Clams are a highly popular shellfish that people enjoy in many dishes. They appear in everything from inexpensive fried clam baskets to pricey trays of clams casino, not to mention the clam chowder that many New Englanders and New Yorkers grow up on.
Many of the clams that people eat are harvested by small business owners who dig for clams in dirt and mud along the shoreline. While there are some boats that fish for clams in deeper waters, small clamming businesses dig and rake up millions of pounds of clams every year.
Learn how to start your own Clamming Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a clamming business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Clamming Business
- Form your Clamming Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Clamming Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Clamming Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Clamming Business
- Get Clamming Business Insurance
- Define your Clamming Business Brand
- Create your Clamming Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your clamming business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Clamming Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a clamming business?
The costs associated with opening a clamming business are minimal. Business owners need:
- A commercial shellfish license
- A metal gauge for measuring clams
- A few 5-gallon buckets
- Footwear that offers protection (wetsuit shoes work well)
If desired, a rake, inner tube and rolling machine (for sorting) may also be purchased. Even with these items, it’s often possible to outfit a clamming business for just a few hundred dollars including any necessary licenses.
Business owners who need a boat to reach clamming grounds will have to spend more, but a used rowboat or skiff suffices and doesn’t cost much.
What are the ongoing expenses for a clamming business?
The ongoing expenses for a clamming business are almost nothing. If a business has a powerboat, then fuel and oil must be purchased. Otherwise, the only main ongoing expense is whatever annual fee must be paid to keep licenses current.
Who is the target market?
Clams eventually make their way to seafood shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Clamming businesses, however, sell to clam wholesalers who are middlemen in the supply chain.
How does a clamming business make money?
Once clams are sorted, they’re sold to a wholesaler in the area. Most clamming regions have only one or two wholesalers.
How much can you charge customers?
The wholesale price of clams is determined by the market. Most clams sell for around $2.25 per pound, but littlenecks can command higher prices.
How much profit can a clamming business make?
Business owners can earn between $100 and $200 per half-day of work. Exactly how much business owners make depends on how hard they work and how plentiful the clams are.
How can you make your business more profitable?
In addition to harvesting clams, business owners may also be able to gather certain crabs or mussels that they come across while working. These won’t be major income streams, but they can provide a little boost if there’s someone in the area who will buy them.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your clamming business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain a Clamming license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a Clamming business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections
There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Clamming Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Clamming Business.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a clamming business
Business owners don’t need to worry about marketing their clamming business. As long as there’s a wholesaler in the area, that wholesaler will purchase clams that are brought to them.
How to keep customers coming back
Business owners can set themselves apart by being professional and making the clam-buying process as streamlined as possible for the wholesaler they work with. This won’t get business owners extra sales, but it may earn them preferential treatment when everyone brings in their clam harvests. Being offered the front of the line at the end of the day is never a bad thing.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who likes being outside near the water and isn’t afraid of hard work may enjoy running a clamming business. Business owners spend hours outside on the shore or in shallow water searching for clams. Working in the muck is guaranteed to make a person dirty and reaching down for clams is physically tiring, but few other jobs allow people to spend their work day near the ocean and return home each night.
Clamming can be especially good work for someone who’s looking for a part-time job and has other obligations. While business owners must be available to work at specific times -- there are only 4 to 5 hours of work per day (see below) -- children can be brought along when necessary, and there is the flexibility to take a day off when the need arises.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a clamming business?
A clamming business owners’ day is dictated by low tide, as Luke Jenks explains. Luke and his clamming partner Mike start their day 2 to 2.5 hours before low tide and continue working until 2 to 2.5 hours after low tide. Outside of this time frame, the water is too deep to work effectively. Most clammers don’t work in the middle of the night, which is why work is limited each day.
After arriving at a clamming location by foot or boat, business owners begin searching for clams. Luke feels around for them with his feet, but others use rakes or shovels (see Jump-Starting). Once clams are gathered, they’re put into a bucket and sorted at the end of the day. Many clammers use an innertube to stabilize and move the bucket. Sorting can be done by hand or with a mechanical sorter.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful clamming business?
Running a clamming business requires little more than knowing how to find and harvest clams.
There are classes on clamming (e.g. The University of Rhode Island offer courses), but taking a course is often unnecessary. Business owners can usually find a fellow clammer in the area who will teach them the tricks of the trade and not charge a fee for doing so.
What is the growth potential for a clamming business?
Clamming businesses remain small, and most are one-person operations. There are few barriers to prevent would-be employees from establishing their own businesses, and the profit margin often doesn’t justify hiring employees. Additionally, work in many states is seasonal.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a clamming business?
How much a clamming business makes depends directly on how many clams are harvested. There are several ways to harvest, and which is the most effective depends on what type of clams are being harvested and what the harvesting area is like. The main techniques are:
- Treading (feeling for clams with the feet and then picking them up by hand)
- Raking (using a rake with a wire basket attached to collect clams)
- Shinicocking (another type of raking)
- Digging (using a shovel akin to a post-hole digger to get “digger clams”)
How and when to build a team
Most clamming business owners don’t hire employees. A few may work with family members, but these working relationships are generally more like a family business than a typical employer-employee arrangement.