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

Of course, if you’re going to build a sweet shop, you’re going to have to outfit it with an equally sweet bench. This afternoon I stumbled upon a UK bench-maker by the name of Richard Maguire. Built of kild-dried ash, Maguire’s benches are then finished with an oil and wax combination and feature twin screw vises which, while really interesting, might not be a perfect fit for everyone. While you can use these vises to apply more accurately distribute clamping pressure on different-sized stock, I could certainly see it becoming a wee bit of a pain when clamping stock that comes in contact with the entire length of the vise’s face. Having to equally screw in each side might frustrate some woodworkers. Still, these benches are a blast to look at. 

Enter the garage heater. These space heaters are specifically designed to warm up wide open areas and to function under much tougher circumstances than you’re likely to find in the average house. A well designed garage heater will offer at least 5,000 watts of heating power — enough to warm 750 square feet of space. A smaller heater might take off a bit of the chill, but to really warm your workshop — and keep it that way — you’ll need a heater of this size.
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.

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.
So you stayed up all night, thought long and hard, and decided you want to name your designer sunglass hut The Sunny Rabbit. We don’t blame you, it’s a pretty cool name. Most would tell you that the next and most logical next step is to register your business as a DBA or at the state level. But, we’re here to tell you that’s wrong! Here’s why. We just talked about how the right business name can make or break your brand identity and in today’s digitally connected world, securing your brand identity across the web is equally as important.
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. 
In every aspect when starting your small business you should be mindful of making careful, prudent decisions about the allocation of your potentially limited funds — tracking precisely the cost of goods sold (CoGS) against sales to ensure profitability. Every dollar spent is tracked and accounted for, either as an essential cost of doing business (rent, employees, etc.) or as a cost of inventory that will result directly in profit.
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!
Seems simple right? Well, yes and no. Inventory management can become very complicated once you factor in issues like product lifecycle (how quickly do the apples go bad?), variable amounts of raw goods in a single item (how many apples went into that apple turnover you sold?), delivery times (how quickly you can get new apples?), and variable wholesale apple costs (how much did you pay for that particular bunch of apples?).

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).
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.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing the right location when starting your small business. We’re sure you’ve heard the saying 1,000 times before, Location, Location, Location! Some of the world’s most well-financed franchises have this weaved into their business DNA. McDonald’s Ray Kroc is the perfect example. When asked about the business, this well-know American businessman and philanthropist once stated, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”
“Just past the Decompression Zone is where you place fixtures known as Speed Bumps. These merchandise displays work much the same way as speed bumps in parking lots work—they slow customers down. They also grab their attention and introduce them to the cool product for sale in your store. Be sure to rotate the product on your Speed Bumps at least once a week.”
There you have it! Now you have no excuses, you must start planning right away. Please remember this can take a lot of time and a lot of work, so be sure not to stare at your task list in its entirety too often. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed knowing all the things you must get accomplished. Just focus on the goal that is the most important and attack it, task by task. Need help organizing these goals? Check out my Goal Planning Worksheets here:
With all the time and effort you've put into properly merchandising your products, the last thing you want is for incoming customers to hurry past them — this ultimately limits the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks that force them to pause. These are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage or special/seasonal displays.

