25 Grand Opening Ideas to Promote Your Small Business
This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
A grand opening is crucial for attracting potential customers to your storefront, raising brand awareness, and networking with local businesses. Any business that is new, expanding, or even relocating can benefit from a grand opening event. In this guide we cover 25 grand opening ideas to evoke excitement and interest from the community.
1. Start With a Soft Opening
A soft opening is a great way to test your grand opening ideas before fully committing and opening to the public. A soft opening is often a smaller-scale event and serves as an excellent testing and training ground for yourself and your team prior to the real thing.
Soft Opening vs Grand Opening
A soft opening is similar to a grand opening, but it has a limited guest or attendees list. Typically, a soft opening is for friends, family, loyal customers (if you already have some), investors, and others with close connections to the business and/or owner.
Starting with a soft opening not only helps you work the kinks out but also offers a chance to start building buzz and excitement for your big event. You can use the soft opening to collect photos, testimonials, and other materials to promote the grand opening.
2. Incorporate a Theme
Make your grand opening stand out by centering it around a fun, memorable theme. Themes give attendees an additional opportunity to interact with your brand and make the event feel like a special production (which leads to more photos and online shares).
You can incorporate your theme into your online event page, decor, food and drinks, music, and activities. For example, a 1920s speakeasy-themed event could serve fun cocktails or mocktails among elegant Art Deco trimmings while playing jazz records. For greatest impact, encourage staff and attendees to dress the part.
3. Host a Workshop
Rather than simply opening your doors and letting customers shop, consider turning your grand opening into a true occasion with a workshop or special event. This gives potential consumers extra reason to attend your grand opening and spend more time there. A pet store might do a workshop on how to make homemade dog treats, and a sporting goods store could do free run and gait analyses.
Razer, a gaming hardware, software, and service company, held a gaming tournament for its Seattle store’s grand opening. It featured four gaming zones for streamers, gamers, and creators. It even offered customizations for its products and an unboxing station for guests who wanted to share the experience on social media.
4. Serve Food & Beverages
Like giveaways and music, food can draw people to your grand opening. Of course, if you’re opening a food-based business, serving these items goes without saying. But if you don’t sell food or drinks, you’ll want to make sure you take all the appropriate steps.
Here are a few tips if you plan to serve food and drinks:
- Check with your local area’s guidelines around permits and food safety certifications.
- If you intend to serve alcohol, ensure you’re doing so legally. This will also likely require getting additional permits or licenses and hiring and training staff.
- Ensure that all food service is handled with the proper CDC-recommended guidelines to keep your team and guests safe, especially with COVID-19. Consider prepackaged treats since they may be safer and provide guests with the option to take them home.
Flower shop Native Poppy had a grand opening event for its San Diego store. In addition to shopping, it had space and music for dancing and served light snacks and drinks. This also made for great content.
5. Invite an Influencer
Influencer marketing is an excellent way to spread the word about your brand to a new audience. It’s so powerful that over 80% of brand marketers plan to use it in 2023. You can invite influencers to your opening event to build buzz and encourage them to take and post photos using your branded hashtag before, during, and after the event.
Consider a mix of well-known influencers with large followings and micro-influencers who have smaller but more engaged audiences.
6. Give to a Cause
Consumers put an increasing amount of interest in companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one IBM report, which found that sustainability is important to 84% of shoppers when choosing a brand. Plus, 62% would change their shopping habits to reduce its negative environmental impact, and more than half would even pay more to buy from “environmentally responsible” brands.
You can lean into these consumer preferences with your grand opening. Feature a charity or donate proceeds to a cause close to your and your customers’ hearts.
Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market launched a grand opening for its MarketFront shopping and dining area. It was hosted by the Pike Place Market Foundation, the nonprofit arm that contributes funds to local initiatives.
While the partnership in the above example is more straightforward, you can apply the idea to your store, even if your brand doesn’t have a nonprofit sector. Here are some other grand opening ideas around supporting a cause:
- Raise funds for a local nonprofit organization
- Host a blood drive at your sporting goods shop
- Do a toy drive at your children’s clothing boutique
7. Establish Community Partnerships
Beyond giving to a cause, you can use your grand opening event as an opportunity to connect with other pillars of the community—such as local animal rescues, theaters, ministries, foundations, or other organizations.
When planning his grand opening event, Joseph Hill, owner of Classy Women Collection, invited local nonprofits to set up booths and encouraged attendees to learn more about the organizations. “This not only gave us a chance to give back to the community, but also helped to build lasting relationships with these organizations for future collaborations.” he explains.
8. Offer a Giveaway
Giveaways are surefire ways to lure potential shoppers to your grand opening, and recipients are likely to turn into paying customers. According to eMarketer, as many as 75% of giveaway recipients would return for a future purchase. So, giveaways are not only effective at driving foot traffic to your event but also for driving sales post-grand opening.
