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.
It almost goes without saying that everything about your shop's design should project the right answers to each of these questions. But in today’s market, you have to go one step further. In our digitally connected world consumers have seen it all. The true art of compelling store design is in telling a story about your business, while simultaneously anticipating the needs of your customers. It’s all about the surprise and the delight.
Setting up and running a small business is awesome, especially if it’s your first business. Is it tough at times? Yes. But if you don’t build your dreams, who will? In 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 27.9 million small businesses nationwide. This number has trended upwards over the last decade, accounting for 64% of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011. In a world that appears to be dominated by today’s retail giants, it’s easy to overlook the huge impact that starting a small businesses can have on our U.S. economy. However, these numbers illustrate something that we strongly believe at ShopKeep – that the brave folks who open new businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the lifeblood of our local communities.
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
Hand tools offer your best chance of finding a real bargain. Until the early 20th century, nearly all woodworking was done with hand tools, and their designs and uses have changed little. Most of the high-end planes on today’s market, for example, are just reproductions of the original designs. And because the originals were mass-produced, they are fairly easy to find at rummage sales and antiques stores. (For more information, refer to Matthew Teague’s article, “Buying Old Tools,” in FWW #180).
Once you have an idea of your store layout and a product mapping plan, it’s time to consider your store fixtures and displays. Fixtures are permanent—fixed—parts of your store such as lighting, counters, fixed shelving units, and dressing rooms. Displays hold product and tend to be movable, versatile, and customizable, like modular units, gondolas, tables, slatwall, and clothing racks.
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.

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!


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“Zone design successfully helps shoppers locate what they want while exposing them to products that enhance the ones they are buying. Increased transaction totals are a natural byproduct. Products are categorized by use into Zones, such as ‘kitchen/cooking,’ ‘entertaining/dining,’ and ‘home decor,’ with inventory range and stock levels determining the size of each Zone.

When I’m working on projects in the shop, I often have my laptop close by so I can refer to an article or take notes. The craft table I’d been using was too low, so I got some pieces of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe to slip over the legs. I measured the height so it was just right—no more aching back! The pipe pieces are easy to slip off when we need the table for potluck. — Donna M. Courie


Hey Melody, thanks for the email. I’ve traveled through some extremely humid areas (Central America)… I’m taking it that your canopy does not have a headliner? That in and of itself helps a great deal. Personally I would be hesitant to put holes or van roof vents in my cap, but that may be what you want to do. I would try sleeping with a portable personal fan first and see how that helps with the condensation issue. For me it worked wonders while sleeping in those hot and humid environments. I ran mine off the inverter connected to my secondary battery.
This is a great project if you carefully consider your needs first. I left out the vise and tracks, but had no problem hand picking good 2x4 stock at the big box stores. I did use maple on the top sides in case I ever decided to add tracks, but it was not a budget buster by any means. The cabinet and drawers were a first for me and a great learning experience. I also added retractable casters so I can easily move the workbench around my shop. Love the workbench!
As a retailer, it's possible to use furniture, displays, racks, and other tools to create a clear path for your customers through your store. This will vary greatly depending on the size and your general store layout. However, you know that most North American customers will naturally turn right — so, your next job is to make sure that as they do, they also continue walking throughout your store to gain the maximum exposure to your products. This not only increases the chances of them making a purchase, but a well-thought-out path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of foot traffic in your store. 
There are benefits to either approach. Sharing a common wall with your house can require some careful soundproofing but can reduce heat loss and exterior fin­ishing costs like siding. A shop located in an addition is more likely to be allowed to have living space or storage space above it, and it may be easier to make use of the existing plumbing and electri­cal and heating systems of your home to service your shop space. Another advantage of an addition is not having to run to an outbuilding in minus-30-degree weather or a summer downpour.
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Most of today’s POS systems have integrated inventory management software that allows you to put hours back in your week, whatever the volume of your stock. A quality point of sale system will allow you to manage pricing changes, track product availability, cross-check inventory, and automate reorders with ease. All of which are crucial in helping you develop a deeper understanding of your business, enabling smoother day-to-day operations and smart purchasing decisions.
“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self- honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
Well, I thought about that I don’t want all that dust to kind of infiltrate everything else in the building. So actually instead of putting in some kind of dust collection system, I thought that I would probably just put a nice shop vac here. And then I have room that I can bring some hose back behind this column and then you know if you’re sitting here working on something we can have adapters that go right into a miter saw or right into a sander or have a little outlet more or less to lay up on the counter that would collect all of the dust. And the same thing could happen on any of the work we do out here.
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. 
The enormous range and affordability of options has provided the chance for small business owners to apply technology to their accounting, marketing, and day-to-day operations. You can spend less money, save valuable time, and gather data about almost every aspect of your business. What’s more, you can enhance the way your customers experience your store in a meaningful and cost-effective way.
Now we’re using a lot of recycled materials in this project including some kitchen cabinets that were removed some a kitchen renovation project a few years ago and you know this is something that a lot of homeowners do if you’re real careful about removing the cabinets from a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation you can use them in a lot of ways around the house and certainly works good for a workshop like this.
Use this model whether you’re looking to turn your team of one into a two-person shop or you’re hoping to build out your marketing department to a team of 10 or more.  By focusing on the skill sets your business needs to be successful — rather than on the resume of an individual candidate — you’ll ensure vital functions are covered while expanding in a sustainable way.
Hey Kasey, I don’t do anything for insulation, I treat truck camping just as I would cold weather tent camping. Just bring a good sleeping bag and learn how to manage in the cold. Usually the side wall of the truck is not at a perfect 90 degree angle, so you will need to check out the angle and compensate. You can hold up a small piece of 2×4 at the back to judge the angle and make a few test cuts to ensure it sits “flat” aka level.
You may want a garage door if you will need to access your shop with large workpieces or tools, or if you or future owners will ever want to use the space to park a vehicle. Garage doors are notoriously drafty, however, so if you think you can live without one you will probably be warmer. Instead, you could opt for out-swinging double doors. In a small shop you can, at a pinch, rip longer lengths of lumber by feeding the material out of either a strategically placed door or window.
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.