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.
Tim Inman: You don’t say where you will be located, but if you are anywhere that gets cold I definitely have a suggestion. I’ve built three shop buildings over my years. In each one, I’ve put down 2-inch closed cell foam board underneath six inches of concrete for the floor. I would never build a shop — or anything else, for that matter — without this. The foam lets the concrete become a huge heat sink and warming stone. My feet are never ever cold when I work on this combination. The shop stays reasonably warm without spikes in the heat and cooling. The tools are more rust-free, and I like it.
My enthusiasm was kindled and I made friends with Surrey Timbers for more 'exotic' wood. My next purchases were a Drill Press and a Scroll Saw from Axminster Tools and I set to work. An excellent piece of Yew followed by some Thermal Ash has so far produced 4 cribbage boards. I then obtained a Palm Router which, after some practice, I find better for the more intricate work.
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
My contention has always been that you can build a serviceable shop in your home, develop your hand skills, and make fine furniture. In the past year, I had an opportunity to build a shop from the ground up after moving to a new home. I found a house with an unfinished basement, and set to work. In this article, I will discuss everything from layout, to electrical, to equipment selection. I intend to name names with respect to equipment, so that readers will know what I chose. Everyone’s budget will be different, but I think almost everyone will be able to treat this as a starting point, and adjust accordingly, depending on their own budget.
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.
Make sure the room or building you are planning to utilize has sufficient lighting and electrical outlets to allow you to see what you are doing, and to work without excessive extension cords. You should also remember that many tools require a fairly substantial amperage to operate, so you need to make sure the wiring is capable of handling the loads. 20 Amp circuits will work for ordinary 120V tools, but air compressors and welders may require 40 Amp, 220V circuits.
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.
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. 
The number of windows, as well as their sizing and placement, depends on your orientation, view, desire for ventilation, and needs for daylight and solar gain. Orienting more of your windows towards the south side of your shop and placing them high enough that they are shaded by the eaves in summer, but allow lower-angle winter light to come in, will increase your ability to get free light and heat from the sun. If your goal is to take advantage of passive solar opportunities, make sure that you carefully research the type of glass that is in your windows and look for something with a high solar heat gain coefficient. Higher windows generally allow for benches and tools beneath them, and relatively win­dowless north walls may be a place to arrange wood storage or mechanicals.
Excessive growth is of course, a good problem to have. However, after stabilizing from the startup process, small businesses more commonly grow steadily before approaching a plateau. This is completely normal and it is often at this point that you’ll need to go back to your business plan and carry out what is known as a SWOT analysis. This includes an analysis of a company’s current finances, the competition, and SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Renovation of your product line, rebranding, and seeking investment for expansion are all potential results of this SWOT analysis. Once again, the key here is being data-driven and always staying hungry. The successful small business owner is always looking for the incremental improvements in their business that when added up, make all the difference.
I would definitely stick with the vapor barrier under the floor to avoid moisture from breaking up the OSB. try to build the base high enough to keep it dry and allow airflow to dry it out under there. FYI I recently repaired a neighbor's shed roof that must have been partially repaired before with plywood. The OSB was fine under the shingles, but the plywood was wrecked due to moisture. I would stick with OSB. Since you live here in NOVA, details will be a little more helpful to you. I really can't use the shed in the summer without the AC on. It gets direct sun and gets up to the 90's in there with out any air movement. I am planning on eventually lining the inside of the ceiling with that thin reflective insulation to bounce back some of the heat.
When leasing a retail space, there is always risks involved. Your goal should be to minimize these as much as possible by considering every angle and asking the right questions. For example, does the landlord intend on erecting scaffolding on the building at any point during the lease? If so, can the rent be reduced to reflect this situation? You will also want to ask to have a clause included allowing you to sublet if necessary, which can be important if you ever find yourself struggling to make payments.
As always, great article! While my dirtbag adventure will likely only be about 6-7 months, I am starting to wonder about logistics. You mention that most people use the automobile they have. I drive a Prius. Not ideal for sleeping in, but I’m a pretty content ground dweller. I know that long-term I may start to question this. Here’s the proposition I’m considering: by saving on gas (45-50 mpg), I can occasionally cough up the money for lodging when I feel the need for added comfort. I can definitely do the number crunching, but I’m wondering if you’ve encountered people doing this or did similar analyses of your own at any point. I’d love to hear any insights you may have on this.
Many small business owners start on a shoestring budget, intertwining their personal and business finances, supporting the business with their personal credit cards, accepting payments into their personal checking account, and even submitting tax returns that mix up personal and business finances. While this is common, it can create tax headaches, make bookkeeping more time consuming, and, most importantly, can also interfere with the proper evaluation of your business.

