How to Start a Kiosk Business
Kiosk businesses are small, open-front selling stands. Typically, they’re located in malls, shopping centers, or similar areas. A kiosk business sells mobile phone paraphernalia, newspapers, sunglasses, tickets, household supplies, and similar items. Typically, small kiosk businesses thrive off of their incredible accessibility. They’re often located in malls, public areas, and airports. While a kiosk business is often independent, kiosk business owners can become part of larger kiosk networks to generate more revenue.
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Learn how to start your own Kiosk Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a kiosk business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Kiosk Business
- Form your Kiosk Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Kiosk Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Kiosk Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Kiosk Business
- Get Kiosk Business Insurance
- Define your Kiosk Business Brand
- Create your Kiosk Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your kiosk business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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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 are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a kiosk business?
Kiosk business startup costs can range from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on a few things. First, a kiosk business’ sold products should be considered. Expensive items will be expensive to produce. Additionally, a kiosk’s location may be expensive to rent. While a kiosk exists in a temporary location, some entrepreneurs may find themselves relocating to make more money. A kiosk business owner’s main cost, of course, is the kiosk itself. Where leases are considered, a kiosk business owner may find themselves spending over $100,000 on three to 10 years.
What are the ongoing expenses for a kiosk business?
Kiosk business owners often spend about $800 per month for their space lease and cart maintenance. This cost depends heavily on mall traffic volume, the season and a location’s amenities. In some cases, however, a kiosk’s rate can be as high as $2,000 per month. Ongoing expenses also include emergency maintenance, products, and advertisement.
Who is the target market?
Your preferred customers will depend on your location, products, services, and environment. Because your kiosk will sell specific products, you should make sure it’s established in an area which caters to customers who want these products. Preferred customer locations include shopping malls, movie theaters, art walks, bars, and similar areas.
How does a kiosk business make money?
A kiosk business makes most of its revenue by selling either generic or niche products. Generic items aren’t necessarily useless, however. They simply have mass appeal. Some kiosks sell food instead of products. Others offer smartphone charging stations. Regardless, every kiosk business makes money by selling either a product or a service. Some kiosks can profit from advertisements, too.
How much can you charge customers?
Product and service costs vary wildly. Some kiosks sell hotdogs, which sell for between $1 and $3. Other kiosks, meanwhile, sell smartphones and smartphone amenities. Your product costs should be competitive with industry prices. You’ll also need to adhere to any industry selling standards before implementing a professional selling strategy.
How much profit can a kiosk business make?
Annually, a successful kiosk can make about $50,000. A kiosk’s success, however, is dependent on its sold items, location, and residence. Successful kiosks may decide to become permanent space occupants, capitalizing on the area’s customers. Other kiosks, meanwhile, may find it more advantageous to relocate.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Offer product variety. When possible, incorporate different styles, colors and materials. A go-to example, here, Is Crocs. While you can offer the same product over a long period of time, it’s advantageous to give passersby a reason to consider purchasing alternatives from you—the provider.
Prioritize mass appeal, too. A successful kiosk business may offer niche items, but it will also cater to large audiences. Remember your market, and play into the local crowd’s product needs. Additionally, pay attention to your service environment. If you’re in a mall, or another crowded area, give customers a reason to linger near your kiosk.
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 Kiosk Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
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.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your kiosk business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
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!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
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 Divvy 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
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a Kiosk business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office.
Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
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.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Kiosk Business will cost.
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.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
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 kiosk business
Promote your kiosk by being in a highly visible area. Because your kiosk will be a small business front, you won’t be able to market it via newspaper advertisements and in similar mediums. You can, however, market it via Facebook. If you’re in a trending location, connect with the area’s providers. Offer something unique, and prioritize customer incentives like price and product diversity.
How to keep customers coming back
You’ll attract customers by creating an enticing buying space. Reduce the clutter, and don’t put out too much merchandise. A well-displayed, colorful kiosk will attract and retain customers.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
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.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
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.
Start a Kiosk Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
The kiosk business is perfect for self-motivated individuals. Often small, flexible, and varied, kiosks are some of today’s leading shopping areas for passerby. A kiosk owner has an entrepreneurial mindset, and they’re willing to sell niche products for long periods of time. Individuals who love networking are often fantastic kiosk owners, and they’re incredibly capable when marketing, promotion, and expansion are considered.
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 kiosk business?
A kiosk business owner will mostly sell items from their kiosk. When they’re not directly involved in selling, however, they’re researching market potential, pricing alternatives, product variety and new opportunities. Much of a kiosk owner’s savvy as a businessperson relies on their ability to target professional opportunities. Once these responsibilities have been covered, other activities include kiosk cleaning, maintenance and small upkeep tasks.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful kiosk business?
Having an eye for high-quality products helps. A kiosk owner should understand what buyers want. They should also be capable of understanding an environment’s marketability. To build a successful kiosk business, make sure you're not competing with big-box retailers. As an independent retailer, you’ll never beat WalMart in terms of price.
What is the growth potential for a kiosk business?
A kiosk business is likely to stay local. Some kiosk businesses eventually make enough money to open a storefront. In fact, a lot of successful small business owners began as kiosk business owners. If a kiosk business has high-quality products, they may eventually expand into a kiosk network. If a business owner is smart about their marketing, management and finances, they can generate a lot of revenue by providing products and services in multiple locations.
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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 kiosk business?
Don’t be afraid to change location. Even if your product is good, it might not be suitable for an environment once it changes. If you decide to upscale customers, consider their current shopping locations. Find out how to entire adjacent markets, and make sure your branding is effective. Your product displays should have rhyme and reason, making customers want to stop and shop.
How and when to build a team
A kiosk business is relatively easy to run. For this reason, a kiosk can be controlled by a single operator. If you wish to expand your kiosk business, consider hiring one to two associates. These associates can help sell goods, maintain the register assist with maintenance, help source products, and clean the kiosk. Over time, however, you’re better off keeping the staff small. There isn’t much room in a kiosk, and a cluttered work environment can, unsurprisingly, reduce overall sales.
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