Location, location, location is quoted so often for a reason. When starting a small business, the wrong choice could hurt your business before you’ve even had the chance to open the doors. Take the time to really understand your customers and do everything you can to gather real world insights that will help you determine the viability of your potential new space.

MPG: I'm going to be blunt and tell you that you're not going to find a campervan -- no matter how new or expensive -- that has great gas mileage. When you're driving your home, the miles per gallon are going to be lower than with a typical car. But it's good to ask the previous owner what type of mileage they were getting so you have an idea of what to expect. As a benchmark, our 1994 Chevy G20 got between 15 - 18 miles per gallon. Certainly not great, but there are worse out there.


Non-Standard Miter Slots - This one is a downer.  One of the primary advantages of having a table saw is access to jigs that expand the saws functionality.  This is a major issue if you plan on buying after market jigs.  Given that we are limiting the cost of this buildout to $500, I am guessing that after market jigs are probably low on the priority list.  Your going to want jigs once you start researching what they enable you to do, my advice is to build your own - there are plenty of plans online.   

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
Garages are usually dark, which makes setting up task lighting a priority for a productive workspace. Track lighting is an easy option to install and gives your some directional overhead lighting, but it can cast shadows (especially if the light source is behind you while you work) and you’ll need another lighting source for task and overall room illumination. A simple, adjustable work lamp is helpful for soldering or when you need bright focused lighting.
I set an initial budget of $10,000 to build the shop – everything from studs and drywall to hand tools and machinery. The final number was over by $1,000, but I’m still very happy with the result. The shop is now my haven, with a good sound sys­tem and good lighting. Every time I go back into the shop, it is exactly the way I left it, because it is my shop!
I have a question, you mention what a problem it would be if the cinder blocks were to sink yet you have installed them with the least amount of footprint on the ground. Was there a reason for this? I would have installed them with the flat side on the ground, and I realize they would not hold as much load as the way you have them but considering the number you have used, the spacing, and the size of the shed, load should not be a problem. Just wondering.
It's true for large and small shops alike: Sawdust and chips get everywhere when you use power tools. Small home-woodworking shops are often in shared rooms and may be poorly ventilated. And airborne sawdust and particulates linger for a while before settling. It's a bad combination for human lungs, which are not fond of sawdust, let alone the types of chemicals found in plywood and other engineered materials.
Ever wonder why you walk into a supermarket and the first thing you see is fruits and vegetables rather than toilet cleaner? The complex art of displaying arrangement and the perfectly optimized in-store customer journey can seem like some sort of semi-magical, commercial Feng-Shui. But it’s actually just business 101. At its core, store design is a fairly simple exercise. Think about your shop’s layout from a customer point of view and consider what might surprise and delight you, what might annoy you, and most importantly, what might convince you to make a purchase.
“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
One example is testing your products and services for their desirability through ecommerce. It might turn out that your core product line will actually be much smaller than you originally envisioned. Equally, there are now a number of services (such as storefront.com) that will allow you to secure a pop-up lease in some incredible spaces, often for only days at a time. It might just turn out that your dream location isn’t as great as you originally thought.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
Hey Joe, I just hit 178k on my truck. I remember when I started out the first time around it had like 144k or so. They are known to go quite far, so we’ll see how it goes. Maintenance on the road… I just stop at those oil lube places for the most part, and do regular weekly checks under the hood for fluid levels, etc. I’m not too mechanically inclined!
To help, I’ve pulled together 40 small business ideas for anyone who wants to run their own business. Use these as a jumping off point to spark your own unique ideas.And if all else fails, live the words of Airbnb Co-founder Brian Chesky: “If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”
Great video Marc. I know I’m not the first to bring up the reverb in the shop. However I don’t think addition of rubber floor and cabinets will change this much. Furthermore, sound panels look very clunky in my opinion too, but may be necessary above some machines? Materials like drapes and carpet strategically placed can also do wonders, but I don’t know how practical that would be in a wood shop.
My advice here is to make a detailed list of what the various parts of the build will be (drawings, permits, foun­dation, framing, electrical, etc.) and decide what you would like to do yourself and what you will need to hire others to do. Get quotes on the work that you would like to hire out and estimate the materials you will need to do your por­tion. You may want to factor in your time into the cost as well, especially if you will be passing up other income to work on the project. At some lumberyards, you will be able to give detailed drawings to an estimator on staff who will do a material takeoff list for you of what you’ll need and what it will cost. When all the numbers come in, you can put together a budget and plan for an overrun allowance of around 15 percent. If you keep track of the materials and subcontract costs as you go, you can stay on track and make decisions as you go about the latter stages of the project without regretting it later. If it is challenging to obtain fund­ing for a complete build, you may want to stage the build so that initially the frame goes up and the exterior is finished, and then you finish the interior work as you have time or as funds become available.

Ventilation is extremely important in the rain. These window deflectors allow us to leave our front windows cracked while it’s raining, so we can pull in fresh air and create airflow with our vent fan. As a bonus, it also reduces annoying wind noise while driving on the highway. The Auto Ventshade is fairly inexpensive, easy to install, and makes a great addition to any van (make sure you get the correct one for your specific vehicle).


To simplify this process, hire professionals with experience helping business owners by assessing their needs, developing their budget, and negotiating their commercial lease. Managed by Q is a company that not only assists with pre-lease planning, but also provides help with renovation project management, space planning, and even administrative support. Managed by Q offers an array of services that can help save you time and money. Click here to set up a free account and get started.
Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct tons of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history. Some tour guides offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.

