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.
I don’t own a dog, but I have taken my buddy’s two dogs out with us to the trailhead at least. Not sure that I have great recommendations for how you would go about living in the truck with your dog. All we really did was lower the large wooden deck to the bottom position, throw down some soft doggy beds and pillows, then cover it all with a giant blanket which also covered like the side bins to keep dog hair from getting all over. It was nice and cozy for the dogs while driving down the road. Then we just put packs and other gear on/in the side bins. We used some big metal clamps to secure the blanket to the side bins and keep it from falling down or sliding around. I would think avoiding any carpeting would be a good bet, just go with blankets and things than can be taken out, cleaned, and you can sweep out the back.
The key to success here is having clear processes written down, promoting from within whenever possible, and remaining open to change. You’ll want to balance your desire to educate your manager on how to manage your business with an openness to feedback and new ways of doing things. You’ll also want to take advantage of the technology available to keep you abreast of things like real-time sales data for all your locations, no matter where you are.

If you want to operate your business under anything other than your own personal name, you’ll need to register your chosen ‘fictitious’ name with the appropriate county or state authority, otherwise known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. The correct filing authority varies state-to-state. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a helpful tool to help you find the relevant authority for your state.
I have been working on building out the space, starting with a new welding table and small material/saw rack. I was able to dedicate a 20' x 28' area to fabrication. I need to figure out some things like angle grinder storage, fume exhaust hood and cold saw set up, but I will get there. Power is one nice thing with a 400A 208VAC 3ph supply panel. Also got the compressor in a sound dampened closet with cooling so the noise level is down significantly. Oh ya, dedicated 15 ton AC for the shop has been nice.

But here’s a quick back-story so you know how things went down. The reason I moved my shop so many times was because the sale of our old house fell through at the last minute. This is the house with the original Wood Whisperer shop/garage. We took the house off the market to recuperate and wait for the market to improve. In the mean time, I decided that I should probably make the best of the shop space that I was already paying for, so that’s why I moved my tools back there. When we eventually put that house back on the market, it sold on the first day. That was a BIG surprise! While we weren’t financially (or mentally) ready to build the new shop, I wasn’t about to lose a chance to get that 2nd mortgage gorilla off my back. So all of our resources went into the sale of the old house and the purchase of my mom’s new place. Truth is, there really wasn’t much left to put toward the new shop. Thanks to some financing wizardry, we made it work. But let’s just say I’ll be paying this off for quite some time!
Cutting thick, rough, warped hardwood can be cumbersome and dangerous. To provide some control over this process, I built a chop-saw station with wings that extend to support long boards. Again, anytime you make something that consumes shop space, make a shelf underneath to gain storage. The chop saw sits in a recess so that the deck of the saw is at the same height as the workstation deck.

An exclusive arrangement is one where the tenant works exclusively with one broker for a 3 – 12 month period. During this time, the tenant can’t work with another broker. A commission between the tenant and broker is negotiated, equal to a small portion of the expected tenant broker fee. However, this commission is paid only if there are no tenant broker fees.

I’m for using what you have got as well but if what you’ve got just really isn’t up to the job it doesn’t hurt to consider switching to something else. Not sure what year your Prius is but if it is fairly new I imagine you could sell it for much more than what an older reliable 4 cylinder Tacoma would cost you. My 2wd Tacoma manual trans gets 30mpg pretty easily and I’m never tempted to get a hotel. The price difference in the two vehicles alone may well make up for the extra cost in fuel and potentially tempting lodging plus even in a 2wd pickup you will have a much easier time going off the beaten path then you will in a low hanging passenger car.


We’ve been focused on the first category so far, but there is also an allure to buying an existing business. These enterprises will often come with brand awareness, a customer base, trained employees, an established supply chain, and most importantly (we hope), demonstrated profitability. As a result, countless startup risks can be diminished by taking this route. That is only true, however, if you make sure to carry out thorough due diligence on the existing business.
Impulse items like small toys, candy bars, lip gloss, and breath mints are great products to feature near your register. When customers approach the register to pay and leave, you don’t want them to stop shopping. Placing low-cost impulse buy items near registers, as shown in the image below, encourages shoppers to add an item or two as they check out.
This will be a personal matter, depend­ing on whether it will be helpful for finishing or sharpening. However, it is a good idea to look beyond your current use of this space to the next owner. Would it be beneficial to add plumbing hookups so that the shop could someday be an apart­ment, or an art studio, or an extension to your house? It could add to the resale value of your house to be able to create as flexible an area as possible by roughing in a bathroom and even a kitchenette area if you can. If this is done when wall cavities are open or before the slab is poured, your forethought could pay dividends but not cost much up front. 
​One tool that has been notably missing from the earlier builds is a router.  There are so many reasons to own a router that I am not going to even try to list them.  But if you want to get the creative juices flowing, take a look at this Pinterest page.   The important thing to know is that this versatile tool can help you accomplish a number of tasks, everything from finishing edges to cutting dove tails.  
My plugs share breakers. I have them split up so there are no more than 2-3 receptacles on a single breaker. Ideally, each plug would indeed have its own breaker. But in a one-man shop where only one tool will be used at a time, I thought it would be more efficient and cost-effective to consolidate a bit. But the dust collector is on its own circuit since that will always run concurrently with other tools.
Commercial law exists for one simple reason: money and trust have a long and storied history of mixing like oil and water. Throughout the millennia-long history of commerce, aspiring businessmen and women have been lied to, cheated, scammed, cajoled, bullied, and otherwise disconnected from every single dime they had by unscrupulous suppliers, greedy investors, and dishonest business partners.  

