It’s a classic example of a quick, low-cost business idea: selling bottles of water to thirsty customers at outdoor events. Nothing groundbreaking here, but let’s take a deeper look at the steps involved and how you can scale this concept to generate a hefty chunk of change.
This is not intended to be a long-term business (though it could turn into one, with enough hustle). What we’re going for here is a nice foray into the entrepreneurial world, particularly for those who have never started a business. It’s a great way to get a taste without investing too much time or money upfront.
This project has the potential to make you thousands of dollars in profit in just a few days, though the days may not be consecutive (depending on your availability, events in your area, weather, and so on).
With that said, let’s dive in.
Do some research to determine when and where there will be lots of thirsty people in one place at one time in your area. Festivals and events are great for this, as are public parks.
See if you can borrow a large cooler (preferably one with wheels) from a friend or family member. If you already own one, even better.
Make a quick trip to Walmart or another retail store and pick up five 35-packs of bottled water. The generic brand is fine—water is water. At around $3.50 per case, this will total about $17.50.
Swing by a gas station and use $2.50 to buy a bag or two of ice for the cooler.
At this point, you’ve spent $20 and you’re ready to roll. Get to the location and start selling bottles of water for $1.
If all goes well, by the end of the day you will have sold out and made $175.
Net Profit: $155
For Day Two, you need to find a bigger event, ideally with thousands of people around. You’ll have a lot more inventory this time, so be careful not to run into any legal trouble. It would be wise to obtain whatever permits are necessary, or find someone with the necessary permits who is willing to let you operate on their property. For the sake of simplicity, I won’t go too far into this, but it’s important to consider.
If you borrowed a cooler on Day One, return it and use some of your profits to buy one (or more) for yourself. We’ll set aside $70 for a nice cooler.
That leaves $85 from Day One’s profit. We’re going to pump it all back into the business to earn more.
Go back to the store and buy 23 cases of water. That’ll be about $80.50. Use the rest of your money to fill your cooler(s) with ice.
Head to the event and set up shop. You have 805 bottles of water to sell today. It sounds like a lot, but you should sell out in no time.
Net Profit: $650
You have a lot of money to play with today.
First, go to a store like Staples and have a big, attractive banner printed up for about $40.
That leaves you with $610. You can pocket as much of this as you want, but for this example we’ll reinvest it all to maximize Day Three’s revenue.
Get up early and hit a few stores until you have 170 cases of water. This will cost about $595. Again, use the remaining money to fill your cooler(s) with ice.
(Side note: You may want to use some money to buy more coolers for Day Three. Otherwise, you can just gradually restock your cooler throughout the day, which works too. When someone buys a bottle, you can just throw another one in.)
Make sure you get a good spot at a BIG event today. There’s a chance you won’t sell out, but you’ll definitely turn a profit. You can hold onto any leftover bottles to sell later.
For fun, though, let’s say you do sell out. That’s a whopping 5,950 bottles of water.
Net Profit: $5,300
Day Four & Beyond
At this point, there’s nowhere to go but up. Most of the profit each day will be yours to keep, and you’ll be making massive returns limited only by your time and ability to find busy events with lots of thirsty patrons.
It might be a good idea to hire a helper or two at this point to keep things running smoothly and serve as many customers as possible. You might also want to add some other things to your inventory—but be careful not to overdo it.
What Can We Learn From This?
If you’ve never started a business, this is a great place to start because it demonstrates exactly how to start a successful business: find a group of people who need something and sell it to them.
I don’t want you to stay in this business for any extended period of time. Rather, this exercise should give you a taste of the entrepreneurial spirit and help to inspire (and perhaps fund) your next venture.