So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.
Many DIY campervans have kitchen units that are directly behind the cab, sealing it off from the rest of the van. These layouts offer increased privacy and stealthiness, especially if you completely wall off the cab, and open up some space in the back of the van. This layout can be paired with a lengthwise bed, fixed bed, or convertible dinette bed. You can also place your propane and water connections right by the door, making refill easier.
Above all, remember that all of these elements can form part of your negotiation. Unless you are pursuing a highly desired space in a hot rental market, there is usually a point of leverage available to you in every lease negotiation. When it comes to getting the best possible deal in these situations, you’ll want to seek quality professional advice, this will normally include a broker and real estate lawyer.
Yeah, ventilation can definitely be a problem… I’ve just got one window with a screen on it if bugs are an issue–though I haven’t camped in too many areas where they are truly horrendous. Normally I just sleep with the windows/door open to let airflow. I’ve seen some more industrious folks even put in the rooftop fans on their truck camping rigs. Pretty elaborate and beyond my pay grade, but worth searching expedition portal. I like the mesh fly idea if I happen to travel to buggy areas again. Cheers!
Do you want to create the next great retail dynasty? Do you want to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? Or are you just looking for a simple local lifestyle business? Are you hoping to create a franchise model? Or do you see your local business as a testing ground for an ecommerce business? Your end goal will clearly inform your decisions, so it’s worth considering what it is early on.

For example, on your dual battery, the farm just purchased a brand new 2013 Chevy 3500HD with a dump bed. It has dual batteries. How was it installed? They grounded both batteries to the frame and connected the positives with a very large fuse. ~15k later its still working. While its not recommended to do it this way, I think it would work fine in your case. Add the marine battery somewhere in your shell and run a heavy positive from the original battery. Put a large fuse in it(I’d research to see the number, I can’t remember off the top of my head) and your isolator switch inline (probably 2nd battery side of the fuse).
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.

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It all depends on what you care about most. Putting your kitchen by the side door could simplify refilling your water and propane tanks. Putting it behind the driver’s seat creates a nice, open feel in your van. Right behind the cab makes your van more private, while all the way in the back is a different twist on most van layouts out there. Some vanlifers even have kitchens that pull out of the trunk on drawers for cooking outside.
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.
We have LED puck lights in our van. Puck lights are typically recessed into the ceiling, so they have a very clean look that’s really integrated with your van. It’s also easy to create different lighting zones by running your lights off different switches. We have six puck lights in the main living area that are controlled by one switch, and two more over the bed that run off a separate switch.
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.
Use this model whether you’re looking to turn your team of one into a two-person shop or you’re hoping to build out your marketing department to a team of 10 or more.  By focusing on the skill sets your business needs to be successful — rather than on the resume of an individual candidate — you’ll ensure vital functions are covered while expanding in a sustainable way.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.
Back in the 1970s and treeplanting in Oregon, I and Tony Lessa lived for two weeks at a time in the back of my 1954 Chevy PU. The canopy was just a simple shell with the board across next to the cab. After the fourth or fifth trip out in the season the accumulated funk was too much. You can imagine two hard-working guys in very muddy and cold conditions coming in after work with dirty wet gear. Pretty desperate circumstances but before Reagan trashed the treeplanting industry our coop ( Hoedads & then Second Growth) was making good money so we endured the hardships. It works for the young. Now, at 76, I find sleeping two of us between the wheel wells in a Dodge G. Caravan (seats removed) much too crowded. I think I will tent and the wife can have the van.
Composting Toilet: Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet. Much more expensive but also more pleasant and environmentally-friendly. Just drop your load and add some peat moss/sawdust, and your toilet will naturally break down your poop into compost. If the Nature’s Head toilet is out of your price range, you can also try making your own composting toilet.

