While a single great product can’t usually support a whole business, it is beneficial to select one or two “headline” products that will form the cornerstone of your offering. This will often be an obvious choice: If you’re a coffee shop, your headline product will be coffee. If you’re a burger joint, you guessed it, it’ll be burgers. This product will often be the centerpiece of your marketing efforts and a way for you to “own” a space in a customer’s mind. For example, Jack’s Burgers makes the best cheeseburger in town and Daisy’s Threads has the most adorable scarves.
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.
When you are looking for small business funding options, be it from the local bank, an angel investor, or even a family member, the first thing you will be asked to present after your business plan will be any existing financial records. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward by keeping meticulous records, with your business finances completely separate from your personal finances.
Like most things in life, we believe that entrepreneurship can be learned, you just have to be willing to put one foot in front of the other. Aftering reading How to Start a Small Business 101, you’ll be equipped with the essential tools and resources you need to succeed at planning, raising capital, and executing crucial day-to-day business operations.
Concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but over time they stain and you’ll end up tracking a lot of dust and dirt into your home. An epoxy floor finish is easier to clean and can also provide extra grip. For a softer surface that will help your joints when standing a long time, check out those restaurant grade rubber floor mats or some durable options that include garage floor tile.
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.
Before you buy a single tool, you need to take a hard look at your workshop space. If your workshop is a freestanding building or empty barn, you can simply measure the perimeter and know that you have the entire square footage at your disposal including the wall space. If your workshop is tucked into the back of a garage or a corner of partially finished basement, you’ll need to plan your furnishings with cars and water heaters in mind.
Whether you build or buy your workbench, it must be designed and constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through. The base and legs should be sturdy and the table should not easily be knocked over. The top should be durable and not easily dinged or dented. Make sure your workbench is made of a material appropriate for your types of projects, too.
In the summer months, your windows will be one of the primary ways that heat gets into your van. Because of its reflectivity, Reflectix works great as a window covering to reflect radiant heat away from your windows. And, if you’re concerned about height in your van, layering Reflectix under your subfloor is a good way to add a little insulation (R-1.1) without sacrificing headroom.
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.
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.
Ok, the leap from $1,000 to $2,500 is a big one.  I certainly didn't make it at one time.  It took me years.  But I know folks that decided they wanted to get into woodworking and dropped at least $2,500 getting themselves outfitted.  When you do make the jump, the thought process becomes much less about making sure you can get the job done and becomes more about having quality tools to get the job done.
In the summer months, your windows will be one of the primary ways that heat gets into your van. Because of its reflectivity, Reflectix works great as a window covering to reflect radiant heat away from your windows. And, if you’re concerned about height in your van, layering Reflectix under your subfloor is a good way to add a little insulation (R-1.1) without sacrificing headroom.

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!
Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.
When you’re first starting out, it can be hard to imagine that there are entrepreneurs out there complaining of having grown too fast. But for some, it’s not a problem that’s welcome. For every Ben and Jerry’s, (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield turned a rundown Burlington, VT gas station into an ice cream empire), there’s a Zynga or a Living Social that has enjoyed incredibly fast-paced growth, let their operating costs get out of hand, and then had to engage in mass layoffs when reality hit. If you’re enjoying fast-paced growth, make sure that this is reflected in your operating margins, not just the metric of revenue. You don’t want to be the butt of the old retail joke: “We’re losing a buck on every sale, but we sure are making it up on volume!”
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.
Solar Shower. For easy, inexpensive showering in wilderness locations, nothing beats a good solar shower. This is basically a bag of water that you leave out in the sun until it heats up, then hang it from a high place and shower using the attached nozzle. 5-gallon solar showers should get you about 5 minutes of good water flow. There are also pricier but more convenient pump-operated solar showers that you can buy.
Then there are material considerations, such as how to bring full-size sheets of plywood home to cut down to size (you don't). And safety and cleanup are two more concerns: Proper ventilation and dust collection, a cinch in a larger shop, can be quite a challenge (and a potential health hazard). Nevertheless, you can set up a great wood shop in a small space, and we'll show you what you need.

The standard option for a shop floor is a concrete slab. You’re probably not going to go to the trouble of creating a basement beneath your shop, although it is possible. The weight of most woodworking machines suggests that a con­crete floor is the most solid and durable substrate available. It has the potential to be used as thermal mass to store heat from your heating system or from the sun, but it can be tiring and hard on your body to be standing on concrete all the time. You can add a vapour barrier, 2x4 sleepers and a wooden floor above the concrete to ease the tendency of the floor to strain your feet and back, or you can add anti-fatigue mats in key areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods.

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.
One practical note: Lots of retailers and restaurateurs are now engaging in event marketing in their business locations. Lululemon does in-store yoga on Sunday mornings, Barnes and Noble hosts author readings, and your local Italian restaurant may offer cooking classes. Think about all the potential use cases for your store and ensure that it is fit for purpose.
Many small businesses in New York and New Jersey were forced to close following Superstorm Sandy because they lacked the insurance that would have gotten them back on their feet. That part is well known. What’s less well known is that this lack of proper insurance, coupled with the lack proper legal incorporation, resulted in many entrepreneurs seeing their personal assets come under threat.
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