For many new small business owners, the additional expense and bureaucratic hoopla involved in obtaining the correct paperwork often leaves them dragging their heels. This attitude, however, can result in stiff financial penalties, or worse, having your permission to do business revoked. Before we jump into the why and how of obtaining your business permit or license, it’s important for you to understand the difference.
In an indoor or basement shop with industrial carpeting, lay down inexpensive laminate flooring to make your life a bit easier at the end of the day. Be sure to anchor the panels or place a large rubber mat beneath to keep them from sliding over the carpet. (Covering up your carpet is even more critical if you want to go beyond wood and work with a material such as aluminum in your indoor shop; metal shavings dig into any kind of carpeting and are incredibly frustrating to clean up.)

I do not rip on the table saw as a rule, to prevent kick back that periodically occurs when natural wood pinches the blade, turning the wood into a missile. I bought a fairly powerful saw, so this is one place where a lighter saw would be adequate. Essentially, I use the table saw for ripping sheet goods, cutting dados, tenons, and cutting small parts to length – all of which can be done with a 1.5 HP saw. I ended up with a King 3 HP, three-belt drive, 10" table saw. The castings are true, and the King Tru-rip fence reminds me of the Biesmeyer fence used on the Canadian General saws. The model is KC-11FX, and it can be purchased for less than half of the price of other, simi­lar saws. On this purchase, I went with the suggestion of Jeff at Brettwood Machinery – he was right; a very good value saw that runs smooth, and has a decent fence.
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.

For example, at a certain point, you will be asked to project how much cash you’ll spend in your fifth year of business. You’ll think, “Are you kidding? I haven’t even opened my doors yet and you want me to describe what my expenses and revenue will be like in five years?” Well, the quick answer is yes. Nobody ever said that starting a small business would be an easy feat.
Finally, at the beginning you'll do just fine with a basic set of router bits that run ~$40.  A starter set will typically include straight bits for edge matching material, a selection of edge finishing bits, and some joinery bits.  As you work on a few projects you may find that more specialized bits are needed.   But specialized bits are expensive - so purchasing them as you have a specific need makes more sense than buying in anticipation of a need.
In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.
Since the summer of 2013, first time visitors to New York City restaurants have been greeted by window signs boasting a large, capitalized A, B or C. These letters reflect the rating given to each restaurant by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Does the need for government oversight of this industry create an additional administrative and financial burden for the businesses in question? Yes it does. Does the rating system also inform consumers and encourage higher food safety standards across the board? Undoubtedly.
Electricity was something we didn’t want to worry about at all in our van, so we went big from the beginning. We bought Renogy's 400-watt solar kit and two VMAX 155ah batteries. We mounted three of the panels on our van’s roof, and the fourth we attached to a folding stand made out of PVC so we could roll it out as needed. While the system works great and keeps us charged up, in hindsight it was a little bit of overkill - especially since we added a battery isolator.

At $300, the saw is expensive, but it is one of the more affordable saws that offer a 12 inch blade and a double bevel.  The double bevel allows you to adjust both the angle at which the blade cuts into the wood and the tilt of the blade relative to the workpiece.  Having control over both angles allows much easier cuts of trims and moldings.  It's one of those features that you won't use with every project - but when you do need it, you'll be glad you have it
I do not rip on the table saw as a rule, to prevent kick back that periodically occurs when natural wood pinches the blade, turning the wood into a missile. I bought a fairly powerful saw, so this is one place where a lighter saw would be adequate. Essentially, I use the table saw for ripping sheet goods, cutting dados, tenons, and cutting small parts to length – all of which can be done with a 1.5 HP saw. I ended up with a King 3 HP, three-belt drive, 10" table saw. The castings are true, and the King Tru-rip fence reminds me of the Biesmeyer fence used on the Canadian General saws. The model is KC-11FX, and it can be purchased for less than half of the price of other, simi­lar saws. On this purchase, I went with the suggestion of Jeff at Brettwood Machinery – he was right; a very good value saw that runs smooth, and has a decent fence.
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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