As opposed to freebies and gift bags (mentioned below), giveaways are typically a more substantial product offered in limited numbers to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity.
RazerStore Seattle, mentioned above, gave a free flagship product to the first person to get in line for the grand opening and even prizes to the first 500 in the queue.
9. Hand Out Freebies
You can give free gifts or goodie bags to people who attend your grand opening. You could put together small items from other local businesses, branded promotional products or, better yet, free samples of your own products. Be sure to include a reminder of your brand or event—be it a business card or printed logo.
Here are some other generic ideas for freebies to hand out at your grand opening event:
- Branded face masks
- Ear savers
- Travel hand sanitizers
- Laptop webcam covers
- Screen cleaners
- Travel chargers
10. Hold a Raffle
Try raffling off some of the products or services you sell during your grand opening event. Or, as an alternative prize, you can raffle a luxurious gift basket or products from neighboring businesses. A raffle is a fun activity to draw in guests and a great way to start building your email list.
Have a station at the event with pens and raffle tickets (which can be as simple as slips of paper with a couple blank fields), and ask entrants to provide their name and email address. Then make the final drawing a big deal to draw attention to your product. Be sure to retain the losing slips and add them to your email list later on.
11. Offer Exclusive Discounts & Deals
Discounts and exclusive deals are great for your grand opening. Consider extending them for at least a week after the event, allowing patrons who could not attend to stop by your store to take advantage of the deals. Be sure to promote them and put the expiration date in your advertising.
12. Have a Social Media Photo Contest
Leverage your grand opening to increase brand awareness, boost your digital presence, and collect UGC (user-generated content) by turning it into a social media contest.
Pick and announce a prize—like free products, services, gift cards, or event tickets—and allow attendees to enter the contest by posting photos from your event on Facebook or Instagram. Make it a requirement that the poster follows and tags your business account as well as uses any hashtags you’re targeting.
Publish the rules on your social media account(s) and include them on the grand opening event page. It also helps to have in-person reminders throughout the grand opening space (especially near particularly selfie-worthy backdrops).
After the event, you can select the winning photo at random or take a vote on which photo is best. Then share a post announcing the winner and their prize.
13. Host a Competition
Competitions offer a great way to make events even more exciting and engaging for all participants. You can feature a variety of small games throughout your event or one big competition with a special prize.
Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, recalls helping one of his clients organize a cupcake decorating competition for the grand opening of their bakery. Discounts were offered on cupcakes along with free decorating supplies, and attendees had fun making their own sweet creations. “The event was well-attended, and attendees shared photos of their decorated cupcakes on social media, generating buzz around the bakery’s brand,” he explains.
During MyEnamelPins’ grand opening, it held three competitions that drew a sizable crowd of competitors and spectators alike. The event consisted of a team-based obstacle course, a chess tournament, and an innovation challenge focused on finding new ways of tackling difficult problems that local communities face.
14. Provide Ongoing Activities
To keep guests engaged, it’s helpful to provide less-structured activities that they can casually pick up when it’s convenient for them. Some popular grand opening ideas include:
- Photo booth (bonus points for having branded props to use)
- Scavenger hunt
- Dance floor
- Board, casino, or lawn games
- Wine tasting
- Arts and crafts
- Selfie wall
When Aqua Judge celebrated its grand opening, the organizers wanted to make the event as family-friendly as possible—which meant featuring plenty of activities to keep both kids and adults entertained. Along with drinks, snacks, complementary gifts, and games, the store had face-painting and balloon animal stations.
15. Book a Local Musician or Band
Musical entertainment drives foot traffic and places your brand in front of the act’s local audience. Again, this grand opening idea turns your opening into a true event, a destination for people to seek out. If your store is in an area with high foot traffic, this is a great way to attract attention and passersby.
When Daily Basket held its grand opening, it hired a local band to play music for shoppers. If you plan to go this route, make sure you have a dedicated space with easy access to electrical outlets for your hired band, singer, or DJ. Also, ask about local permit requirements.
16. Hire an Entertaining Performer
Similar to booking live music, you can opt to hire different kinds of performers if it better suits your brand, audience, or vision for your event. These performances are typically eye-catching and novel, which can help your event gain traction.
Through platforms like The Bash, you can browse and search for variety acts in your area. Options include comedians, dancers, impersonators, magicians, fortune tellers, and even contortionists.
For medical supply company Aimvein’s grand opening event, the organizers focused on making it a spectacle of performance entertainment. It hired live musicians to play background music while dancers, jugglers, aerialists, and magicians performed interactive sets.
17. Invite a Guest Speaker
Having a guest speaker can elevate the overall experience of your grand opening event, especially if you’re able to secure a speaker with expertise that connects with your brand or product.
