Having a plan of action is key to learning how to start and run a successful small business. Whether you are looking for funding from a bank or angel investor, or are lucky enough to completely fund your venture on your own, an articulate and well-thought-out business plan will help you define what your business stands for and what it intends to become over time. As the age-old saying goes: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Don’t put your business idea in the hands of fate. Plan thoroughly, give yourself some benchmarks for success and be prepared to innovate as you go.
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.
Once you’ve planned the basic layout of your workshop and have added all the tools and speciality appliances you need, take a last look at the overall design to make it aesthetically pleasing. Add overhead lighting for general illumination and task lighting over your work stations so you can see your project clearly. For maximum flexibility, you can mount clip-on work lights to nearby shelves and point them where you need them, knowing you’ll be able to move them about as required for different projects.
Whether you plan to go it alone or hire a professional, there are many resources available to help you plan and execute your retail store layout. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the project yourself, a professional retail store planner, interior designer, or display designer can turn your dreams into reality. Or if you want to handle it all yourself, store planning software and other online idea resources can make the job easier.
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.

At least once a year I want you to set aside some time (I’m talking about a large chunk of time - like a day) and I want you to write down everything you want to accomplish this year or next year (or whenever you are planning for). I tend to plan for a whole year, but you can try 3-6 months to help you get started. Take away any and all distractions because it’s important that you are super focused on what you want to accomplish for the year. This is the time to let your ideas flow, don’t hold back. Things on this list can include: Launch your own website, release a new invitation line, and work on my Instagram account. Don’t overthink, just write down what comes to your mind and whatever your heart desires. There will be time later to refine what you have written down. When you are starting to brainstorm your goals, I would suggest that you first start off writing them on a notepad like this. And then once you are done, you can move them over to a task organizer like this.

But here’s a quick back-story so you know how things went down. The reason I moved my shop so many times was because the sale of our old house fell through at the last minute. This is the house with the original Wood Whisperer shop/garage. We took the house off the market to recuperate and wait for the market to improve. In the mean time, I decided that I should probably make the best of the shop space that I was already paying for, so that’s why I moved my tools back there. When we eventually put that house back on the market, it sold on the first day. That was a BIG surprise! While we weren’t financially (or mentally) ready to build the new shop, I wasn’t about to lose a chance to get that 2nd mortgage gorilla off my back. So all of our resources went into the sale of the old house and the purchase of my mom’s new place. Truth is, there really wasn’t much left to put toward the new shop. Thanks to some financing wizardry, we made it work. But let’s just say I’ll be paying this off for quite some time!

Since your business name is often the first thing potential customers will see or hear, think of it as one of your key tools for leaving a lasting impression. The right name, like a firm handshake, can play a role in your brand’s perception. So make sure it’s strong, catchy, and unique, but most importantly sends the right message about your business.

Well this is the same unit I have used for years so the noise level will be what it has been. I never turn it on without ear protection. In the future, I plan on building a little closet around the cyclone to help mitigate the noise to some extent. As for cycling the motor, I read that too. But the way I work, I just can’t do that. I have to turn it on and off as needed but I do try to limit it as much as possible by doing all of my heavy milling at once.
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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. 

The more outlets the better! I have a good mix of 220v and 110v outlets throughout the shop. I even included a few in the ceiling and the floor in hopes of avoiding power cords in the walkways. And although this contradicts my previous comments about over-committing, I picked locations that would likely work for various tool configurations. If at some point they don’t work for my setup, I just won’t use them.
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.

If you want to hit the road as soon as possible, then a Class B/C RV camper is a great option to consider. These vehicles are typically move-in ready, and barring any mechanical issues shouldn’t need much customizing before hitting the road. Class B campers (aka “campervans”) are built inside a van body, while Class C campers have a custom body built on a van cab/chassis.

Now that you have your goals mapped out and you know the exact tasks that will help you accomplish them, I want you to pick a day of the week (preferably Monday or Friday) and start planning the week ahead - don’t skip this step, never skip this step. Schedule which one these tasks will happen on what day of the week. So you are literally pulling the tasks from that spreadsheet and placing them into this weekly planner. It’s important to keep in mind deadlines (the ones you set for your goals and when they should be accomplished) and the amount of time it takes you to do a task. You may also want to write down which day it’s due, and who is responsible for this task (if you work with a team).

