Great website! I spent a summer living out of a ford focus hatchback while road tripping around the United States. The rear seats were replaced with a small platform to store gear and the rear windows were tinted. I enjoyed the freedom that anywhere I parked no one would see me hop from the drivers seat to my platform for some zzz’s. Also no one would guess that someone is sleeping in a 3dr ford focus.
Trying to compete on price is rarely an effective long-term strategy, so it’s important to consider how you will differentiate your offering. Will this be with amazing customer service? Or maybe with superior product quality? Regardless of what you choose, how will you allocate your budget to make it possible? How will you market your small business? How will you get customers through the door?
You can see I broke the ultimate goal down into smaller tasks. Now you just need to do this for all the big goals that you have mapped out for the year. You may have more ideas or goals throughout the year and that’s okay. With this type of document, you are able to add another category and tasks anytime you want. This is just the best way to keep track of all the little things you need to do to accomplish your goals so you never are stuck wondering what you have to do next.
Up until about ten years ago, if you were in the process of starting a small business and wanted to use all of the technologies listed at the start of this section, you would have needed to take out a second mortgage to cover the bill. Investing in retail technology has historically involved expensive hardware (including an in-house server), large upfront software costs, and hefty ongoing bills for customer support or repairs when things went wrong. Innovators were targeting large-scale enterprises like Coca-Cola, not local mom and pops, so the packages and price points were designed to match.

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.
Starting to see a trend here? Notice how each of these questions begins with the customer in mind. As with all things related to your store, it’s critical to put your customer at the core of your decision making. At first glance, little things like cold drinks that aren’t quite cold enough, can seem insignificant, but it’s often the little things that hurt the customer experience and can turn a customer off to your business forever.

Up until about ten years ago, if you were in the process of starting a small business and wanted to use all of the technologies listed at the start of this section, you would have needed to take out a second mortgage to cover the bill. Investing in retail technology has historically involved expensive hardware (including an in-house server), large upfront software costs, and hefty ongoing bills for customer support or repairs when things went wrong. Innovators were targeting large-scale enterprises like Coca-Cola, not local mom and pops, so the packages and price points were designed to match.


In an indoor or basement shop with industrial carpeting, lay down inexpensive laminate flooring to make your life a bit easier at the end of the day. Be sure to anchor the panels or place a large rubber mat beneath to keep them from sliding over the carpet. (Covering up your carpet is even more critical if you want to go beyond wood and work with a material such as aluminum in your indoor shop; metal shavings dig into any kind of carpeting and are incredibly frustrating to clean up.)
The router—The router is the master when it comes to flexibility. Its potential far exceeds trimming and decorative edge treatments. A router will cut mortises, rabbets, and dadoes, and adding a router table builds in even more versatility, including biscuit joinery and raised-panel doors. But where the router distinguishes itself from all other tools is in its ability to produce identical parts using a pattern.
However, another critical component to small business success is being self aware. With a variety of tools at your fingertips, tracking basic accounting can be fairly simple. Still, in order to be strategic about how you spend your money, properly leveraging these tools will still require a little bit of legwork. What used to take you eight hours might now only take one hour. But if you’re not willing or able to run through your financial tasks on a regular basis, bringing in a bookkeeper or accountant might be your best option.
The idea of not having your own bathroom nearby can be incredibly intimidating, but we’ve found that this is actually one of the easiest parts of vanlife. Public restrooms are plentiful throughout North America, and we’ve never not had a bathroom when we needed one. Gas stations, truck stops, Walmarts, McDonald’s - you name it, we’ve done some business there.
However, since you may not have "aisles" per say in your store, it's still important to think about grouping products in a way that makes sense from a shopper's perspective. Also, remember to keep "higher-demand" products displayed at eye-level while placing lower-grossing products at the bottom or above eye level. Lastly, It's recommended that you change up these speed bumps weekly or regularly enough to create a continued sense of novelty for repeat visitors. 
There are certain sayings that hold true and when buying clamps and measuring equipment parting with cash for quality make sense. But which clamps? G, F, sash, spring or strap? There are so many clamps and measuring tools available. Let the project decide which ones you need. As a reassurance, our Axminster Trade Clamps come with a lifetime guarantee, so this is one investment that literally lasts that long.

We have Eclipse Sunshades installed on our van. While they’re pricier than the cheap sunshades you’ll find at Walmart, they’re every effective. And since they permanently install on your windshield they’re much more compact - a big plus for living in a van. All we have to do is pull the shades across and velcro them together in the middle and we’re protected from both the sun’s rays and prying eyes.

Sometimes you just know it when you see it. So always be prepared to capture pictures and take notes when you see store features that you’d like to try out yourself. And don’t forget the many online resources out there. Settle down with a cup of coffee and scroll through Pinterest for a treasure trove of store design ideas. Here’s a great board to get you started. Or get inspired by the many hip retail store designs on the Retail Design Blog.

Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.
Gutting: We actually took on a pretty big project when we bought our van because it came with a preinstalled wheelchair lift that we had to remove. Unbolting all the parts took both of us working on it for a full day, and it wasn't the most glamorous job. The good part was that we were able to sell the lift and the reclining bench seat for a combined total of $260. If there's anything to remove from your van, do this first.
When you design your workshop setup, climate control often gets ignored — and that’s a huge mistake! If your workshop or hobby room is in an unconditioned space like a garage or basement, you could find that it’s brutally uncomfortable to work in there during warm weather. You’ll be much happier with a solid fan — or several — to keep air moving for your comfort.
The threshold area, also known as the "decompression zone," is the very first space that prospective customers step into when they enter your store. It typically consists of the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on the overall size of your store. It's also the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world and first experience what you have to offer.
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To avoid buyer’s block, define the core characteristics you absolutely need in your business. Write them down in a prioritized list ranked from ‘deal breaker’ to ‘would be nice to have.’ Now cross off the bottom five and focus only on the ones that are left. Compromising is essential in choosing a commercial space, especially in popular neighborhoods. Besides, you’d be surprised how what once seemed like a less than stellar storefront can become your dream location once you get those creative juices flowing.

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.
A loop floor plan, sometimes called a racetrack layout, creates the most guided shopping experience of the three. A loop store layout features a defined pathway throughout the store, which exposes customers to every item on display. Bed, Bath & Beyond stores are good examples of a loop floor plan. Loop floor plans work very well with zone merchandising tactics, too, which we discuss in detail below.
Hey! Thanks for stopping by and checking this out, I appreciate your comments as well. It is something I really should do… I’ve done a bit more research on this since I initially posted it, and it is less intimidating the more I read. It just comes down to actually doing it and spending some more money, I guess. I’ve got the 22RE in my truck… I still need to look more into the alternator aspect though.

A warning out of concern and love for my fellow 'ablers. A framing nailer is a VERY dangerous tool. Not something to loan out willy-nilly to just anybody. For a small project like this it's just not going to save a lot of time. Most of us are better off burning the extra calories that swinging a hammer uses anyhow. Emergency rooms are seeing a lot of visits because a lot of guys see these on TV and at your big box stores and think they look cool. They are only marginally safer than shooting at the nails with a pistol. (Hmmm...). Be careful, PLEASE.
The Best Prices for Tools – Ralph shows you where to get the beast deals for the tools and equipment you need. You could buy them yourself from popular outlets like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon, but the Ultimate Small Shop guide shows you where to get these tools and equipment at cheaper prices. Of course, cheaper isn’t always better. These aren’t just cheap tools that are ineffective. Just good value for money on good tools.

Hey there Ryan. Cool blog! I love the idea of trucking-it! I’m not able to do something like that, though I wish that I had taken the time when I was younger to do so. Here’s a suggestion that you might consider, if you haven’t already considered it before: Obtaining and using a hammock. I’d suggest bolting in an eye hook on the truck, or using the bumper as a tie point if you don’t have a second tree around. Also, in the high desert, you could use rocks as anchor points for it. Just an idea, from one camper to another.
Household vacs are not designed to handle large quantities of sawdust or wood chips. Their filters clog up quickly, greatly reducing suction. While you can get away with using a small cordless vacuum for small messes, a shop vacuum offers greater power and capacity. Whether you already own a shop vacuum or are shopping for your first, consider purchasing disposable bags or a washable and reusable CleanStream filter.
The issue with the old shop was manufacturing capacity and layout. We get runs of 4 to 6 of the frames on the left in the last pic and sometimes frames twice that size. We were masters of having everything on wheels, which works for a while but it takes twice as long to build anything that way. Then the office ladies walk through the shop to the kitchen while you are grinding and complain about all the dust etc.
Most people know they should document their homes contents for insurance reasons but they often ask why or how to do it the right way. If you have a loss due to fire, theft or a natural disaster your insurance company will need certain details to complete the claims process, including a description of the item, the model number, the serial number the date purchased the color and the purchase price.
First things first, the machinery is going to do the bulk of your work. Hand tool purists may argue differently but how many machines do you have in your home to make things easier? The same should be true for your workshop. Yes, there may be moments when you take a deep breath at the initial investment but if you’re looking at woodworking as a prolonged pastime then the tools will last you for years to come. Plus you’re not buying everything at once. Start small and build up your collection.
First, try to remove all the extraneous household items that don’t facilitate making stuff. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to dig past kids bikes or empty luggage to get to your paint supplies. In the real world though, storage is hard to come by, so you’ll have to give a little to get a little. Consider a line of demarcation in your garage to separate “household” from “workshop.” If you don’t have enough room, consider a smaller-space workbench, or rent off-site storage. You could even build a shed for more covered storage.
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.
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."
So what does all this boil down to? I favour starting with a good workbench and top quality hand tools – chisels, a couple of planes, a hammer, a few Japanese handsaws – stuff like that. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when properly equipped. Build simple items at first, and then add the very best power tools you can – as you can afford to – in the order that makes the most sense for the work you’re interested in. Yes, this gets you off to a slower start, but what’s the rush? You’ll soon surpass the ‘buy-it-all-at-once’ folks who end up struggling with beginner tools that hold them back from getting better.