Once you’ve considered the questions in the previous paragraph, start thinking about how your products/services stack up against the local competition. Because unless you are offering something ground-breaking and innovative, chances are that your potential customers are currently having their needs met by another business. That means it’s going to be your job to convince them that Blue Sheep Bakery is a better option than Bob’s Bake Shop. If your first thought was to compete on price, sorry to break it to you but, that’s not going to cut it. There is more to starting a successful small business than matching the price to the guy down the street.
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:

Leslie recommends that retailers provide some type of seating for both customers and anyone who is accompanying them. Shoppers do get tired and so do their friends and relatives who are along for the ride. Why not offer them a chair? Seating can be as simple as stools near the checkout or a lounge area near the dressing rooms, like this fun setup below:
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?
Hey Brett! Awesome to hear that your own plans are coming together. I can’t really recall seeing any dirtbags rolling around in a Pruis… I wouldn’t imagine it to be the ideal vehicle for transporting gear and living out of, but the gas savings would really add up over 6-7 months on the road. In general, I’m in favor of going with what you’ve got and finding creative ways to make it work. Maybe you can add a rooftop box? On some vehicles, people even remove the passenger seat(s) for extra storage space. The biggest problem with the Prius that I see would be finding a place to sleep while you are on the road… But I guess that’s where your gas savings and cheap hotel would come in. I know Gina Begin has been living in her little car for a long while now, check out her stuff, and maybe reach out to her. She’s a veteran at dirtbaggin’ it in a car: http://www.ginabegin.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-guide-to-living-on-road-15.html
Store design experts advise small retailers to keep versatility in mind when choosing product displays. Your stock will likely change over the years. If you install permanent, unmovable displays, you will likely regret it later. Adjustable display options such as slatwall, gridwall, apparel racks, and shelving tend to be good choices for small retailers.

In our Complete Coffee Shop Startups Kit, we spend a good amount of time discussing your health department requisites, your coffee equipment, and even the design of your coffee shop. Since this makes up a significant bulk of your startup costs (equipment, space requirements, etc.), we recommend that you spend an extra couple of hours strengthening your knowledge base with listening to our audio interviews.
The small apparel boutique pictured above really nails these traffic flow details! A roomy entrance offers clear sight and travel lines to eye-catching power walls on the right, and an inviting seating area towards the back. These lure customers into the store with the promise of treasures and comfort within. The shop even has a left-side checkout midway back. Someone really did their customer behavior homework on this retail store layout.
It almost goes without saying that everything about your shop's design should project the right answers to each of these questions. But in today’s market, you have to go one step further. In our digitally connected world consumers have seen it all. The true art of compelling store design is in telling a story about your business, while simultaneously anticipating the needs of your customers. It’s all about the surprise and the delight.

If you’ve spent time at your local flea or farmers’ market over the last few years, you may have noticed the explosion that has taken place in the number of innovative small business concepts. From cool new clothing lines to ingenious fusion foods, the sheer diversity of the ideas on display really hammers home one of the key lessons when starting a small business: You need to find your key differentiator. For some this is their brand story, for others it’s the value of their service, but for many quick service restaurants and small retailers, it’s a distinctive core product line that demands the attention and interest of your customers.
Power walls are your go-to spot for hot finds, new items, and seasonal features that attract instant attention and pull customers through the entry area and into your store. These areas are likely going to change frequently and you need to plan for it. Outfit these spaces with versatile displays that can be easily changed to showcase various product groupings.

The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.


