions, games, freebies, decorations and all the other things you have to offer.

Remember to take lots of pictures to commemorate your grand opening. Post behind-the-scenes shots and share fun moments with your followers to keep the celebration alive long after the official event. Follow Makeup and Skincare by Claud on Instagram & Facebook.

 Happy woman smiles with two dogs
Consider scheduling a grand opening a few weeks after the soft-launch of your business when awareness starts to build, suggests Dogtopia’s Catherine Barnes. — Dogtopia

Catherine Barnes, owner, Dogtopia

Who we are: Arlington Heights location of the national dog daycare franchise specializing in boarding, grooming and spa services.

We planned our grand opening event to happen about a month after our initial opening so we were able to build a buzz in the community and invite current clients. Since we were in the middle of COVID-19, we limited attendance, which also created an exclusivity aspect by requiring an RSVP for the limited number of facility tours. We advertised on social media, with our local Chamber and with other local publications to spread the word. In addition to facility tours, we had free shaved ice, a photo booth, a caricature artist and a raffle to benefit the Dogtopia Foundation. We also invited the mayor for a ribbon tying ceremony — the tying represents our business joining the community. The event was low-cost and allowed us to show off our new Dogtopia center. We still talk about the event to this day. Follow Dogtopia on Instagram & Facebook.

 Modern restaurant with high ceilings and a chandelier is bustling with customers
French charm, food and drink, along with beautiful visuals that make great photo ops set the stage for Sweet Paris’ successful grand opening events. — Sweet Paris

Allison Chavez, co-founder, Sweet Paris

Who we are: Houston-based franchised creperie brand with 10 U.S. restaurant locations.

Our restaurant brand is all about celebrating the beauty of making crepes a stunning masterpiece and serving them in a charming setting. When we open a new restaurant, it’s all about the visuals and creating a look and feel of our grand opening event to match our brand identity. We typically do a big event with balloons, partnerships with local influencers, and we give away wine and champagne as well as canapés for all our guests. These elements result in amazing photo opportunities that show off the beauty of our brand to the outside world, making a great first impression as Sweet Paris enters a new market.

My advice to other small business owners is to stay true to your brand. Think about what makes your business unique, and hone in on that when it comes to planning for a grand opening. We don’t like to incorporate anything too gimmicky just to draw in a crowd for a grand opening. We want our guests to have an elevated first impression when they come to the restaurant and know exactly what they will get when they come back again and again. Follow Sweet Paris on Instagram & Facebook.

 Woman shop owner stands in her shop, smiling.
Sarah Andert of Vintage Green Review set out to create a grand opening event that reflected her values and mission to be a destination where all feel welcome. — Vintage Green Review

Sarah Andert, owner, Vintage Green Review

Who We Are: New Orleans’ first and only zero-waste and bulk supply shop.

Before I opened my brick & mortar shop, I tabled at local markets to gather data and talk to people about the need for zero-waste living and more sustainable consumer choices in our city. At these markets, I built a critical early audience and customer base leading up to my grand opening. I also learned that people in our area were very supportive of my goal to open a physical refill store —but they had to know about it first.

As a sole proprietor, I didn't have the capacity to handle media outreach on my own. I hired a public relations professional to write my press release, pitch my story to local media outlets and secure interviews for me to spread the word. The number one key to my grand opening success was the amount of traffic brought in by my coverage in these news outlets; no social media engagement or advertising has even come close to this.

I scheduled my grand opening weekend about 30 days after I actually opened the shop, both because the date coincided with Earth Day, it gave me time to generate a bit of extra income from organic foot traffic and to finalize plans. I wanted the event to be attention-getting as people walked or drove by, so the neighboring shop and I hired a jazz band to play out front on that Saturday. I also reached out to local food vendors to table on the front porch each day. Food is a huge draw for people here, and these vendors helped spread the word by sharing the event with their audiences, too.

Finally, I knew I wanted my business to be a place where all people feel welcome, and for my grand opening to reflect that — through the diversity of vendors present, the talks my local makers gave about their expertise, and the schedule of the event itself, which took place on multiple days to be as accessible as possible to everyone. Follow Vintage Green Review on Instagram.

 Restaurant dining room with vibrant decor and lighting.
Media and mayoral outreach, along with special promotions, helped to make the recent opening of their newest I Love Tacos location a huge success. — I Love Tacos

Ernesto Rivera, owner, I Love Tacos

Who we are: A Mexican restaurant with three Louisville, KY-area locations serving authentic street tacos in a comfortable, fast-casual setting.

To create some excitement and newsworthiness around our recent grand opening in Springhurst, we contacted our local representatives, which resulted in the mayor of Louisville making an appearance. The local news station covered the event. The story they ran helped increase awareness of our business and special grand opening promotions, which included free queso for all new customers and a special “buy two tacos, get one free” offer.

We also promoted the grand opening on social media, including Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook. Interacting with our customers is one of the primary reasons they come back. We try to make each and every customer feel like they are family. Follow I Love Tacos on Instagram.

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Published December 19, 2021