Secondly, your size allows you to laser-focus your attention on the right audience. Walmart wants to sell everything to everyone. So maybe instead, you just focus on selling colorful earmuffs to children in the Mission District in San Francisco. This kind of clarity allows you to compete for search rankings on Google, key positions on Yelp and other business recommendation engines, and for space on social media.
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. 
Luckily, recent times have seen a revolution in small business technology. The advent of cloud-based technology has made it possible for a small startup company to build a product and have it used (and paid for) by retailers and restaurateurs all over the world. As a result, the number of companies targeting their innovations directly at you and your small business has exploded, leaving you with more choice and at a better prices, than ever before. For those just starting a small business, this is great! Here’s what else you should know.
If you choose to hire a draftsperson or architect, they may charge you based on the square footage of the area you are proposing, by an hourly rate for their time or as a percent­age of the cost of the structure. Costs of building permits will be a percentage of the estimated cost of the structure you are proposing (e.g., $15 permit fee per $1000 or 1.5 percent), or a cost-per-square foot depending on your municipality (e.g., $1.20 per square foot). Design work and permits will both dif­fer depending on the part of the country in which you will be building, so ask the questions as you move ahead. One of the costs that is often overlooked in planning is the increase in annual property tax you will pay once your improved property has been reassessed.

I have a plastic bed lining on my truck, which also covered the back of the tailgate… I just popped the screws off, took off the plastic liner and drilled holes in the sheet of plywood to match those used by the plastic tailgate cover. Sorry if that doesn’t help you with your setup. But I’m sure you could just drill your own holes in the metal tailgate. Use the plywood cover as a guide for your screw holes…


If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
“Every time I’m choosing a new a location, I head down there with a big flask of coffee and a clicker to count all the people that walk past. Then I walk to the nearest public transportation at rush hour and look at how people are heading home. I turned down one location because while it was right next to the subway, I noticed all the commuters were coming out of the other subway entrance. It turns out all the residences in that area were on the other side of the street.” —ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
Table mounted routers, planers and shapers are another machine that usually has material fed through, and although they are fairly narrow machines, they require room on their front for material to be fed from, and at the rear for the material to be removed after the work is complete, so again, a space of about ten feet is needed for any significant work.

Just a quick note about light spectrum. I went with 6500k because that’s what I like to film in. The daylight spectrum makes it easier for me if I decide to open the blinds, letting in some natural light. For the average woodworking shop, I think 5000k is probably a good choice, although some folks really enjoy the crispness of a 6500k light. But you should test them out for yourself to see what you prefer.
Conduction is heat transferred across solid surfaces- think touching a hot stove. It’s also how heat gets out of your van in the winter. The heat inside your van is conducted through the solid surface of your walls and ceiling. Insulating the inside of your van will help prevent heat loss through conduction during the winter, and will also stop your van from conducting the sun’s heat inside during the summer.
Thanks! Yep, the canopy clamps and the grooves in the bed liner are the only things holding the side shelves and sleeping platform in place. You just pop off the clamps with a ratchet and the whole things lifts out / slides out easily. That’s what I did to treat the wood after construction, takes maybe 15 minutes to pop out. Very modular. It’s been in there for more than two years now, same wood, and everything is still looking good and working fine. I like it!
2) I haven’t spent very many nights in full on winter conditions (that 12 degree night in Boise comes to mind!), so I can’t comment too much. It was fine for that… Mostly it was hard transitioning from the warmth of the cab to the frigid air while you are shifting things around and getting ready for bed, but then once you were inside the canopy it was fine. Lots of frosty ice on the inside windows, but in my sleeping bag all was well. It stays a little warmer in the canopy. Maybe I’m a wuss, but I didn’t want to spend an extended period of time dirtbagging it in my truck while I was ice climbing (I spent the first two months in Ouray, CO, sharing a rental), I just thought it would be too challenging/miserable to dry and manage gear in a confined space with the shorter daylight hours. I’d be perfectly content doing future weekend trips with this setup though!
​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.

At a certain point, you may decide that it is time to move on from your business. Whether you’re winding down a business that just didn’t work out, retiring (and maybe opening that beach bar in Belize), or cashing in on the effort you’ve put into creating a lucrative enterprise, you will hopefully have established your end goal well in advance so that the time to strategically exit will be clear.
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.
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.
Ultimate Small Shop is a complete guide to setting up your own workshop, from the planning phase to optimizing it for business. You’ll learn how to put together a complete and functional workshop for less than you expect. Ralph aims to get your shop set up for less than $1,000. Ultimate small Shop includes suggestions on where you can get the tools and equipment needed at the most affordable prices and how to optimize space to get the most out of the little room you have.
If you have a broker that’s too successful you may be a low priority. If you choose a broker that’s inexperienced but attentive, you may end up paying for their novice mistakes. My advice is to not choose a broker but instead choose a team. Pick a junior/senior combo so that when you’re hunting for space you work more with the junior, and when it comes to negotiating the deal you have the experienced veteran leading the negotiation.”
I used to coat my metal table saw and planer bed with auto wax because it makes the wood slide nicely across the metal. But then I saw an expert cabinetmaker use wax paper, and now I do the same. I keep a roll in my shop drawer and rub a sheet of it over the metal beds on my table saw, router, planer and disc sander. The wax coating doesn’t last as long as a good paste wax, but boy, is it a lot easier and quicker. — R.J. Hayes. Plus: 22 clever new uses for your tools.
While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!
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.
I have been working on building out the space, starting with a new welding table and small material/saw rack. I was able to dedicate a 20' x 28' area to fabrication. I need to figure out some things like angle grinder storage, fume exhaust hood and cold saw set up, but I will get there. Power is one nice thing with a 400A 208VAC 3ph supply panel. Also got the compressor in a sound dampened closet with cooling so the noise level is down significantly. Oh ya, dedicated 15 ton AC for the shop has been nice.