But now is the time to take a step back and go on some test runs in your van. Take it out for a weekend here or there (or better yet, a week or more). Try living in it as you expect to on the road. We guarantee there will be things that worked well in your head but not so much in reality. And you’ll come up with random little hacks and innovations that will make your life on the road easier and more enjoyable.


Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide wage replacement and medical and death benefits to employees who are injured or worse on the job. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gives up his or her rights to sue for liability leading to the accident. Your premium will reflect the type of business you operate and the average salary of your employees. Much like auto insurance, business owners who are new to starting a small business or those with less experience tend to pay higher premiums.

At the very least get the basics of shop design right with great lighting, clean displays, and a well thought out layout. Once you have all of this pulled together you can add a dose of your own personality to the store's design to break through the noise and establish a connection with your target customers. The goal is to be memorable and maximize sales per square foot at the same time!

When starting a small business, many store owners underestimate the value of a persuasive shop design. What they don’t realize is that people are visual creatures. In fact, 90% of the information transmitted in the human brain is visual. Clear, consistent store design will ensure that you attract your ideal customers into your business by delivering a subconscious uniform message.


Chances are if you’re starting a new small business, you’re not afraid of a little risk. However, it’s also highly likely that you have invested a large amount of money in this new endeavor. It is only prudent to take sensible steps to minimize the impact of unexpected events, like the untimely death of a business partner, a lawsuit from a customer or employee, or a freak accident of nature.

With all the time and effort you've put into properly merchandising your products, the last thing you want is for incoming customers to hurry past them — this ultimately limits the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks that force them to pause. These are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage or special/seasonal displays.


Check your local papers, especially the free shoppers, for information about upcoming shows Another venue for craft retailing is at the local flea markets that spring up in every community just about every weekend. Again the entrance cost is usually minimal. Ultimate Small Shop Result The only other thing you need is a little marketing savvy. With little cost and some effort, you will be well on your way to knowing whether there is a market for your craft. Once you know that, you can move on and think about other ways of selling, such as in galleries, on consignment, on eBay or from your own website. Once you spend your precious time and energy creating a scrapbook, make sure it lasts! There are a few simple things you can easily do to ensure that your scrapbooks look just as good as the day you finished them, for years to come. The first thing to avoid is paper that is not lignin-free. You’ve probably heard that before, and it is true, but what is lignin anyways? Lignin is a stiff component of a plant that quite literally holds it together. Although lignin is necessary for plants and trees, you want nothing to do with it! After a while, lignin will cause photos, fabrics and other paper that touch it to turn brown. Yes, the lignin-free paper does cost more, but it is a vital part of preserving your cherished scrapbooks. If the paper is not lignin-free, it will eventually discolor your photos and other materials touching it. So when buying paper for your scrapbooking projects, be sure to look for packages that say “lignin-free,” because if it doesn’t say it, then it most likely isn’t.The fabric is a big concern for preserving your scrapbooks, but unfortunately, it is often overlooked. Many people assume that all fabrics are acid-free, but they aren’t. Silk actually goes through an acid bath during the manufacturing process, as well as many tie-dyed fabrics. This isn’t to discourage you from using it, not all. Just try to make sure that no photos directly touch fabric, and if you need them to overlap, make sure there is a layer of paper between the two. Another consideration when using fabrics is if the color will bleed off onto your page and other things touching it. To test for this, cut a square inch off and soak it in a glass of water overnight. If there is no color bleeding from it the next day, then there isn’t any risk to your scrapbook. But if you do see color in the water, or collecting at the bottom of the glass then don’t use that fabric in your scrapbook at all. When using glitter, be sure there is a top layer of spray adhesive to lock them down, or better yet use special glitter glue where the glitter is mixed right in. If this is not done right the glitter will slowly fall off, and loose glitter means scratched photos. After you have planned the layout for your photos, be sure that you are using the right kind of mounting tape for them! Regular mounting tape is fine for buttons and bottle caps, but when it comes to mounting photos you need to use special photo mounting tape which is completely acid-free. Ultimate Small Shop Member If you don’t, your photos will slowly discolor. The tape should say “acid-free” right on the packaging.
Compensation is a critical key to retaining and motivating the right employees. However, since small businesses often start out with tight budgets, compensation is an area they often struggle with, commonly leading to bad hiring decisions that affect overall business performance. The good news is that employers willing to step outside the hourly-wage box have a variety of options.

Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.

“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner


Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one.  I certainly didn't make it at one time.  It took me years.  But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted.  When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.

Use the scrap piece of plywood to map out the angle for the speaker stand legs. Decide the height you want for the base of the speakers, and make a mark on the plywood (32 in. for us). Mark the depth of the speaker (13 in.). Lay the 1x4 board assembly on the plywood, lining it up with both the corner of the plywood and the 13 in. mark from the edge. Scribe along the 1x4 board assembly, take the assembly away, and find your angle with a protractor or speed square (17 degrees for us). Cut that angle onto one end of the 1x4 board assembly.
Since the summer of 2013, first time visitors to New York City restaurants have been greeted by window signs boasting a large, capitalized A, B or C. These letters reflect the rating given to each restaurant by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Does the need for government oversight of this industry create an additional administrative and financial burden for the businesses in question? Yes it does. Does the rating system also inform consumers and encourage higher food safety standards across the board? Undoubtedly.
I looked around at many versions of Taiwanese drill presses. I ended up purchasing the Ridgid DP15501 15" drill press because I liked the way the quill stop was made, the work light, key stor­age, and the easy access to the belt change system. This machine was also on sale when I needed it, so that made it a slam dunk. Choose the one that suits you, as they’re all very similar. The table is large enough, and the distance to the column is large enough to allow you to do most anything a small shop needs. 
“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
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