Couldn’t disagree more. Still got the same setup a few years in. As mentioned the sag is minimal (not non-existent), I place a small removable 2×2 near the tailgate so I can hop up top. You’re not building a home up to code, you’re building a practical truck camping solution, and in my extensive experience it is more than fine. You can do thicker plywood, but realize that it will be much heavier and more cumbersome to move.


Woodworking isn’t just an overnight hobby, for most it’s a fun pursuit that lasts a lifetime. As your skills develop, the workshop becomes a place not just to build but to repair along the way. In a world where people are strongly influenced by consumerism, there’s a tendency to revert to a throwaway culture. But if you can fix before throwing away, then your tools start to make a return on their investment and have a bigger impact.
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.
1. Paint an accent wall. Painting one wall a bold color is an affordable and effective way to not only spice up the space, but also to make it look larger. A bold colored wall creates the illusion of receding in space, says Libby Langdon, HGTV design expert and author of Libby Langdon's Small Space Solutions (Knack, 2009). Putting colorfully printed fabric or wallpaper on one of your walls is another way to achieve the same effect, while adding eye-catching textures and patterns to your store.
Make sure the room or building you are planning to utilize has sufficient lighting and electrical outlets to allow you to see what you are doing, and to work without excessive extension cords. You should also remember that many tools require a fairly substantial amperage to operate, so you need to make sure the wiring is capable of handling the loads. 20 Amp circuits will work for ordinary 120V tools, but air compressors and welders may require 40 Amp, 220V circuits.

7. Illuminate your space in different ways. Lighting is important in any retail shop, but it's particularly critical in tight quarters. If a corner of your store is not well lit, that square footage is as good as lost, Langdon says. She recommends using a combination of track lights, lamps, sconces and picture lights. This mixture will not only ensure that your entire space is well lit, but it also will add flair and variety. "Picture lights are amazing. They give a wonderful glow," she says. "Think in terms of layers of light."


Great instructional! I built the bed of my 92′ Toyota pickup ext. cab the same way you did. I did some hard searching and found this camp pad, which literally fits the 40″ wide sleeping space perfectly. A few different mats from Exped will fit, but here’s the one I bought. Just thought you might like to know there’s an inflatable duo sleeping pad out there that works for your setup!
Marc, I enjoyed the video. Thank you for sharing your dream shop with us. I would be interested in seeing a demo video on your Clear Vue cyclone dust collection system. Which one did you obtain & what type of duct work did you use (seamless?) Do you plan on enclosing the unit in a closet to reduce noise and keep dust confined? Do you have to purchase special expensive plastic dust bags for the drum? Is it hard to pull the bag out of the drum for trash collection? If you could address these questions in a demo video I would appreciate it. Oh, perhaps you already have one …. I will check out your video archives. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

Sprinter vans have been around for awhile, but they’re still the new kid on the block. These vans are especially known for their interior height, long wheelbase, and boxier shape - making them ideal for building out a spacious, functional living space. This category includes the original Mercedes/Dodge Sprinters, as well as Ford Transits and Dodge Promasters (check out this article and this helpful graphic for more information on the differences between these).
Above all, remember that all of these elements can form part of your negotiation. Unless you are pursuing a highly desired space in a hot rental market, there is usually a point of leverage available to you in every lease negotiation. When it comes to getting the best possible deal in these situations, you’ll want to seek quality professional advice, this will normally include a broker and real estate lawyer.
A business license gives you permission to run a business within a particular territory. It is important to note that not all local governments require you to obtain business licenses, while others only require them for specific business types such as bars or restaurants. To determine whether or not your state or business type requires you to obtain a license visit SBA.gov for state-specific license and permit information.
As the old saying goes, the only two inevitable things in life are death and taxes. Almost all small businesses in the United States are subject to some form of corporate income or gross receipts tax on a state level — that is, unless you happen to be a lucky inhabitant of the great states of Wyoming, Nevada or South Dakota. Actually, even these states will require you to pay state workers' compensation insurance and unemployment insurance taxes. Oh, and of course every small business in the country is subject to some form of federal taxation.

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.


Ultimately, I did this to inspire my son. I want him to look at what I have done as a father and be proud. But I also want him to grow up into a strong man who faces fear in the eyes and doesn’t back down because of a challenge. I want him to say to himself one day, “if my dad built Optimus Prime, then I can do anything I want to do in life.”  I want him to succeed in every possible way imaginable, even when I am no longer around to help him through those challenges.

After you are done narrowing down your list of business goals, you are now ready to plan out when they will be accomplished. Just remember, nothing is set in stone so if you need to remove or add something to your business goals later down the road, that's okay. It happens to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes our priorities shift or things didn't go as planned and you need to make changes. 


The good news is this: You are not a statistic. Think about this — if it was reported that small business owners over the age of 50 were more likely to succeed, would you wait until you were 50 to start a small business? Not likely. You would start when you felt ready. And that’s the point — only YOU can know when it’s time to take the plunge. Likewise, only you can make the intelligent decisions that ultimately mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to launching your business.

If you’re a high volume QSR for example, you’re going to want clear signage that helps customers identify where they should be lining up and perhaps a product display next to the line. If you have high risk merchandise in your store, you’ll want to design your shop so that customers must pass the point of sale on their way out and use mirrors to eliminate blind spots in your business.
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