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E-Commerce and Physical Locations - HELP!

    • 18 posts
    September 28, 2006 10:31 AM EDT
    I think you`re fine doing what you are doing.  The main thing the city is worried about are the things you mentioned (increased traffic, signage, people in and out etc.) in a residential area.  Since your business can operate without disturbing the neighbors you are probably fine.  You may have to get a business license and approval from the city, which depending where you are would involve explaining the nature of your business and they will usually be able to approve it on the spot.  Good luck.

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    Stay tuned...coming soon

    • 234 posts
    September 28, 2006 11:40 AM EDT
    This sounds like a typical case of laws and regulations not keeping up with changes in technology. As long as you don`t have a staff working out of your place what`s the problem? I don`t see it as any different than someone writing a novel in their apartment. They wouldn`t have an issue with that. Quit worrying and start coding.

    By the way, what is the name of the shareware program that is doing so well? I`d like to see it.
    • 3 posts
    September 28, 2006 10:00 AM EDT
    Am I totally overanalyzing this?

    Warning - long rant coming up, I`m sure this is a total newbie question, but here goes:

    *The Business Idea - I do computer programming as a profession and as a hobby. Sometimes I`ll write a hobby program to learn a new computer language/idea/tool. I set up a website (to learn some web tools) and on a lark put one of these "Hobby" programs up as freeware and submitted it to some shareware sites. Without any paid advertising it`s been getting downloaded about ~1,000 times a month (well over 5,000 now and counting). New sites are popping up all the time with the freeware and my website is the #1 search term (or in the top 3) for the main keyword of the site. 25+ sites have picked up the program unsolicited; distributing who knows how many more and the popularity only seems to grow.

    I`ve told a few people about it and the reaction is always the same - "Why aren`t you charging for this?". Then I start thinking to myself.. "How popular would this have been if I`d put some real hours into it and actually advertised?"

    Obviously I`ve already given away that program so it`s a bit late to sell it now, but I have a similar program developed (based off the same engine) and lots of ideas for improvement on the original one. It`s not something I`d quit my day job and stake my future on, but I thought it`d be worth throwing out there and seeing what kind of sales might be generated with some modest advertising. Simple right?.. Well, not so much.


    *The Problem - It comes down to zoning. My landlord is supportive of the business idea. (Yes, I checked),  but he warned that the Housing Development doesn`t allow business activities (although he told me to go ahead and do it anyway). The city zoning is probably okay. i.e. the wording sounds like it may need some sort of extra level of approval, but it`s well within the bounds of what the ordinance says is "permissible". My first thought is "It`s all electronic" there`s no customers coming to the home, there`s no inventory (just bits and bytes, maybe some links to affiliates ala CafePress etc, over the internet), no noise, no polution, nothing to disturb the neighbors, I could do it from anywhere where there`s an internet connection. It`s basically the same thing I`d be doing if I were telecommuting for my regular job minus bookeeping... Problem is, officially the business has to reside somewhere.

    So I stumble across a thread on this very web site:

    http://www.startupnation.com/pages/community/forum_posts.asp ?TID=756

    Rent a mailbox? - I can do that. I`ll want a professional looking mailbox anyway (I`ve seen that recommended in several places for small business).  I did a little more research:

    http://sbtv.com/default.asp?cid=27&uid=154

    Okay, so rent a mailbox and do any sending/recieving from there and "Because the mailbox outlet and storage facility are both located within your community’s “commercial zone”, they do not violate your local zoning ordinance.  Therefore, your business won’t, either." - Sort of. They basically say it`s a "Don`t ask don`t tell" sort of thing.

    So I went ahead an got a mailbox and was ready to register my business. Then I came accross this article:

    http://www.entrepreneur.com/homebasedbiz/homebasedbasics/zon ing/article38884.html

    Sounds a bit... scary. Okay, now I`m unsure again. Anyone with an e-commerce site out there? Do I need a full office space somewhere just for the sake of an address? Am I missing something? It seems like it should be more straightforward.
    • 3 posts
    September 28, 2006 11:26 AM EDT

    Thank you for the response!

    The city zoning I`m actually not too worried about for the same reasons you gave. My concern is more with the "housing development" - (essentially a gated community). I`ve been trying to find the exact wording of the "no business activity", maybe a process to appeal? - from my landlord with not much in the way of response other than "I woudn`t worry about it, just do it". After reading the articles above I guess he`s in the "don`t ask don`t tell" camp and at least a couple of the articles tell me it`s a "mistake" to ask about it. <= I suspect it`s fairly boilerplate, anyone with experience with this? I guess what I`m looking for is the most hassle free/legit way of setting up shop.

    Thoughts?

    • 3 posts
    September 28, 2006 2:06 PM EDT

    Thank you! - I`m thinking more and more you`re right about the attorney. I guess where there`s money involved there`s no such thing as simple (maybe there is and I just don`t know it).

    Anyone else have experiences/ideas on this they`d like to share? I`ve got a product I feel good about and a market waiting. It`s like I`m all dressed up with no place to go until this is resolved though.