Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
People tend to buy cargo vans for work and hold on to them for years, so many vans on the market can be pretty beat up. Although you can find inexpensive cargo vans in good condition, it can be tough to find anything with lower mileage - so be prepared for all that comes with owning a higher mileage vehicle. Cargo vans also don’t offer much headroom. There’s no way even shorter people will be able to stand in one, and the lack of headroom also cuts down on storage space.
From a legal perspective, this lack of uniqueness doesn’t need to be a major concern. According to the rules governing business incorporation in most states, if you find yourself opening with the exact same name as another business, you can keep it as long as “your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.”
Hey Ted! If you mean to ask whether you could sit up from one of the vertical sidebins and have enough headroom under the Leer 122, I think that would be a no. You’d have to build the sidebins to be a little shorter. At least with my truck, that would be the case. Perhaps with a full-size pickup you would have enough room thanks to the overall size increase of the canopy as well.
Let’s say you’re a Brooklyn-based hipster and you want to follow your lifelong dream of opening your very own artisanal, organic lemonade stand. You’re planning on stationing your retro lemonade stand along a busy road in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And maybe you want to hire a couple of college kids to collect the money and serve your customers, (probably while wearing some painfully cool 1970s punk band t-shirts). You’re only thinking about it semi-seriously. It might be something you’re going to do when you’re not focusing on your real career as an aspiring DJ.
Gone are the days when you could apply for a building permit based on a sketch on the back of a cigarette pack­age. In provinces like Ontario, design work must be undertaken by an insured designer registered under the provin­cial building code or by the owner of the property. You can do the drawings as the owner if you can demonstrate effec­tively through your drawings that your structure will comply with the techni­cal requirements of the building code in a clear and concise way. You will be required to submit detailed drawings, including the following:
Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!
I have different toolboxes for different jobs around the house. Occasionally I’d grab a tool out of one box and then put it away in another. Eventually all my flat-head screwdrivers would end up in one toolbox. To solve the problem, I now mark the handles of the tools and the corresponding toolbox with a band of colored electrical tape. Now all the tools are in the box where they belong. — Kim Litkenhaus Marino
A lot has changed in recent years. Sophisticated, yet affordable technology now exists that can help track customer relationships from an ad placed on Google, right through to a successful sale. This offers small business owners a unique chance to be entirely data-driven in their marketing approach. Every single aspect of your small business can be tweaked and optimized to ensure that you are enticing customers, up selling where possible, and encouraging people to spread the word about your business.
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.
We don't have a Dometic CFX-50 in our van, but we wish we had gotten one for our build. This is a great little fridge that many vanlifers happily own. It’s rugged and durable, and it keeps your food cold for less money than many of the other fridges out there. It also has a nifty side-open lid, which makes it a lot easier to open with a lower clearance.
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.
First, let's dump that hand powered saw/miter box.  It gets the job done, but it takes forever.  We're still on a lean budget, but shelling out ~$110 for a 10 inch electric miter saw makes a lot of sense.  This won't be your forever saw, but it should do fine for most projects.  It can handle up to a 4x6 stock which will cover 99% of what a beginning wood worker will throw at it.  
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.

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.

Spacious pathways are a key aspect of good store planning. In fact, it tops the list of retail experts’ store design tips. Heshy Lovi, Sales and Marketing Director for M Fried Fixtures, recommends aisle widths of four feet or more. This, he says, ensures your aisles and pathways will be comfortable for all customers, including those using strollers or wheelchairs.


When I built my shop I opted to buy a much higher quality miter saw and table saw than I truly needed at the time.  It ate up a ton of my budget and forced me to put off adding the tools that would allow me to buy cheaper stock for 2-3 years.  During that time my savings buying rough cut lumber would have probably paid for the upgraded equipment I started out with.  
Every aspect of your store should flow from a clear statement of who you are and what you stand for as a business. From the sign hanging proudly outside your store window, to the color of the wallpaper in the in-store restroom, every detail should contribute to conveying your unique purpose and brand to the world. This consistency should also be applied to all your online assets, for example, your website design.

The ARB fridge 50-Qt Fridge is the best of the best. ARB is an Australian 4x4 accessories company, and all of their products are built to withstand just about anything. The ARB fridge is extremely rugged, and features powder-coated zinc steel construction for the ultimate in durability. It can take a beating, and works just fine on inclines up to 30°.
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.
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.
WOW that is a nice size shop! I am looking forward to more videos on the shop projects! We have been shopping for a house for over a year & have finally found one but it has nothing for me to use as my woodshop! I currently have a basement shop that’s 24×40 & it’s really huge for me I couldn’t imagine any bigger. Anyway I will be looking at building a new woodshop for myself (yes I am a female woodworker) & you have given me lots of great ideas so far. I am an Artist & wood is my preference, everything I make is quite small (no furniture or anything that big) but I have lots of specialty tools for what I do as well! Thank you for sharing your ideas & all that you do. Keep up the great work!
First, decide what your budget is and start searching right away! Even if you're not able to purchase a van right now, knowing the market and how quickly things sell is helpful. Get an idea of makes and models you like, and you'll also start to understand what is a good price for a van in your area. Each country, region and city is a bit different.

