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Old March 14, 2012, 12:27 AM   #1
dcobler
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Advice wanted in starting a business with a FFL

I would like to obtain a FFL and start a business from my home. I have been looking over the application and reading info from different sources and have come up with a few questions that you may be able to answer for me.

I have been entertaining a few options for a workspace. I could use a room in my house for the business (which would be the most economical) or I could section off my garage for an area. Which of these (in your opinions) would be the more desirable option and why.

How secure does the location need to be (again, opinions more than welcome)? I am planning on (a safe of course) surveillance equipment and steel doors. Am I crazy for thinking of bars on the windows?

What should I expect during the site interview? I know that I need to be ready to start up within 30 days of receiving my license so I will have that rolling before submitting my application.

Any additional information or tips would be appreciated.
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Old March 14, 2012, 02:11 AM   #2
Powderman
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Just one...

Remember that with your Class 01, ATF Compliance can come and inspect your licensed premises at any time during your posted business hours.

Do you REALLY want someone poking around your home? If it were me, I'd seriously consider a separate location.
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Old March 14, 2012, 08:18 AM   #3
PigFarmer
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Local Rules

Also would suggest making sure your local city/town/HOA does not have some type of prohabition against running a business from your home. Or that they don't place additional requirements on how you have to register and run a firearms based business.
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Old March 14, 2012, 10:52 AM   #4
oneounceload
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As mentioned, make sure you can obtain all necessary local licenses, permits, insurance, etc first or the ATF will turn you down
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Old March 14, 2012, 01:48 PM   #5
Don H
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Quote:
Am I crazy for thinking of bars on the windows?
I've noticed that a growing number of gun shops don't even have windows. I have to assume there's a reason.

Do you have a business/accounting background?
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Old March 14, 2012, 03:51 PM   #6
Fishing_Cabin
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dcobler,

There is not any requirement for just how secure a location you need as long as the firearms are secure, and not accessable to minors, prohibited persons, etc. I dont know the area you are in so I can not comment more as to security. As to in your house or garage, I would probably have a room on the garage with a seperate entry door. That is just my opinion.

The interview will be just a sit down with an inspector, going over the regulations, book keeping, if you make a mistake, how to go about transfers/sales, what is required, and what that inspector/office likes to see done, or more of what they look for to be done.

Keep in mind there is some variation between the field offices and each inspectors views of the laws/regs may vary as well, so feel free to ask questions and see how they feel about any scenario you may have in your head.
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Old March 14, 2012, 08:48 PM   #7
dcobler
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I have decided on starting out at home because I dont think that the customer base in the area will be able to support its own location. I have spent a few years in various management positions and am close to obtaining my associates in business. And thanks for the input.
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Old March 14, 2012, 11:09 PM   #8
kilimanjaro
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I would personally want any business on my property to be in a building separate from the home. Who wants customers browsing through the house while you talk on the phone with another?
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Old March 15, 2012, 07:10 AM   #9
Don P
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Quote:
Also would suggest making sure your local city/town/HOA does not have some type of prohabition against running a business from your home. Or that they don't place additional requirements on how you have to register and run a firearms based business.
This is a must! The ATF WILL check with your local government office to see if you are permitted to have/operate a business from your home. If the answer is no then no FFL. Do yourself some justice/good check all this out before sending the application and money to the ATF.
From your OP to me, it sounds like you have the cart in front of the horse as in this statement,
Quote:
What should I expect during the site interview? I know that I need to be ready to start up within 30 days of receiving my license so I will have that rolling before submitting my application.
Question, what happens if after the interview you are turned down and denied? That ball of yours thats rolling is going to crash into a wall with a full head of steam.

My opinion again, put your thinking cap back on.
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Old March 15, 2012, 11:19 AM   #10
Fishing_Cabin
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dcobler,

Just a follow up to Don P asking about your checking out the local restrictions on home based business. Do you know what zoning that you fall under locally, and if so what is allowed?

If you know, please share it with us, so we can help offer better advice.
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Old March 15, 2012, 03:07 PM   #11
dogtown tom
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More FFL myths....

Quote:
dcobler....How secure does the location need to be (again, opinions more than welcome)? I am planning on (a safe of course) surveillance equipment and steel doors. Am I crazy for thinking of bars on the windows?
ATF does not require locks on your guns, steel doors, safes, security systems, burglar bars or even a lock on the front door. They DO require "certification of safe storage"....meaning any handgun leaving your premises must have a child safety lock or be in a container that allows safe storage.

Whether you need bars on the windows depends on your neighborhood and how much inventory you plan to keep on site. I do not stock inventory, doing only transfers, but have a security alarm and three loud dogs. I also have insurance to cover my customers guns while i am in possession.




Quote:
Powderman Just one...

Remember that with your Class 01, ATF Compliance can come and inspect your licensed premises at any time during your posted business hours.

Do you REALLY want someone poking around your home? If it were me, I'd seriously consider a separate location.
Absolutely not true.
Per Federal law, ATF is limited to ONE compliance inspection per YEAR. this inspection is limited to the licensees firearm records and inventory. ATF cannot search your sock drawer without probable cause.

There is no requirement to have "posted business hours".....but the applicant IS required to list his business hours on the application and can change them at any time.