A famous or credible speaker can draw guests in and create buzz around your event—but if that isn’t in your budget, an otherwise qualified speaker can still provide memorable takeaways and help customers engage with your store.
At the grand opening event of API security company Wallarm, a few speakers gave talks about the importance of API security and how businesses can keep their data and APIs secure.
18. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Partnering with a fellow business for your grand opening can put your store in front of a new audience. And the options are limitless—you can invite multiple vendors to join your event. Much like with influencers or music acts, business collaborations put your brand in front of an already established trusting—and defined—audience.
Consider businesses that cater to a similar audience, potentially with complementary products. If you sell jewelry, for example, you might invite a local apparel designer and a footwear brand.
19. Plan for Parking & Logistics
While it may seem like an afterthought, your store’s normal parking spaces may not be enough for a grand opening event—especially if it’s scheduled to happen during neighboring businesses’ hours of operation. Insufficient parking can deter guests from attending your event or lead to potential violations and fines.
To solve this problem, plan in advance by ensuring there is additional parking available for your attendees on nearby streets or in overflow lots. You may need to pay for this extra parking, but often it’s as simple as scouting the area and/or making a simple request to nearby businesses.
Be sure to communicate the location of your extra parking to guests before the event.
20. “Sell” Tickets
You can use a ticketing platform like Eventbrite to offer people the opportunity to “buy” a ticket to your grand opening. In most cases, you won’t charge for these tickets. Instead, attendees can RSVP by providing their email address and other basic information of your choice—making this is a great tactic to start building your email list and nurturing customer relationships.
Plus, many of these platforms will remind people of the upcoming event, increasing the likelihood that they’ll attend. Additionally, if you require a waiver or permissions (such as photo release forms), you can do so via your ticketing process.
21. Share a Map of Your Location
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find your grand opening’s location, be it at your store or an event space. One way to do that is to provide a map and directions—and it’s even better if you can show pictures of the place so that people know what to look for.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve claimed your Google My Business page, and then ensure the information is up-to-date. Pay extra attention to the location because this is what many people click on to get directions via their GPS navigation app.
Include a link to your Google Maps location on any landing pages, webpages, emails, Facebook event pages, and other digital communications about the grand opening. Add a screenshot or an embedded Google Maps window if possible.
22. Lure Shoppers With Signage
If you’re in an area with a lot of foot traffic, you can attract passersby with creative signage about your grand opening. In addition to your storefront sign, consider adding a banner or lights to draw extra attention to your shop and make it obvious that something special is happening.
Here are some other business sign ideas:
- Sign Spinning: If your business is located near a major traffic area (pedestrian or car), you might want to employ a sign spinner. The risk of hiring a sign spinner is that their acrobatics are the center of attention and not the business.
- Sidewalk/Chalk Advertising: This guerrilla marketing tactic is popular on college campuses and areas with lots of foot traffic. They only last a few days but can attract a lot of attention in that time span. The legality of sidewalk ads varies by location, so if you see a lot of these in a particular area, it’s probably safe to chalk up there. You should always check with your local chamber of commerce for the specific rules.
- Balloons, Banners, and Signs: These fun additions can make your business look festive and attract attention.
23. Run Geotargeted Ads
When you do a paid ad for your grand opening, you can target those in your local area. This way, you will avoid spending money on ads for shoppers located in California when your store is in North Carolina.
Facebook ads are one great medium to consider for geotargeted ads. You can promote your Facebook event page or drive users to a landing page outside of Facebook. You can also advertise on Google, targeting local searches. We break down Facebook Ads vs Google Ads to help you choose which is better for you—but you can do a combination.
Want to learn about pay-per-click advertising? Head over to our article on Google advertising costs.
24. Create a Facebook Event
It’s a good idea to create an official Facebook event from your Facebook business page. Doing this will help promote your grand opening because it shows up in local searches. So, if a Facebook user is looking for something to do in their local area, they may come across your event—even if they’ve never heard of your brand.
Plus, people who RSVP to Facebook events receive notifications for any posts on the event page and reminders of the upcoming event. This is a great way to stay top-of-mind and tease your upcoming grand opening.
When creating your Facebook event page, include photos and videos of the space that make it look exciting and recognizable—you don’t want anyone to have trouble finding your store. Share details about your event, including promotions, contests, entertainment, and products or services.
25. Write & Distribute a Press Release
A well-written and distributed press release leading up to and even recapping your grand opening can help attract attendees and shoppers. We have a comprehensive guide to help you write a grand opening press release, and you can also check out our other resources:
- Demystifying the Press Release Format (+Free Template)
- Best Press Release Examples by Type (& Why They Work)
- How to Send a Press Release (+ Distribution Tips)
Starting your own business is an exciting endeavor, and applying these grand opening ideas is a great way to share that excitement with potential customers (and make your event one to remember).