There seems to be two things I like looking at and they are work benches & work shops. I too use my work shop for several other activities. I currently have a basement shop with a walk out entry, which is roughly 340 square feet and shaped like a flat s and has less than 8' ceiling height. In that shop I have an old Unisaw w/50"fence, 8" jointer, 15" planer, 10" sliding compound saw, 14" bandsaw and various & assorted power & hand tools. Also in the same space I have a small closet, dog grooming tub, & a space where a bathroom was roughed out. It is far from finished space and I have plans to put up a ship lapped paneled walls and fix up the closet for tool storage. I also plan on putting a cyclone in the bathroom space along with a tolet. I can work in the space as it is pretty well but the studded walls, insulation, & dust make the space somewhat uninviting. 

At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
When Julie Owen bought Cocobolo Interiors in 2008, she set about adding more contemporary items to the Armonk, N.Y., shop. But with only 3,000 square feet, she struggled to figure out where to put her expanding line of furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories. Her solution: create sections within the shop and arrange the furniture the way customers might imagine it at home, using low bookcases and folding screens as dividers.

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.
A good starting point here is to write down two or three keywords that you think define your brand and then allow all your design choices to be guided by those words. For example, a local cheese shop could be organic, artisanal, and authentic; a wine bar could be sophisticated, 1920s, French; or a local specialty food store could be gourmet, helpful, natural. 

Hand tools offer the finesse and precision you just can’t get with anything else. There’s a sense of satisfaction you get from working the wood rather than machining it. After all isn’t that why you got into woodworking? Again there are a vast array of tools but narrow it down to a core range and you’ll have the confidence to complete a number of jobs.
“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.”
Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.
Cut 15 top boards 5 ft. long and rip them to 3 in. wide with a table saw so the top will glue up flat without the typical rounded edges of 2x4s. For the leg slot, cut two of the top boards into three pieces: a 39-in. middle piece and two 7-in. end pieces. Glue and screw the top together, one board at a time, with 3-in. deck screws, keeping the ripped edge facing up and level with the adjoining boards. Use a corded drill so there’s plenty of oomph to drive each screw below the surface. Note that the third glue-up from each end is where each leg notch is inserted. You can also create a nifty tool tray in the top by notching the three top pieces with a jigsaw. Clamp every 8 in. or so before driving in the 3-in.deck screws. Predrill the screw holes near the ends to prevent splitting. When you’re screwing on the 7-in. long 2x4s to create the leg slots, use a scrap piece of 2×4 as a spacer.

Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.
These basics are going to set you back about $180, leaving you with $320 left to work with.  We are going to be leaving behind two hand powered tools from the $250 shop and upgrading to powered alternatives.  This should lead to more consistent results, more enjoyable builds, and increased efficiency.  These are all goods things that only the biggest fans of The Woodwright's Shop would argue with.
As part of my antique restoration work I do a lot of faux finishing – hence the supply of stains and paints. Since I didn’t want to dust the house, the new shop is not connected to the house heat and air system. But, having just finished our first winter I now know the shop didn’t get below 45 degrees – and, the oven in the corner can make the shop toasty in no time at all.
Remember the social media networks we asked you to secure in section five, Choosing a Business Name? Well, now is the perfect time to activate those channels. Use social media to build excitement about your grand opening and keep potential customers informed about special promotions and sales. People want to know what makes you special, so tell them why your store or restaurant will be different to what is currently available. From sharing pictures of that new fancy espresso machine or sneak peeks of your store’s interior, you can gain buy-in to your central message and build some anticipation before you even open your doors. Knowing how to to leverage key social channels is imperative to starting a success small business that will stand the test of time.
If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers -- and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest players online have names that are essentially gobbledegook: Zappos, Skype, Zynga. While there’s certainly some psychological naming principles that often come into play, at the most basic level, it’s simply easier to find this space online and then strive to own the brand name in the minds of consumers. How important this will be to your small business will depend on a number of variables, including your intended size, location, and your desire to exploit ecommerce as well as a local brick-and-mortar business.
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