I spent a full week grading, compacting the soil and leveling each block before laying the floor joist.  The last thing you want is to finish your new workshop and have a corner start sinking into the ground.  My floor inside my shop is perfectly level still with a 6 foot level.  You can see that I had a drop of about 12 inches on the low side.  During heavy rainstorms, water can flow like a stream next to the fence.  I wanted to make sure my workshop was high enough off the ground to avoid any flooding issues.
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).

We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about. But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. You'll also need curtains to keep out the lights when you're trying to sleep. Making your own curtains can seem like a daunting task, but it's not all that hard. (I speak as someone who had to look up a tutorial to operate a sewing machine!)
I used to keep screws in a cof- fee can, but when I reached in with my hand, the screw points pricked my fingers. The can was also a dust and dirt depot. I bought a clear water bottle with a pop-up lid and poured screws into the bottle with a funnel. The screws stay clean, and I can shake them out of the bottle one at a time. — Bruce Burley. Hardware Storage: DIY Tips and Hints
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.
One of the most heavily used tools in your shop will be your table saw.  It is absolutely essential for ripping stock to size, working with composite material (like plywood and MDF), and venturing into the world of wood working jigs.  Budget is a limiting factor in a $500 build, but at $150 it is hard to pass up adding this Craftsman saw to your shop - even with limited funds.  
Thanks again for the inspiration. I've just finished putting the door on my 12x16 shop. Aside from shingles it is ready for the winter. I've yet to cut out the hatch for the lumber or start on the interior, but at least it's weather tight and I can work on the rest I the coming months. I am planning to use mineral wool bays for insulation to mitigate sound and ease installation. I don't see a way to add pictures to this reply (I'm on my phone), so I'll try to add one or two later.
Conversion vans have some pretty sweet built-in amenities, including high-tops for extra headroom. Many have comfy captain chairs, leather seats, mood lighting, TV/VCR, and a rear bench seat that folds down into a bed. If you’re not picky about your living situation, this could be all you need to get started. And if you gut it and customize it yourself, the high top offers tons of great storage options that other vans just don’t have.

Inventory management — especially when first starting a small business — at its most basic level consists of counting how many of a given product (let’s say apples) you have for sale in the morning, keeping track of that number, then reducing it by one each time an apple is sold. At the end of the sales day, you count the leftover apples and make sure the number of apples in your inventory system matches whatever you actually have in store. When you have an accurate apple count, you call your supplier and order as many as you need to make sure you have enough on hand for the next day.
Well this is the same unit I have used for years so the noise level will be what it has been. I never turn it on without ear protection. In the future, I plan on building a little closet around the cyclone to help mitigate the noise to some extent. As for cycling the motor, I read that too. But the way I work, I just can’t do that. I have to turn it on and off as needed but I do try to limit it as much as possible by doing all of my heavy milling at once.
I hope to build my own stand-alone dream shop sometime in 2015 – in the Texas Hill Country. I’ve not yet found the right lot, so much is yet unknown….but am thinking roughly 30′ x 40′ overall, with 10 or 12 foot ceiling. At one end, there will be a 10′ x 30′ space walled off into three spaces: a small finishing room, an office/design space, and a half bath.
Both of those broader lenses are still useful ways to look at app costs, but costs can additionally be broken down by app type and the features associated with them. Also, two years in technology is a very long time. So, we will start by looking at what's changed. We'll then move on to looking at app costs based on the different kinds of apps in the market.
Because workshops are rough and tumble places, the right fan for the job will have an industrial-strength motor and adjustable fan speeds. Easy-to-clean metal blades and a fully encased motor housing are also important features, especially if your shop tends to fill up with sawdust, wood chips and other fine debris. That extra layer of protection will help the fan motor last for years instead of being damaged by particulates.
The solution to potentially wedged boards on a jointer is to add a planer to the mix.  A planer has a flat surface with a cutting edge that is exactly 180 degrees to the surface.  This allows you to position the jointed edge flat on the planers surface and make a cut to the opposite side of the board that is perfectly square.  As an added bonus, the planer allows you incredible control over the thickness of the boards you're planing.  ​
I’m a 60 year young widow who just bought a bright yellow 2003 S10 step side with the intention of camping in it. But I discovered that finding a used S10 step side topper is harder than finding hen’s teeth!! Buying a new one wasn’t an option. Just found a black step side topper for a Ford Ranger. Isn’t a perfect fit but it works. And the colors compliment each other although color wasn’t my primary concern. I took two days to drive from the St. Louis area of MO to the Kansas City area to pick it up.
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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.

