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
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.
So what’s the downside? Well, for starters, RV conversions aren’t exactly known for quality. Most manufacturers use cheap (i.e. shitty) materials, and just don’t build their vehicles to withstand the stresses of full time living. You’re also locked into a pre-designed layout, so it will be a lot more difficult to customize how everything functions.
We first obtained legal permission from Hasbro [which originally developed the Transformer toy line back in the 1980s] to build it late in 2015. I also had to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL), so I spent a few months learning how to drive a truck while simultaneously spending the winter of 2015-16 working with Western Star to piece together on paper a vehicle that mirrored the Optimus Prime truck. Once the factory delivered the truck in April 2016, we got to work on the customization and fabrication right away. It was roadworthy again by October 2016. So the entire process from start to finish was about a year.
Another great source of store design inspiration is your product vendors and their line reps. After all, your success is their success, so they’re usually happy to share store design and merchandising ideas. Many provide retailers with free or low-cost branded display units, too. Some line reps will even assist you in product mapping your store, display setup, and replenishment. It never hurts to ask!

If you’re a high volume QSR for example, you’re going to want clear signage that helps customers identify where they should be lining up and perhaps a product display next to the line. If you have high risk merchandise in your store, you’ll want to design your shop so that customers must pass the point of sale on their way out and use mirrors to eliminate blind spots in your business.


To make the most of your workshop oasis, look for a water dispenser that offers a choice between chilled and hot water. This will let you enjoy a cold, refreshing drink in the heat of summer rather than a lukewarm bottle that’s been sitting around gathering dust. You’ll also cut down on the amount of plastic your household goes through, which is a boon for the environment. In the winter, the hot water tap will also you to make a cup of tea or a mug of instant coffee on the spot. No matter what your taste, a versatile drink dispenser will keep you hydrated and happy while you work.
When we published our massive review on how much an app costs back in 2015, we had no idea it would become the top resource on the web. Two years later, that piece is still considered the definitive resource for app development costs in our industry. It’s because of its popularity that I feel compelled to revisit this subject. Additionally, doing so will allow for some fresh perspectives based on what's changed in the app industry as well as another way to look at the topic.
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 legal name is your first step in separating you and your business as two distinct entities. You will use your DBA name on all legal paperwork and government forms, such as applications for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits. It is significantly harder to go back and have this applied retroactively, so it’s worth getting it right from the start.
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.
as the name implies--I have no qualms about using castoffs, trash or clearanced items in my shop--I have a 3and one half car garage that I can't get a vehicle in(even tho I like to change my own oil, etc.) because I have so many interests like woodworking, metalworking, plastics, machining, machine building, carpentry, etc. we have to store our kids furniture somewhere, as well as some of our own... You involve a welder, 2 tablesaws, bandsaw, planer, lathe, drillpress, benches and benchtop tools--not to mention storage of materials and I've got a collosal mess that I may never get straightened out!!!--Did I mention room for the woodburning stove I heat it with??? I am always appreciative of these "dream shops" I see in FineWoodworking"
The first is that they will need to be powered by a product catalog. Many times that already exists and an app will just leverage APIs or web services to pull back products. If it doesn't, however, it will require either a custom buildout (beware!) or leveraging platforms like Shopify, Magento, or comparable solutions. The strength of these tools include providing the administration interface to add new inventory, APIs or SDKs, ways to store items in a cart, and similar features. The downsides are that you'll be limited by their workflow and customizations.
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
2. Just the basics—I’ve used a compound miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, band saw, router, table saw, drill, finishing sander, belt sander, Dremel, oscillating multi-tool, bar clamps, and a Shop-Vac. I haven’t used a planer, jointer, or lathe. I’ve never owned a table saw but have used a circular saw or improvised with a router for a few long cuts.

