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.
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.

It is also essential to take a lean, data-led approach to choosing a business space. The average length of a commercial lease has dropped over the last few years but is still often well over five years, so the absolute last thing you want to do is rush into a signing and get locked into a bad situation. There are so many ways to test the viability of your business idea before you over-invest and sign a full-blown lease agreement.
Evan Tarver is a staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. He is also a fiction author and screenwriter. His past experience includes investment banking, managerial finance, and technology. When he isn't busy scheming his next business idea, you'll find Evan holed up in a coffee shop in his hometown of San Francisco working on the next great American fiction story.
“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
Once you know your top priorities, you can start thinking about the space each element can take up and where it should go. It is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together when you're working with a small space, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't work out right away. And know that you'll likely have to make some sacrifices. Play with a few options, and choose the one that works best for your situation.

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.
If you want to run a business operated by yourself and more than one employee, you may run into zoning issues if your location is zoned for residential use only. It’s common for municipalities to allow and encourage home-based busi­nesses but there will likely be a maximum area that you will be permitted to add for business purposes. If you try to build a shop that will contribute noise and traffic (from employees or deliveries) to an urban neighbourhood, you run the risk of run­ning into opposition from neighbours concerned by the impact your shop will have. Your municipality will have planners with whom you should consult as you begin to define the possibili­ties that your property will allow.
As your business grows, your ability to deal directly with every customer diminishes, and your reliance on your staff increases. Indeed, for many businesses, such as full-service restaurants, hiring staff is an absolutely essential part of their operations. It is therefore important that you choose the right kind of employees and then take the time to fully introduce them to your mission statement. A really great employee should learn about your values and seek to embody them when interacting with your customers.

Again, it is the inspiration I have (hopefully) given my son. To never be afraid to try, even at the risk of failure. If you don’t have all the answers, go with the knowledge you do have and trust everything else will fall into place. I am no millionaire; I have entered into a lifetime of debt because of what I’ve done with this build. And I’m going to try and keep it on the road as long as I can. I am not getting any help from Hasbro and Paramount Pictures, so I am looking for help with sponsorships.
We use this fan for extra circulation when it’s hot, and to get the air moving when it’s cold at night and we have all the windows closed. We also keep it on for our dogs while we’re driving. There are cheaper 12V fans out there, but generally the cheaper the fan the more power it draws. The Endless Breeze is a great little fan, and it’s definitely worth getting for the added ventilation.
In order to ensure that the staff you’re bringing on board is the right fit for your small business, there’s a few questions that you should ask yourself during the interview process. Are they competent? Capable? Compatible and committed to your core business values? Do they fit in with the culture you are trying to build? And can you offer them fair compensation? Business expert and entrepreneur Alan E. Hall, calls this the 7 C’s to hiring. At the end of the day you want to look beyond the skills and experience they have on paper and make sure that they are willing and able to grow with your business.
“I purchased this book because I'm newly retired and attempting to set up my shop in a home we recently moved to. I'm new to setting up shop and can use some professional advice. Money is always an issue, but more important to me is the subject of time. This book solves both aspects for me. It contains sound advice if you do not wish to overspend on your shop.”
I live in Northern Va and have the same concerns. I save those little silica gel packets every time they come in a new product and put them in my tool drawers. I also salvaged a dehumidifier from a neighbor that I need to repair and set up in there. I use the wall mounted AC in the summer to keep it cool enough to work in there. Although I haven't gone back yet to insulate the ceiling, it stays really cool in there if i want it to be.
Of all the LED lighting options, puck lights are the most difficult to install. You’ll have to run wiring behind the ceiling/walls for each light. And you’ll need to cut a hole with a hole saw to recess the lights into the ceiling. But with some preparation and care it's not too difficult. We have full instructions for installing LED puck lights in our epic electrical post.
Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.
All this is why I recommend you buy the very best stuff available, even if it means going without certain tools initially. Although it wouldn’t be a disaster to spend $1000 on a whole bunch of inexpensive tools, what are you going to do when you’ve outgrown the capability of these tools and want to upgrade? You’ve now got to somehow get rid of the cheap stuff and replace it with something better. This isn’t easy and it’s always the most expensive way to go.
I get all the zen I need from Dunkin Donuts. :) Actually, I am reserving judgement concerning sound at this point and here’s why. I worked in a 1000 sq ft shop for the first 5 years of this show and never had any echo complaints. That was with 16 ft ceilings. The new shop was pretty unbearable to talk in when it was empty and became quite tolerable when filled with the initial equipment. With the addition of the floor pads and cabinetry, I am pretty confident the echo will be reduced fairly close to the previous shop’s level. If not, I’ll have to consider my options, because there’s no way I’m hanging drapes in my shop, lol.

