Now, this is kind of an odd situation here, a few years ago when we bought this building there was a concrete block wall around here and a large drain right in the middle of the floor. Well the drain will certainly come in handy for any cleanup in the shop but the walls kind of left us when we removed those kind of left us a little divot and a little bit of damage here, so to make this nice and smooth so that our rolling workbenches will roll around real nicely we’re having to do a good bit of floor patch.
Non-Standard Miter Slots - This one is a downer.  One of the primary advantages of having a table saw is access to jigs that expand the saws functionality.  This is a major issue if you plan on buying after market jigs.  Given that we are limiting the cost of this buildout to $500, I am guessing that after market jigs are probably low on the priority list.  Your going to want jigs once you start researching what they enable you to do, my advice is to build your own - there are plenty of plans online.  

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.
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.
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.

Garage spaces are usually not insulated, and garage doors on most homes have very poor insulation. That means it’ll inevitably be super hot and stuffy in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. To be comfortable in your workshop you’ll need to take the extra step to insulate your garage and set up some space heaters, and some portable floor or window AC units. Having to wear a heavy coat while you work will impede your DIY efforts and nobody likes working in a sauna.
Here’s a traditional Swedish farm accessory for gunk-laden soles. The dimensions are not critical, but be sure the edges of the slats are fairly sharp?they’re what makes the boot scraper work. Cut slats to length, then cut triangular openings on the side of a pair of 2x2s. A radial arm saw works well for this, but a table saw or band saw will also make the cut. Trim the 2x2s to length, predrill, and use galvanized screws to attach the slats from underneath. If you prefer a boot cleaner that has brushes, check out this clever project.
The threshold area, also known as the "decompression zone," is the very first space that prospective customers step into when they enter your store. It typically consists of the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on the overall size of your store. It's also the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world and first experience what you have to offer.
Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.
Once I had the walls completely filled in and trimmed out, I built my doors.  I clamped them in place each day until after I painted.  Then I installed the hinges and hardware.  I decided to change my original plan of building a hinged 4 foot door.  I was worried that the weight of it would cause it to sag over time.  I had also decided at this point to install a small unused AC in the back wall.  I thought that by keeping one of the doors closed, I could keep more cold air in during the hot summers.
At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
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.
In addition to keeping your workshop comfortable with climate control add-ons, don’t forget to keep your body in optimal condition as you work. A water cooler tucked away in the corner of your workshop will provide a big quality of life boost and allow you to keep at your projects without having to run to the kitchen for a glass of water every time you feel thirsty.
But if you want to do a lot of stealth camping in cities, a cargo van is your best option. There are so many of them on the road that people just don’t notice them, and they have a lot of floor space to play around with your perfect layout. But if you don’t plan on stealth camping and you value storage space and headroom, there may be better choices.
It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.
This OXO palm brush really helps us conserve water while washing our dishes. We fill the reservoir with water and a few drops of Campsuds, and we only squeeze out what we need - so it takes care of both the initial rinse and getting our dishes soapy with minimal water usage. It’s also very compact, and the comfortable shape makes it easy to scrub dishes.
“Beware suppliers bearing gifts. That ‘free’ refrigerator from the drinks supplier is never really free. You can quickly find yourself tied into sub-optimal deals because of a reliance on this hardware. If you have access to the capital, do yourself a favor: Buy your own fridge and negotiate from a position of strength.” — ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
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.
Many retail fixture and display companies provide store planning and design services to their customers. Though typically not free, these in-house design services can be far less expensive than hiring an independent designer. Plus, they can help streamline the process of store layout and planning, along with the purchasing and installation of displays and fixtures.
The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
Calculating the size of your desired parking lot is easy. The rule of thumb is to have a parking spot for every three customers. Determining traffic is trickier and potentially more lucrative. To help, we wrote an article on how to calculate your desired foot traffic. If you want to calculate your desired vehicle traffic, you can refer to our article on how to choose a location for your restaurant.
Ever wonder why you walk into a supermarket and the first thing you see is fruits and vegetables rather than toilet cleaner? The complex art of displaying arrangement and the perfectly optimized in-store customer journey can seem like some sort of semi-magical, commercial Feng-Shui. But it’s actually just business 101. At its core, store design is a fairly simple exercise. Think about your shop’s layout from a customer point of view and consider what might surprise and delight you, what might annoy you, and most importantly, what might convince you to make a purchase.
Meaghan Brophy is a retail writer for Fit Small Business. She has provided content and guidance for indie retailers for years as the editor for Independent Retailer magazine, a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, and speaker at trade shows such as the Independent Retailer Conference and NY NOW. She has been quoted as a retail expert in Forbes, Retail Dive, Retail Minded, ASD Insider, and more. When not talking retail, Meaghan can be found watching dog videos and practicing her tap dancing skills.
To simplify this process, hire professionals with experience helping business owners by assessing their needs, developing their budget, and negotiating their commercial lease. Managed by Q is a company that not only assists with pre-lease planning, but also provides help with renovation project management, space planning, and even administrative support. Managed by Q offers an array of services that can help save you time and money. Click here to set up a free account and get started.
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.

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.
In all you can spend under $1,000 and be setup in a great workshop. But I know how it feels when you’re shopping for new tools… and you think… “why not buy the top of the line so it lasts longer”… or “may as well get the best while I’m spending money”… those kinds of thoughts won’t only get you into big trouble with your other half… it’s also COMPLETELY wrong.
A business license gives you permission to run a business within a particular territory. It is important to note that not all local governments require you to obtain business licenses, while others only require them for specific business types such as bars or restaurants. To determine whether or not your state or business type requires you to obtain a license visit SBA.gov for state-specific license and permit information.
The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall behind your laundry room door. The materials are inexpensive. Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract an inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves. Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.

​In order to excel you are going to need to read up on jig building so that you can produce consistent repeatable cuts.  Ideas for jigs are a dime a dozen online and you could easily lose a couple of hours browsing the hundreds of ideas people think up.  A more economical approach would be to build your jigs as your projects demand them.  After you go through that exercise 4-5 times, you'll find you've accumulated quite the collection of jigs without even trying.


The thickness planer can joint a board's face. On this simple jig, the stock is supported by twin rows of wood screws driven into a platform and adjusted to meet the varying clearances on the underside of the board. The stock rides the sled cup side up. Slide the board slightly sideways to adjust the screws, then seat it firmly on the screw heads for planing.
At times, while you are starting a small business, it will seem like there is a brick wall in front of you, made up of all the different problems that will occupy your time and mind: a lack of funds, permits, regulations, tax worries, inventory issues, or a lack of customers. Concepts like “free time” and “the weekend” will take on a very different meaning. While the emotional ups and downs of cash flow management and customer service, may drain your will to live.
If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
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.”
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.
I am a firm believer in having your business goals align with your personal goals. In order to do that, you need to know what your personal goals are. This may be different for everyone, but I want you to be 100% honest here. I am writing this as an update in 2018 to this original blog post and I want to be honest and share with you my personal goals for 2018:
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.
After starting your small business, you may eventually want to hire employees. When this happens, you are legally required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and — depending on your business location — disability insurance. Current states where disability insurance is a legal requirement include: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

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
This is a great project if you carefully consider your needs first. I left out the vise and tracks, but had no problem hand picking good 2x4 stock at the big box stores. I did use maple on the top sides in case I ever decided to add tracks, but it was not a budget buster by any means. The cabinet and drawers were a first for me and a great learning experience. I also added retractable casters so I can easily move the workbench around my shop. Love the workbench!
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