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.
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.
By contrast, when it comes to marketing, small business owners have historically been asked to take a leap of faith, spending money without any clear sense of how much positive impact it will have on their business. Put bluntly, learning how to market a small business can be perplexing. In essence, traditional small business marketing techniques have escaped any clearly definable return on investment (ROI) analysis. It’s for this reason that so many small business owners write off marketing as if it were a get-rich-quick gimmick. When, in reality, it’s at the heart of any successful business.
Gutting: We actually took on a pretty big project when we bought our van because it came with a preinstalled wheelchair lift that we had to remove. Unbolting all the parts took both of us working on it for a full day, and it wasn't the most glamorous job. The good part was that we were able to sell the lift and the reclining bench seat for a combined total of $260. If there's anything to remove from your van, do this first.
They say nobody ever started a small business out of a love for numbers, but if you really want to stay the course, you’re going to want to fall in love fast. It’s only by keeping detailed accounts and tracking your business’ numbers over time, (net sales, cost of goods sold, and average transaction size) that you’ll start to gather the actionable insights you need to make intelligent business decisions.
Great video Marc. I know I’m not the first to bring up the reverb in the shop. However I don’t think addition of rubber floor and cabinets will change this much. Furthermore, sound panels look very clunky in my opinion too, but may be necessary above some machines? Materials like drapes and carpet strategically placed can also do wonders, but I don’t know how practical that would be in a wood shop.
Hey Joe, I just hit 178k on my truck. I remember when I started out the first time around it had like 144k or so. They are known to go quite far, so we’ll see how it goes. Maintenance on the road… I just stop at those oil lube places for the most part, and do regular weekly checks under the hood for fluid levels, etc. I’m not too mechanically inclined!
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.”
The good news? There are a ton of free tools out there help you simplify and minimize the research required to secure your online identity. Among them is Namechk, a free username and domain search tool that helps you discover the availability of your business name across hundreds of social networks and domain extensions, all at once. Once you run a name search and confirm that it’s available for use both off and online, take the time secure your unique name both legally and on the web.
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.
Hey Melody, thanks for the email. I’ve traveled through some extremely humid areas (Central America)… I’m taking it that your canopy does not have a headliner? That in and of itself helps a great deal. Personally I would be hesitant to put holes or van roof vents in my cap, but that may be what you want to do. I would try sleeping with a portable personal fan first and see how that helps with the condensation issue. For me it worked wonders while sleeping in those hot and humid environments. I ran mine off the inverter connected to my secondary battery.

These new companies no longer charge crazy upfront fees, moving instead to what’s known as a “SaaS” monthly subscription model, often with a free trial period. Therefore, the risk of trying a new product is greatly reduced, as you are required to pay little or nothing upfront. Even Microsoft announced in 2015 that they would be moving their flagship product, Microsoft Office, to this pricing model.


A great freestanding beverage cooler should come equipped with a thermostat that lets you control the temperature to your liking — the colder the better for carbonated drinks, which tend to taste best when served at a frosty 34 degrees. If you plan to store adult beverages in your cooler, look for a model with a lock to keep your drinks away from children and teens. You’ll also want a model that allows you to reverse the way the door swings when you set it up, as this will provide flexibility in your workshop layout to help maximize your space.
Whether you end up looking at self-checkout counters, fancy lighting systems, special refrigerated cases, or any of a countless number of options, never forget that these are only tools to help accomplish your main goal. Your store needs to create an environment where customers want to be, where they feel comfortable and appreciated, and where that experience will prompt them to purchase (and hopefully encourage their friends to do the same). Equipment and technology decisions should always be made with your customers in mind.
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.
Ultimately, the cost of your coffee shop starts entirely with you. Your coffee shop business concept plays a huge role in what direction you'll go in and what your budget will look like. So if money is an important consideration to starting your coffee business, review what kind of coffee business makes sense to startup at this point and time. We've recently written some articles on low cost ideas for coffee shop businesses.
My shop ended up being 23 x 19 feet, for a total of 437 square feet. I put my wood rack in the basement, but out­side the walled in shop area. To keep the dust in the shop, a three part strategy was employed. I have a dust collection system, an air filtration system and a shop vacuum for cleaning dust out of machinery. I put up new walls, installed new electrical service, lighting, and two access doors for ease of materials move­ment. The shop includes two windows so that I can enjoy natural light, and not feel like I am squirreled away in the basement.
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.
It’s tempting to place new products, hot items, and sale signage front-and-center so they’re the first things customers see upon entering. But don’t do this! The first few feet inside the door, say five feet for a small store, and 15 feet for a larger store, is known as the decompression zone. Store design experts strongly advise against cluttering up this space.
So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
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.

The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
We think that insulating your van’s floor is worth the minimal extra cost it adds to your build. The best floor insulation is ½” XPS foam board due to its high r-value per inch and its compressive strength. But a layer of Reflectix will add some insulation while taking away less headspace. We used Reflectix, but if we did it again we’d go with the foam board.
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