I grew up in New Jersey and now live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Good thing, too, because we certainly need that extra property space to store the leader of the Auto­bots.Back in 2013, I founded an Internet company called AmericasFootprints.com, which gives people an opportunity to preserve their most precious memories (in private) for the current and future generations of their family. That’s because I believe everyone has a story and I also believe everyone deserves a chance for their story to live on.
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.
I know in Missoula the garbage men do not like unbagged dust chips. They sent my friend a warning notice in the mail. Do you pull your drum out to the garbage and let the dust fly or dump it into a bag? My friend has garbage cans with 33 gallon liner which he pulls out of a sealed dust collection box beneath the cyclone… then he uses a hand truck to haul it out to the alley and then puts a fresh can in the box. It seems like a simple dust management method by not handling the dust by either scooping or dumping it out into a bag. I am always trying to think of ways to have less contact with harmful dust particles and I am curious as to how others handle the situation. Have a great weekend!
Do you carry items that bring your customers back time and time again? Consider placing these primary and similar secondary product lines toward the back of your store. Or, if your stock is constantly changing and you don’t carry replenishing goods, place your sale items toward the back. That way, customers must pass your new items and promotional displays on their way to check out the deals in back.
Ryan, I have the same (almost) 90’s Toyota Pickup and love it! this is so helpful, and I will definitely be using this method. my main concern is that 1/2′ plywood sagging. do you notice it sags quite a bit or does it mostly hold up? my thought was to build the vertical bins a little wider, so that the plywood bed platform wouldn’t be under so much stress. the second issue im running into is wrapping my head around trying to organize and compartmentalize things appropriately. what do you typically put where so it is easy to reach and use?
The enormous range and affordability of options has provided the chance for small business owners to apply technology to their accounting, marketing, and day-to-day operations. You can spend less money, save valuable time, and gather data about almost every aspect of your business. What’s more, you can enhance the way your customers experience your store in a meaningful and cost-effective way.
In a small space, there's not much room for one-trick ponies: You need gear that can do many different things, and that goes for your work space and stands, too. You can add a wood clamp to a multifunction workbench, but you probably need compact work or tool-holding stands to make up for the lack of a large work surface. Occasionally you may need to take your work to another room or even outside, in which case portability is also important.
One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
However, another critical component to small business success is being self aware. With a variety of tools at your fingertips, tracking basic accounting can be fairly simple. Still, in order to be strategic about how you spend your money, properly leveraging these tools will still require a little bit of legwork. What used to take you eight hours might now only take one hour. But if you’re not willing or able to run through your financial tasks on a regular basis, bringing in a bookkeeper or accountant might be your best option.
When registering your business name you should also consider whether or not you have plans to expand your local business nationally or online in the future. Registering your business with the state does not offer brand protection beyond the state it is registered in. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop is registered in New York, no other business will be able to use that name in that state. However, someone in Idaho can still register their business as Bob’s Bike Shop. If you have aspirations that look beyond Main Street, USA and would like the option to expand nationally or on the web, you should consider trademarking your business. When you trademark your business name, it makes it a lot easier to recover property that infringes upon your brand. For example: If Bob’s Bike Shop in Ohio purchased the domain www.BobsBikeShop.com but Bob’s Bike Shop in New York trademarked that name, legally Bob’s Bike Shop in New York has the right to file a domain name dispute to get the domain name back from it’s current owner.
The on the go mode is ideal for when I’m just driving all day and need to pull over and get some rest, be it in a parking lot, a residential cul-de-suc, or wherever. I usually toss a couple of items in the cab of my truck and crawl into the “coffin” sleeping arrangement for a quick night’s rest, but I can also crawl in without placing anything in the cab.
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.
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!
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.

Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.
So before you start to consider fixtures and displays, think about the product positioning throughout your store. Where are your evergreen, seasonal, limited availability, and sale products going to be featured on an ongoing basis? This process is called product mapping. Following is an example of a product mapping plan that features a mix of product categories in defined areas:
This project may look a little overwhelming and I do consider myself pretty handy.  However, I think just about anyone could complete this project.  This was my first real experience building a solid floor, framing walls and sheathing/ shingling a roof.  I spent a lot of time researching and educating myself on proper construction techniques.  I have not come across any glaring mistakes along the way, but I welcome comments about the construction from more experienced builders.