One thing I found while looking on the topper websites is a piece of weather strip designed to go between the tailgate and the truck bed. It has a special wedge shape to it so when you close the tailgate it makes a watertight seal. It is just the thing to keep the dust and dirt from entering the back of your rig when driving down the dirt roads. They’re inexpensive too, for a full size truck like my Dodge it’s only $25. It has adhesive on one side, so installation looks simple.

Thanks for leaving a comment, Rob! I didn’t find that it limited where I felt comfortable camping, but I always tried to be discreet… Waiting until few if any people were around before I hopped in and usually peeking through the windows so I’m not hopping out right next to someone loading their groceries or whatever. I slept in all sorts of random places in that time on the road, more often than not it was in permissible camping areas, but there were other times it was more frowned upon–from grocery store parking lots, to auto repair places, etc. Certainly is more likely to guess that someone is camping in it, but I only got hassled once (by a rent a cop telling me to move on).
The dream of a dedicated home shop is a common one among woodworkers. Whether you currently borrow shop space, work in your driveway or side yard, or compete for a corner of your basement with Christmas decorations or your fur­nace, you may be ready to build your own space that will allow you the free­dom of more room and time, and will also keep dust, fumes, and noise under control. Every design/build situation will be unique but there are a series of consid­erations that you will face in the design and construction phases of your project. Let’s walk through the process and dis­cuss the questions that you will need to ask yourself and others as you approach this project.
Whether it’s underwear in an apparel store or milk in a grocery store, the items customers need most usually are found near the back. Think about this next time you’re in a grocery store. As you walk to the back of the store to get milk, you funnel past coffee, cereal, and toilet paper. And the milk is right by the eggs and cheese. This is primary and secondary zone merchandising in action, and the reason people shopping for one item often leave with three or more.
If you want the ability to cook inside your van but don’t have a whole lot to spend, your best option is the Coleman Classic propane camping stove. For about $60 you get a sturdy and reliable 2-burner stove that runs off of replaceable 1-lb propane canisters. We’ve seen many people using these out on the road, and they do the job very well. Coleman has hardly changed the design of these stoves for decades, so you know they’re doing something right.
Thankfully, the tools we use continue to get better and more app specific. For example, Sketch lets us design more efficiently with its focus on creating user interfaces. Marvel helps us craft better prototypes with it being specifically for apps. Swift has been a revelation for the Apple ecosystem and has expanded developer interest considerably. Android Studio and now Kotlin are doing the same for Android apps. Firebase and yes, even Parse, now as Parse Server, helps developers build app-focused backends to bring apps to the market more quickly.
Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.
“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
This is where I started thinking about how I was going to store all of my lumber.  I had planned on building a wall rack, similar to what I had used in my single car garage.  But I hated using up an entire wall for lumber storage.  I also knew from experience that I would easily lay stuff against it and soon be digging lumber and junk out of my way.  I decided to use the space under my workbench to store the long boards and I realized that by pulling my bench out from the wall I could slide sheet goods behind it.  This created a problem:  How do I get it out.  The Shop isn't long enough to pull out 8 foot boards from inside and I would probably have to move things around to get to it anyway.  So my plan for this came at kind of a sudden epiphany moment, when I decided to cut access doors in the front and build my storage into my workbench area.  This has been the single best idea that has come out of my shop.  I can't express enough how easy it is for me to get straight to a board i need with no hassles.  I just remove the doors and pull out what I need.  I can store a surprising amount of lumber in this area.  I do have a secondary area for some cutoff sheet goods and a scrap bin next to my table saw in the garage.  But this area stores most of my lumber.

When starting your small business, the easiest way to go about choosing a business name is to approach the task the same way you approach building new relationships. Did we lose you for a second? Here’s what we mean. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone based on a first impression. There are endless relationships that instantly blossom or never get off the ground based off of this one simple fact. Most of us, even if it is on a subconscious level, understand this. Which is why when we meet someone that we are trying to impress, we make an attempt to adjust our appearance, body language, even the way we talk, to ensure we are putting our best foot forward.

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