Once again I would like to Thank You for letting so many of us see what is going on in your world. It is very educational and entertaining to see what has happened in the past few months of your dream shop build. As I was watching the video I periodically looked out my window to see the snow falling steadily and building up along the windowsill. Every now and then I imagined I was in your sunny backyard admiring your Shop. I am looking forward to seeing what you will create in your New Space. Keep up the Good work and Congratulations on your Dream Shop.
Couldn’t disagree more. Still got the same setup a few years in. As mentioned the sag is minimal (not non-existent), I place a small removable 2×2 near the tailgate so I can hop up top. You’re not building a home up to code, you’re building a practical truck camping solution, and in my extensive experience it is more than fine. You can do thicker plywood, but realize that it will be much heavier and more cumbersome to move.
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.
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:
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.
Depending on your situation, you may need to upgrade to 200 amp electrical service in order to meet the needs of your house and your shop. It may also be in your interests to add in a separate electrical service meter on your shop so that you can clearly write off electrical use for your business, or in future rent the space out and clearly separate out the utilities for bill­ing your tenant. Generally, you don’t want to skimp on the power to your shop or on the lighting you include.
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.  ​
In addition to sheer power, look for a model with a built-in thermostat so you can set it and forget it. This convenience feature is well worth it so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing mid-project to manually turn your heater on and off to maintain your desired temp. A good garage heater will mount to the wall or ceiling to save space and will come with a durable housing and full safety screen to keep dust and wood chips from reaching the heating elements and starting a fire.
I think the music comment was about speakers for playing music. I put a few 8″ in ceiling speakers in from MonoPrice.com ($60 / pair I think) and love them. A space that big would probably need at least 3 pairs. You’re not throwing a rock concert with them, but they provide very decent background music for not much cash. The speaker wire from MonoPrice is dirt cheap too. Just add a cheap receiver to drive them. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend that cash at the moment. But it’s a good starting point for the future.
While we were painting all of the walls in our workshop our plumber dropped by to hook up an old laundry tub sink that we’ve had for several years. Now, he hooked up to the cold water line on an outside water faucet, so we’ll only have cold water but still this will be really convenient to have this right here in this shop. Well we’re about to set our last base cabinet, and once they secure that well to the wall we can start on all of our countertops.
My husband is always hounding me about wearing eye protection whenever I use power tools. (Admittedly, I could be more diligent about it.) So, he recently glued some small magnets to several pairs of safety glasses and stuck them on all the power tools in our garage that have metal housings. Now it’s fast and easy for me to grab the glasses when I need them, and I’m reminded that my husband loves me. — Lisa Yanda. Here’s the other must have safety gear every DIYer should own.
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.
Hey Anthony, I guess the big question is what part of the country you’ll be sleeping in and what sort of weather you can expect… I would imagine when conditions are fine that a warm sleeping bag would be more than enough (I used to do that before I had a canopy). You’ll just have to worry about rain (snow?) and other inclement weather, but otherwise I don’t know why not. A cheap bivy sack from an army surplus store might be a good addition as well.
I bought an energy-saving outlet strip for my TV and its components. One outlet controls several other outlets on the strip, so when I turn off my TV, the adjacent controlled outlets for my VCR, DVD player and receiver sense that no current is going to the TV anymore, and those outlets shut off. Then I decided to try it out in the shop. I use it with my router table, disc sander and orbital sanders, so when I flip one of them on, my shop vacuum also starts up to take care of dust collection. It also has two outlets that are independent for other accessories you’d like on all the time. You can buy the outlet strips at amazon.com. One choice is the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet (about $30). — D. Linley. Plus: 30 more smart tips for working in your home shop.

A large table saw just isn't a feasible fit in most small shops. But you should be able to get away with at least a portable table saw. Never mind veteran woodworkers who might look down on these compact tools–they're well-suited for many of the smaller ripping and crosscutting operations you'll need to perform. Some of the more compact table saws, such as this 10-inch Skilsaw, are small enough to be stored in a closet or under a table.


I’ll throw this suggestion out to you too – while a warm sleeping bag would be a good start, maybe a couple sheets of plywood to put over the truck bed with a tarp over that would provide you some extra protection from rain/snow and also trap in some body heat. You wouldn’t have to make them permanent and could just slide the wood into the bed when not sleeping under it. A cheap bivy as Ryan suggested would also be a good consideration and a quality sleeping pad to provide some warm rating and comfort from the truck bed.

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!
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…
I framed and sheathed each wall individually and then stood them up with the help of long 2x4 braces.  My neighbor let me borrow his framing nailer, which made things go much faster.  I added a second cap of 2x4 on the top to make the walls a little more rigid.  I then laminated 4 2x4's to construct a ridgeboard.  I nailed in some temporary 2x4 supports and had a friend help lift it into final position.  Once all of the rafters are cut and nailed into place, the supports were removed.
One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strap­ping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.