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.
Thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like you haven't had any big problems with the moisture. I'm in NoVA too, so that bodes well for me. I was considering finding some tyvek house wrap or something to go around the walls in addition to a plastic vapor barrier under the floor, but it sounds like that is not going to be necessary. I was also thinking I'd try to find a window AC unit to use like you did. I like how you mounted yours up high.
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.
Tight control of inventory, while not a particularly glamorous part of owning a small business, is therefore one of the most important ways you can impact profitability. The good news now is that there is an array of technology available that can make this whole process much smoother, including sophisticated forecasting tools that will help you predict your required inventory levels for each day based on past sales, weather records, and many other factors.
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide wage replacement and medical and death benefits to employees who are injured or worse on the job. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gives up his or her rights to sue for liability leading to the accident. Your premium will reflect the type of business you operate and the average salary of your employees. Much like auto insurance, business owners who are new to starting a small business or those with less experience tend to pay higher premiums.
If you’re starting a small business for the first time, your new best friends in life should be your bookkeeper and your accountant. The former should be engaged for a few hours every week (especially at the start of your business) to compile your books and ensure your records are maintained to the required standard, while the latter will help review your tax situation and prepare financial statements. Both can also be used as invaluable sources of actionable intelligence about ways to reduce costs, increase margins, and generally streamline your finances.You’ll be able to spend all that time you save doing what you love and thinking strategically about your business.
If you are going to apply for a trademark, make sure to conduct a comprehensive search, like the one mentioned in ‘Securing Your Business Name’ to ensure no one is already using your proposed name in a similar capacity. The United States Patent and Trademark Office also provide a simple search tool that will quickly let you know if you’re potentially infringing on someone else’s turf from a legal point of view.

I added an accessory mitre gauge to the saw for accurate cut-off work. The Incra Miter1000 showed up under the Christmas tree after the Lee Valley flyer photo with part number mysteri­ously ended up on the fridge door with a circle around it last December. A great addition, the Incra is light, accurate, and provides adjustable stops for cutting multiple parts to precise length. I will also make a plywood cut-off sled for the saw for squaring larger panels.
There are certain areas that are the responsibility of the federal government, such as firearms, fish, and wildlife. For more on these federal requirements, enforced by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can explore the information here on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
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.
4. Avoid a cluttered look. Owen managed to add more merchandise but avoid a cluttered look by using neutral colors, such as ivory and gray for furniture and larger items. She then accented the space with smaller brightly colored items like vases and pillows. She also makes sure not to crowd her merchandise too closely together. "We try to make it look elegant and give it some space," she says.
It can become very difficult and time-consuming to constantly track the amount and purchase price of all your inventory, but it is hugely important to your bottom line. Every time you catch yourself saying, “Sorry, we don’t have that in right now,” you are leading your business in a very unhealthy direction. Not only does being out of something represent a lost sale opportunity, but in a world where consumers place a huge premium on their time, it could mean that you lose that customer forever while hurting your brand reputation in the process.
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 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.
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.
I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.
After years of digging through piles of stuff on my workbench for the air compressor accessory I needed, I had this idea. I simply drilled 7/16- in. holes on the underside of my workbench top and threaded in a few 1/4-in. NPT male couplings with quick-connect couplers. A wrench and some upward pressure are all it took to screw the couplings into the wood. Now I just snap my accessories onto the couplers when I’m not using them. — Donnie Dressler. These are the best tools for automotive work.
According to a recent digital marketing survey conducted by Clutch, 74%of small businesses surveyed had a company website. Of the businesses that said they do not have a website, 9% said they planned to build a website in the future, while 10% said that that they are unlikely to build one. One thing is clear, small business owners are starting to join the digital revolution and are reaping the rewards in terms of increased customer loyalty, growing word-of-mouth, and most importantly, increased sales.
Overall I am very happy with the final results and I can’t wait to get back to making sawdust. The first project to be completed in the new shop is going to be a Queen Size Platform Bed for one of my favorite clients. I mentioned in a previous post that one of my goals this year was to get back into doing client work and this is me making good on that promise. I can’t wait to get started!

A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.


Make sure to utilize the tax-specific resources provided by the SBA and the IRS to fully research your federal and state tax obligations. These include, but are not always limited to: corporate income tax, employer tax and excise taxes. For most small businesses, the right first step is applying for an Employee Identification Number, which you can do using this IRS EIN online application. Depending on your state, you might also need to register for a sales tax license.
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.”

In each case, we shuffled the bench, jointer, table saw, and band saw across to the top of the stairs, and then tied a rope around each to act as a safety while sliding the machines down the strapping on the stairs. Yeah, the table saw hit the wall, and the promise of a good mud and paint job saved my bacon. The rope worked well, and we were able to get everything down the stairs nice and slowly with­out any major issues.
A grid floor plan, also called a straight layout, is a very efficient use of both floor and wall space. With fixtures and displays running parallel to walls, a grid floor plan maximizes every inch of available floor space, including the corners. Grid layouts are easy for customers to navigate and for store owners to categorize. Plus, they offer plenty of end cap and feature wall exposure for promotional items and seasonal products.
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.
There are some variances in the features and reliability of different model years, and differences between the Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Promaster - so make sure to do your research. The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook is an incredible resource on all things Sprinter (and van conversions in general), and it goes over all the options in detail.
When we published our massive review on how much an app costs back in 2015, we had no idea it would become the top resource on the web. Two years later, that piece is still considered the definitive resource for app development costs in our industry. It’s because of its popularity that I feel compelled to revisit this subject. Additionally, doing so will allow for some fresh perspectives based on what's changed in the app industry as well as another way to look at the topic.
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

High-velocity fans are also an important tool in their own right, particularly at your finishing station. Increased air flow will help dissipate fumes from paints and sprays for your safety, and you can train a fan on your project to help paint dry more quickly between coats on humid days. To get the most out of your fan, look for floor fans that are easy to aim or wall-mounted fans that will save space in smaller shops.
I think it would work pretty well for a music festival, I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t say it is robbery proof, but generally robbers are looking for quick and easy targets, like a purse sitting on the front seat, just smash and grab. If someone really wanted to rob what was under they platform, they surely could, but they’d need more tools and more time to do so. And they don’t even know if there is anything good under there… I’d like to think of it as a really good robbery deterrent.
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. 
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:

Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!
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