Before you open a business at the airport, consider whether a 30-minute commute from the parking lot
to your storefront works for you.
Also consider whether you are willing to let predicaments like a flock of birds crashing into the nose of a jetliner determine the day’s sales tally. And maybe most important, if you’re allergic to bureaucracy, consider becoming a skycap instead of opening a boutique or restaurant.
“Getting into the airport can be pretty difficult,” said Ramon Lo, publisher of Airport Revenue News, an industry magazine. “You can’t just come in off the street and say, ‘Hey, I want to try my hand at selling in the airport. Let’s do it.’ You have to go through a lot of layers. Airports are quasi-governmental.”
Regardless, they are becoming magnets for small businesses willing to crack a complicated set of codes. The benefits are obvious, according to entrepreneurs like Keith Montoya, a partner in Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs, an offshoot of a popular Denver hot dog spot that recently opened at Denver International, the nation’s sixth-busiest airport (in 2016, 58 million passengers flew in and out of Denver).
“There’s money out there, which is why I did it, to be quite honest,” Mr. Montoya said. “You have hundreds of thousands of people walking by, and if a flight is delayed you’ve got a pretty captive audience. And the return is quick.”
For Mr. Montoya and almost everyone else whose brand lacks the national prominence of a Starbucks or a
Subway, though, getting to those quick returns requires patience — and research.
Mr. Montoya navigated his way into the airport partly through
the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program ; he is Mexican-American, and the part of the program he zeroed in on, known as A.C.D.B.E., helps minorities and women enter the aviation industry. He was also helped by a program introduced by Denver International in 2011 to help small businesses get a foothold.