Expert Tip: Banks are often reluctant to provide long-term small business funding. They prefer short-term loans that are associated with physical assets, which can then serve as collateral. So instead of just asking for a generic loan, maybe consider raising capital for specific equipment that will kickstart your new business, like an espresso machine or delivery vehicle.
You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls. I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall. Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution. The walls are a simple board and batten system. The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB. They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding. However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet. I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint. If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed. It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.
So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.
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.
I will also typically secure those sorts of items under my locked platform if I am gone for a few days in the backcountry, because in reality I could probably care less if someone broke in and stole my box of food, versus someone who stole my clothes or expensive down jackets, which would be much more problematic (and costly) to replace on the road.
How to Optimize a Small Layout – Not everyone has the room to have a huge shop selling everything. Ralph guides you through making the most out of a small shop layout. This includes optimal machine placement, where to set up shop, the tools needed, and lots of other consideration. The guide walks you through every aspect of setting up your shop – going into details without having it be overwhelming. It’s ideal for beginners that are looking to set up shop.
This style of saw will provide more power than a contractor-type saw and have the high-quality rip fence you need to do good work. However, because they are favored by professionals and serious amateurs, cabinet saws are harder to find on the used market. Scour the classifieds and online sales (be sure to check industrial auction sites as well), and do some networking. Check the bulletin board at your hardwood supplier and ask the proprietors if they know of anyone selling a saw. Also call local cabinet shops. They sometimes have a surplus tool sitting idle that they’d be willing to sell. Take your time in this step. A careful investment will pay dividends in the long run, but a well-intentioned compromise can cause long-term frustration.
Power outlets are also needed for lighting, heaters, AC units, radios, televisions, CNC machines, 3D printers, and computers—all of which you’ll find in many workshops (although maybe not together, and maybe not all in your garage.) You simply can never have too many outlets and it’s much safer to have too many than not enough. Bring in an electrician to help install your outlets and setup 220v power if needed for larger shop tools.
These new companies no longer charge crazy upfront fees, moving instead to what’s known as a “SaaS” monthly subscription model, often with a free trial period. Therefore, the risk of trying a new product is greatly reduced, as you are required to pay little or nothing upfront. Even Microsoft announced in 2015 that they would be moving their flagship product, Microsoft Office, to this pricing model.
For example: Imagine walking into a slightly weathered coffee shop on Main Street, middle America. It’s charming in its own unique way. You sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee as you skim through the tabletop jukebox. Then the bill comes. “$10 for a cup of coffee? In this rundown joint!” This might be what comes to mind if the price of the service doesn’t meet the expectations you had when you first walked into the business.
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.
Have a walk-through yourself and see where the visual cues guide you or get your staff, friends, or family to do the same and give you honest feedback. Don't forget to observe your customers and see what they're drawn to, what they avoid, and how they move, then match that with your intended design. If you keep resilient and keep your eyes and ears open, you'll be sure to create a retail design that's a win-win for both you and your customers.
Perhaps the most satisfying move I made was to automate the dust collection system. I used the iVACPro system to link all machines to the dust collector. When I turn on any machine in the shop, the dust collector fires up and whisks the dust into the bin. The system also has a programmable delay to allow the dust to make it to the bin before the dust collector shuts down. I set my system for a five-second delay. The system works flawlessly for my band saw, planer, and router table at 115 volts, and also my table saw and jointer at 240 volts.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
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I bought an energy-saving outlet strip for my TV and its components. One outlet controls several other outlets on the strip, so when I turn off my TV, the adjacent controlled outlets for my VCR, DVD player and receiver sense that no current is going to the TV anymore, and those outlets shut off. Then I decided to try it out in the shop. I use it with my router table, disc sander and orbital sanders, so when I flip one of them on, my shop vacuum also starts up to take care of dust collection. It also has two outlets that are independent for other accessories you’d like on all the time. You can buy the outlet strips at amazon.com. One choice is the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet (about $30). — D. Linley. Plus: 30 more smart tips for working in your home shop.
Smaller speed bump displays (above) and larger merchandise outposts (below) placed along your store’s main traffic flow let you draw customer interest to certain products. Speed bumps let you feature new finds and hot sellers in eye-catching ways. Larger outposts are great for special price stock or product groupings such as seasonal features and branded collections.
They say nobody ever started a small business out of a love for numbers, but if you really want to stay the course, you’re going to want to fall in love fast. It’s only by keeping detailed accounts and tracking your business’ numbers over time, (net sales, cost of goods sold, and average transaction size) that you’ll start to gather the actionable insights you need to make intelligent business decisions.