Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
Store design experts agree that this area should be open, inviting, and free of overpowering displays and signage clutter, as shown in the image above. Many customer behavior studies, including those conducted by Envirosell’s Paco Underhill, support this opinion. They show that customers tend to ignore displays, signage, and even manned sales counters placed close to store entrances.

Many retail fixture and display companies provide store planning and design services to their customers. Though typically not free, these in-house design services can be far less expensive than hiring an independent designer. Plus, they can help streamline the process of store layout and planning, along with the purchasing and installation of displays and fixtures.
The first step in choosing a business location has little to do with site evaluation. It’s about understanding who your customers are. What kind of people are they? When and where do they work? How do they spend their free time and extra capital? Get to know your potential customers and you’ll have a far better chance of finding both a site and a property that they’ll want to frequent. Once you know who they are, you need to ask yourself if there are enough members of this target demographic near your intended storefront location. If so, what time of day they are most likely to be near your storefront? And, will it be quick and convenient for them to stop in?
A grid floor plan, also called a straight layout, is a very efficient use of both floor and wall space. With fixtures and displays running parallel to walls, a grid floor plan maximizes every inch of available floor space, including the corners. Grid layouts are easy for customers to navigate and for store owners to categorize. Plus, they offer plenty of end cap and feature wall exposure for promotional items and seasonal products.
I place the band saw first in my order of purchases, because I consider it the heart of the shop. Band saws are very safe tools for ripping, re-sawing, cutting curves and more because all of the force is downward, virtually eliminating any chance of unexpected kickbacks. I wanted a saw that had a strong back, dynamically balanced cast iron wheels for smooth operation and flywheel effect, 12" depth of cut, good dust extraction design, a large table and a solid fence. After shopping around, I settled on the General International Model 90-170 14" saw. It is very smooth, comes with an Excalibur fence, and it is light enough (133kg) to move into your basement without crushing someone.
If you are looking to sell your business, it is important to engage a lawyer who is a business specialist to ensure you gain the best possible valuation. A small business is valued by assessing the potential ongoing income from the business over the coming few years. Normally this means that a business will be valued at three to five times net revenues, which can present a potential issue for particularly tax-savvy small business owners. Remember that every time you write off an expense against your business, you are lowering the net margin of the business. So, that dollar you saved by writing off the expense could cost you three to five dollars on the valuation of your business.
For the large square windows near the tailgate I just used those big “magic auto shades” like these, which fit perfectly to cover up those side windows and the back window by the tailgate (I had four in the canopy) and another set up in the cab for my actual window. As for the longer side windows I just used a USPS box, haphazardly stuck up against the window. Nothing fancy.

Due diligence is the process of going through the current owner’s books with a fine-tooth comb to verify inventory information, sales data, average ticket price, and every other aspect of the business. Doing all this yourself is difficult and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to involve accountants and lawyers to ensure that you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. A big red flag to watch out for here is how intertwined the current owner’s personal expenses are with the business accounts — this can obscure the genuine flow of cash in and cash out of the business. The purchase price of an existing business is often calculated as three to five times the net annual revenue, so you’ll want to take that figure into account before you make an offer.


Since grid layouts are used in most grocery, big box, and convenience stores, they create a familiar feel to customers. However, due to this familiarity, they tend to impart a grab-and-go experience. A grid layout can be a good choice for small retailers who shelf-stock inventory in quantity, like toys, books, magazines, specialty foods, kitchenware, and home goods. However, it’s not ideal for retailers who want to create an upscale, branded environment that invites relaxed browsing.
Something I’d like to add to this comprehensive branding guide is that packaging can be a great branding tool, because it puts your business in front of new and repeat customer. This opens the door to lots of new sales. And friends, family and even strangers can be very influential! If your packaging is distinctive, people ask about it and you’re likely to get referrals if they love your product.
This is the one tool in the shop that provides the greatest opportunity to save money, if you are willing to purchase a well made, light duty machine, and take lighter cuts. In the past I have used General 14" planers that can hog off seri­ous cuts all day long. The problem is that these professional units cost over $5000, and they would crush my buddy as we haul them down the stairs (note: don’t be the guy on the bot­tom). After doing a fair amount of research, I purchased the Dewalt DW735 13" thick­ness planer. The unit came with a good manual, and was in a good state of tune. It is light enough for me to carry around the shop with­out excessive grunting, so that made it very simple to install. The planer has a sig­nificant internal fan-assisted chip ejection system. The chips are catapulted out of this planer, so have your dust collector running before you run stock through it. I now have to make more cuts at a lighter cut depth, but I saved about $4500, which makes my budget happy. The planer makes clean cuts, and has two speeds. I don’t see a reason for the two speeds for my type of work, but there is a faster feed rate should you choose to use it. Knife changing is simple and quick.
A great supplier will provide the raw ingredients of your success — often literally. What’s more, they’ll deliver them on time, every time. And they’ll always deliver exactly what you ordered, no more, and no less. A large part of the process of inventory control is ensuring that you are paying for exactly the inventory that comes through your door, and not a penny more. Even great suppliers, however, are looking for the highest price possible for their goods, so once you find them, make sure you’re ready to negotiate!
If you want to run a business operated by yourself and more than one employee, you may run into zoning issues if your location is zoned for residential use only. It’s common for municipalities to allow and encourage home-based busi­nesses but there will likely be a maximum area that you will be permitted to add for business purposes. If you try to build a shop that will contribute noise and traffic (from employees or deliveries) to an urban neighbourhood, you run the risk of run­ning into opposition from neighbours concerned by the impact your shop will have. Your municipality will have planners with whom you should consult as you begin to define the possibili­ties that your property will allow.
There are certain areas that are the responsibility of the federal government, such as firearms, fish, and wildlife. For more on these federal requirements, enforced by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can explore the information here on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
Now if don’t have space for a dedicated workbench say in your garage you can build one that folds out of the way when it’s not in use. Simply mount a board to the wall to hinge the table on, then you can use some eye hooks and chain to support it. Now it won’t support a ton of week but it should be just right for a weekend project every now and then.
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
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