Quote:
kilimanjaro I would personally want any business on my property to be in a building separate from the home. Who wants customers browsing through the house while you talk on the phone with another?
Uh.......who lets them do that? When I let a customer in the door I show them to the dining room table. If they choose to ignore my "have a seat, here's a 4473" and go on a self guided tour of my home they will be treated as an unwelcome guest and promptly shown the exit.
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Old March 27, 2012, 10:45 PM   #12
dcobler
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As far as the zoning I dont believe there are any restrictions but I cant get a straight answer. I went to the county clerk and they told me they didnt know and sent me to the city clerk (i dont live in town but went to ask anyways) the city clerk said they didnt think there were any zoning restrictions but I should ask the county clerk.... Circles...
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Old March 27, 2012, 11:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
I cant get a straight answer
The best thing to do is send a letter to the appropriate office and ask for a written response. Generally they will do a little more research and assure the written document is correct. While asking someone face to face seems like a good way to go it can get you in trouble.
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Old March 28, 2012, 12:10 AM   #14
SilentScreams
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Quote:
I've noticed that a growing number of gun shops don't even have windows. I have to assume there's a reason.
There's one shop in town ran by a local policeman part time. He's on the fourth floor of what used to be a government building. Talk about a cubical. It has one tiny window. Talk about security.
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Old March 28, 2012, 01:57 PM   #15
Fishing_Cabin
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dcobler,

Im not sure of your actual business plan, so these are some random things for you to consider...

When you speak to the county and city officials about your future business, also make sure to ask if there are any other home based businesses. If there are, were they allowed without restrictions, or did they have to obtain a waiver, zoning variance, etc. Also, ask if any are grandfathered, and if so, the cut-off date, and a reason why. Get as much in writing if you can. You may already know, but take a ride around your area, looking for businesses that are operating from a persons home. They may not be that obvious, but with alittle work you can gain some information there.

We all have heard the news stories about some childs lemonade stand being shutdown by local officials due to the lack of a license, etc. In some places, any type of "for profit" venture is considered a business, and are required to have a business license. Many of these "for profit" ventures sell items such as cosmetics, home/personal items, craft stuff, and the like. The catch is with these, are that "people are selling these products in order to make a profit for personal income." One of the popular brands list its sales people as "(brand name) Independent Business Owner." There are some exemptions in some areas for the MLM strategy which some of these fall under. The only other exception that I know of is for fundraising involving a non-profit, such as a school, religous orginaization, etc. Other then the actual product, there is little difference in a home based retail business. Keep in mind what they are doing, as are what you have discussed generally falls under retail. So also look for any businesses that may be operating in violation of the local regulations. Make a note of these and ask why are they allowed to continue in business if they are in violation of any local regulations.

Also, are you going to just sell/transfer firearms, or also sell other items as well? You may want to consider, and come up with an unserved niche that your business can fill prior to talking to the local officials again, so you can better describe and know what you are going to be doing with the business. Possible niches may include a catagory of hunting or sport, such as turkey hunting, or IDPA. Both of these usually require other items, in addition to a firearm, to participate or be successful in.

You may need to mention the amount of traffic you except on a regular basis. If you are expecting a hoard of regular customers, and you are in a normal neighborhood, the local officials may not be comfortable. If you mention that its for special orders/transfers, you can honestly state that you are going to have a low to limited volume of traffic.

Now...Why did I mention all the above? Most people who try to start a home based business stop at the first "No" and give up. The best thing for you to be is armed with knowledge of whats going on, and learn how the system works in your area. Sometimes the local officials will object to your request at first glance, but if you are well informed, you can cite examples of current home based businesses that are in operation and compliant, you can help to better your own case. These are small things that most people who start this fail to do and understand how it can really affect them.

In the end, the more homework that you do at this level can help you to avoid any issues locally, or at least be knowledgeable enough to support your stance if you run in to a problem.

One last item for you to consider...When you go about this, you are working on gaining knowledge so you better understand the local situation in regards to setting up, and operating a home based business. It is wise not to go about gaining this information in a way that can be confrontational. Work with in the system, and know whats going on at this current time. Dont try to work against the system unless it is a last resort.

Keep us posted. If you to run in to a hurdle, feel free to run it by some of us here for advice.

Last edited by Fishing_Cabin; March 28, 2012 at 03:20 PM. Reason: additional information
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Old March 28, 2012, 11:18 PM   #16
bamaee04
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I will throw my 2 cents worth in on this. I agree with other posters about not wanting this type business in your home, but that is all a matter of opinion. The biggest issue I see is if you offer transfer services, you will have people you don't really know coming to your house quite often. They then in turn know exactly where you live, you obviously have guns, and you could end up being a target for thieves or worse if the wrong individual comes along.

With that in mind, whether you decide to do this in home or at an external location, you will want to ensure you have a nice gun safe or other secure storage for all inventory and personal firearms. You also want to ensure that any location of business is as secure as it can be, and some type of alarm or security system is always a plus. Even if you have an offsite location, you can still keep inventory locked up at home if you so choose.

If you do plan on trying this from your home and submit your FFL application paperwork, the ATF agent who comes to interview you will have done his/her homework on any appropriate zoning laws/homeowners association restrictions, etc. If you face any of these hurdles and can't resolve them, they will deny or allow you to withdraw your application. If there is anything like this in place, they will not allow you to get your license.

If you look to doing business elsewhere, try to look for a small office space for lease. There are usually lots of deals on these type spaces for very affordable rent/leasing fees. They can serve several purposes...allowing you to actually advertise as having a legitiment store front (some distributors will not deal with you unless you have a storefront), having a place for patrons to come other than your home, and allow you to have an affordable start in the business without a hefty lease/rent of a larger storefront area that can put you behind the 8 ball before you even get started.

I hope some of my rambling will help you no matter what you decide...good luck!

Last edited by bamaee04; March 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM.
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