Starting a Hookah Supply Business

Interview with Matthew Hale, Founder of My Hookah Heaven

Taking their future into their own hands, Matthew Hale and some co-workers founded My Hookah Heaven.

Hookah Heaven was founded in 2009 in Arlington, Virginia.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

At My Hookah Heaven we sell hookah pipes, accessories, and shisha tobaccos both online and store-to-store.

How did you come up with your business idea?

I grew tired of hearing about the rough economy and wanted to take steps to build an income that wasn't dependent on my day job. I started from scratch, teaching myself and three colleagues how to set up and run a business as we went. Hookah is the first product we've chosen to sell based on my long-term study of Arabic culture and that of hookahs.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

Currently I am an employee at Cvent, and this is my first business.

Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?

We wrote a very simple business plan that helped us figure out what products we wanted to sell as well as how and where we wanted to invest.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

Yes, I operate it from my home in Arlington, VA. There are more benefits than challenges at this stage since everything we do is hosted online. We are happily using the power of technology to overcome our small start.

Did you have a partner when you started your business?

Yes, I am working with three colleagues; we developed the business idea and began working together based on a mutual interest in running our own business.

Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?

We are currently marketing a new type of shisha made from tea leaves instead of tobacco. It does not have any of the tar or nicotine found in regular tobacco and it is our hope that hookah bars will carry it as a slightly "greener" alternative to traditional tobacco smoke.

With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?

It's as simple as heading to the internet--there is so much free advice and software available to people who want to start their own business. We use free online software for book keeping, customer surveys, email marketing. We have also taken advantage of social networking sites such as facebook and twitter to provide us with an unlimited source for business!

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

We work with a wholesaler that allows us to keep a low inventory and only pay for the products we are able to move. We highly recommend this set up for new business owners that don't have a lot of start-up money.

Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?

Twitter and facebook have both been a tremendous help in spreading the word about our business. With a little effort, tools like this are an extremely powerful way to reach new markets as well as keep current customers abreast of new sales and products.

Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?

We worked with contractors when building our website and creating our marketing graphics. This was our biggest startup expense and also the most important to our company; therefore, it is worth investing in quality work.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

It has been much more difficult than I expected, but also more rewarding. I'm learning new things every day and earning money being my own boss. What else can you ask for?

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

We could always use more development in marketing and building web traffic. This is by far the most important aspect of running a successful online business in the new millennium.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Ask for help! There are so many important decisions to make when starting a business and it can be daunting to try and make sense of tax laws and registration requirements on your own.

Thank you Matthew! It sounds like an interesting business.

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