To get the most out of your router, you are going to want a router table.  You may find yourself asking if you really need one - if you do, check this post out.​  It's one of those purchases that you won't truly understand how valuable it is until you have one.  Given the budget of $2,500, I'd suggest looking at the Bosch RA1171 ($150).  If you want to see our favorite tables along with write-ups, check them out here.
I think the music comment was about speakers for playing music. I put a few 8″ in ceiling speakers in from MonoPrice.com ($60 / pair I think) and love them. A space that big would probably need at least 3 pairs. You’re not throwing a rock concert with them, but they provide very decent background music for not much cash. The speaker wire from MonoPrice is dirt cheap too. Just add a cheap receiver to drive them. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend that cash at the moment. But it’s a good starting point for the future.
Instead of permanently mounting my 6-in. vise to a work-bench, I attached it to scrap plywood so I can clamp it wherever I need it. Stack two pieces of 3/4-in. plywood and screw them together with 1-1/4 in. drywall screws. Mark the vise-mounting holes on the plywood and drill 3/4-in. guide holes through both pieces. Recess the nut by drilling through the bottom sheet with a 1-in. spade bit using the 3/4-in. hole as a guide. Fasten the vise to the plywood with bolts sized to match the vise-mounting holes. If the bolt shafts are too long, cut them off with a hacksaw. — LuAnn Aiu. Plus: Learn how to use vise grips to pull nails.
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
Tip: Save money on specialty displays! Many manufacturers offer retailers low-cost or free specialty display fixtures designed to highlight their branded lines, like the one pictured below. These make great speed bump or outpost display units on a tight budget. Your product line reps can tell you if they’re available, plus provide merchandising and display advice.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 

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.

At the very least get the basics of shop design right with great lighting, clean displays, and a well thought out layout. Once you have all of this pulled together you can add a dose of your own personality to the store's design to break through the noise and establish a connection with your target customers. The goal is to be memorable and maximize sales per square foot at the same time!
What we're trying to do in providing these ongoing app cost resources is to frame the conversation for you. As noted earlier in this article, we're not suggesting that any of these different app types can't be lower than the lowest range shown or higher than the highest one. We are, however, trying to give you a sense for what a quality app built by seasoned professionals would look like.
A table saw is one of the most important tools in the workshop for its ability to make long straight cuts. It will also cross cut with ease and if you don’t want to cut clean through a board you can adjust the height of the blade to make a dado or rabbet. A handy feature with the BTS10ST table saw is the vertical stand which also saves on storage space.
So far it has worked out. It's probably not ideal. I imagine a system would work much better, but it gets the job done until then. I ended up setting up in my small 1 car garage as well now. I used two shopvacs to build a system in there. I have a few new Instructables to put together and a new shop tour to do as well. Thanks for the comment! FYI: The wood storage has passed the time test. I have not had to change a thing about it. I plan on adding a shelf above the sheet goods to store thin moldings and cut-offs. I still find it incredibly easy to access my wood quickly with that setup. I have to move stuff around in the garage to get to my wall mounted wood storage, so it's more of a pain.
Firstly, more and more consumers are rebelling against the generic offerings of big-box retailers and seeking out the unique, personal touch offered by small, local business. You can leverage this message by weaving yourself into the fabric of your community. Canadian yoga apparel retailer Lululemon has enjoyed explosive growth thanks to their ability to do just this. According to their website, “A Lululemon store is so much more than a place to shop. It’s an education centre, a yoga studio and a meeting place. It’s a local hub for educators, ambassadors and guests to gather to learn, sweat and connect. It’s our lifeline to our communities and the soul of our company.” Lululemon uses free events to make people feel that they have a sense of ownership over the brand, and you can too! Getting people through your door is 90% of the battle and event marketing definitely can bring in crowds.
To mark your cut for the bottom angle on the speaker stand legs, lay the board assembly on the plywood template again, and use the plywood edge to scribe the non-angled end of the board assembly. Be sure to consider which wood species (light or dark) you want on the inside and outside of your finished speaker stand legs, and keep that in mind when making your angle cuts. 
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