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.
Store design experts agree that this area should be open, inviting, and free of overpowering displays and signage clutter, as shown in the image above. Many customer behavior studies, including those conducted by Envirosell’s Paco Underhill, support this opinion. They show that customers tend to ignore displays, signage, and even manned sales counters placed close to store entrances.
“Walk past your Decompression Zone and look to your right. The first wall you see is called a Power Wall, and it’s another key merchandising area. And because it’s one of the first things shoppers see after looking or turning right, it’s a perception builder. Use your Power Wall(s) to display important departments as well as new and seasonal items to create vignettes, tell product stories, and to feature high-demand and high-profit items. (Note: Your store has more than one Power Wall. Stand in various places throughout your store and look around—the walls that stand out are your Power Walls.)”
Designing your retail store's interior is a topic that we've been looking at recently in an effort to help boutique merchants be more successful and thrive in today's digital era. From telling your brand's story and creating immersive shopping experiences, to putting together head-turning window displays and signage essentials, when it comes to retail, the devil really is in the details. As such, we want you to help you get the basics down pat. 
Wide aisles also prevent the dreaded butt brush, a term coined by top retail consultant Paco Underhill. His studies show that both women and men avoid tight or crowded aisles where they might brush bottoms with other shoppers. Really, this is a thing! Learn more about Paco’s retail research and insights in his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.
Another example of data-driven decision making is scouting the local competition and taking notes on how much traffic they are getting regularly, the kind of products that they’re selling, their pricing, and even how they market their business. This kind of information will help you determine the pros and cons of choosing a location in that area as well as potential strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that can improve your business plan. Trust us, doing all of this before starting your small business will save you major headaches in the long run.

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.
Note: Some of the links to products that we recommend on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through one of our links and buy something, we get a small commission at no cost to you. This helps us keep this blog going so we can continue to provide you with van build tips, tricks, and guides. We believe in honest opinions, and we never recommend anything we don't know about. Every recommended product on this page we've either used personally, have personal experience with, or have researched heavily.

Plan to invest in a set of bench chisels, both standard and low-angle block planes, a No. 4 or 4-1⁄2 smoothing plane, and a No. 6 jack or No. 7 jointer. Between them, these planes will true edges, flatten glue-ups that are wider than your thickness planer, and tame tricky grain that would tear out with a mechanized planer. They also do fine trimming better than any other tools.

If you’ve got 220v, and want to get a seriously good TS, the Grizzly G1023RL is about the best bang for the buck in a 3hp industrial style cabinet saw…$1195/$1294 shipped. It’s not a necessity to have that much saw, but it’s close in price to many lesser saws, and is about all you’d ever need. If that’s more than you can stomach, and/or don’t have 220v, you’re limited to a TS that’ll run on a standard residential 110v outlet….again I’d look to a full size stationary saw. The typical contenders are the entry level price ranges are the Ridgid R4512, nearly identical Craftsman 21833, Steel City 35990, Porter Cable PCB270TS….all under $600. The next step up would include the Grizzly G0661, G0715P, Craftsman 22116 (by Steel City/Orion), Jet Proshop, General International, Rikon 10-201, and Powermatic offerings. These saws all have the potential to perform well…the end performance is largely dependent on how well you set them up, and what blade you choose.
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.

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. 
Well, all these years we’ve always planned on this being a nice little workshop, and now’s the time that we’re about to remove all of this and create a nice realistic, practical workshop. Not a TV workshop that just looks good, but one that will be perfect for us to use for some of the projects we have on the show, and again it will be used by our construction company for some of the projects they have.
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.

Sadly, that’s most of my power tools and shop accessories, but it’s a growing collection. Compared to all the money I’ve wasted on small electronics and computer junk in the past, I’d say this has been, and will continue to be, a much better investment. I just wish I had come to that realization back in college, when I was probably spending $500-$1000+ a year upgrading my computer.
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!
Sometimes you just know it when you see it. So always be prepared to capture pictures and take notes when you see store features that you’d like to try out yourself. And don’t forget the many online resources out there. Settle down with a cup of coffee and scroll through Pinterest for a treasure trove of store design ideas. Here’s a great board to get you started. Or get inspired by the many hip retail store designs on the Retail Design Blog.
If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers -- and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.
Skoolies do have significant drawbacks, however. Their size makes them a bit unwieldy to drive, and getting to some of the more out-of-the-way camping spots just won’t be an option. If something goes wrong mechanically, it can be much more expensive to fix than a normal vehicle. Also, the sheer size of these vehicles means the gas mileage is much worse than other options.

Really enjoyed watching the video of the shop build. You will be turning out great pieces in no time. At the end of the video it looks like you have your dust collection system up and running. Where did you purchase the duct work? I thought I remember you talking about this in the old shop. Did you use regular HVAC 4″ round duct or a heavier piece. Thanks for the insight and good woodworking.
It is also essential to take a lean, data-led approach to choosing a business space. The average length of a commercial lease has dropped over the last few years but is still often well over five years, so the absolute last thing you want to do is rush into a signing and get locked into a bad situation. There are so many ways to test the viability of your business idea before you over-invest and sign a full-blown lease agreement.

Evan Tarver is a staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. He is also a fiction author and screenwriter. His past experience includes investment banking, managerial finance, and technology. When he isn't busy scheming his next business idea, you'll find Evan holed up in a coffee shop in his hometown of San Francisco working on the next great American fiction story.
To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
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.
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