It's true for large and small shops alike: Sawdust and chips get everywhere when you use power tools. Small home-woodworking shops are often in shared rooms and may be poorly ventilated. And airborne sawdust and particulates linger for a while before settling. It's a bad combination for human lungs, which are not fond of sawdust, let alone the types of chemicals found in plywood and other engineered materials.


Now, another thing we’ve recycled that’s kind of unusual, all the wood walls you see here were actually and old backdrop that we used on a show a couple of years ago, perfect for our wood walls we need. Now, to store some of the tools, we have we created this simple little shelf unit out of cedar. And you know it kind of adds some of that warm wood feel to a shop, which I wanted it to look more like this than just plain painted walls.

When you set out to start your small business, investing in the right technology and equipment should be considered in conjunction with your store design. They should seamlessly integrate with and improve the customer experience in your store. Everyone remembers their first trip to the Apple Store and the “wow” moment of having their sale rung up by the assistant in the middle of the store, rather than having to wait in a line. But fewer people probably notice the carefully positioned heater that creates a warm environment for them as they walk through the door. It’s all part of the same idea.


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.
I set an initial budget of $10,000 to build the shop – everything from studs and drywall to hand tools and machinery. The final number was over by $1,000, but I’m still very happy with the result. The shop is now my haven, with a good sound sys­tem and good lighting. Every time I go back into the shop, it is exactly the way I left it, because it is my shop!
1. My vehicle is a Ford F-150, which is not great for off-road travel but is by far the best I’ve ever had for mobile living. The 6.5-foot bed is perfect for my 6+ foot height, and I can probably haul everything I own other than my home furniture in the back of it. How long is the bed of your Toyota? I’ve always assumed a small pickup would tight length-wise for comfortable sleeping.

I framed in a 4x8 Garden Shed on the back.  I didn't want it so deep that stuff would get buried in it.  I need to take an updated picture of the back.  These pics were from early on and I have changed some things in the organization.  I used similar framing techniques and built a lean to roof attached with metal hangers.  I chose to use clear corrugated roofing to allow natural light into this shed.  You can see the 2 shopvacs that were originally part of my simple vacuum system.  I have removed them and found that I get better airflow using an electric leaf blower with the vacuum attachment hooked up to my system.  There is a large metal trashcan with a dust collection separator to collect the larger pieces of saw dust and chips.  My air compressor is on a shelf on the right now and I ran a hose through the wall and to a 25 foot reel attached to the ceiling.  I wired separate switched for both on the inside of my shop.  These systems work extremely well for a small shop.  The wall provides some insulation from the overwhelming noise they would otherwise create inside the shop.

I don’t think you have run into this problem, but I have to deal with condensation in the cap as I live in a moist climate. I was thinking of an old van type roof vent with fan for active ventilation, or drilling holes along the side of the cap, inserting short cuts of pipe with fine screens (mozie land), and capping them. This way I could control for rain, cold, etc., but create some passive cross ventilation at roof level.


Up until about ten years ago, if you were in the process of starting a small business and wanted to use all of the technologies listed at the start of this section, you would have needed to take out a second mortgage to cover the bill. Investing in retail technology has historically involved expensive hardware (including an in-house server), large upfront software costs, and hefty ongoing bills for customer support or repairs when things went wrong. Innovators were targeting large-scale enterprises like Coca-Cola, not local mom and pops, so the packages and price points were designed to match.
You need an out-feed table to support work exiting the table saw and band saw. By placing the tools close together, I was able to make one out-feed table that works for both tools. I put four pivoting wheels on the table, allowing me to shift the table in any direction. By placing a shelf below the table, I gained some much needed storage space for portable power tools. Finally, since this is a large work surface, the table also serves as a true, flat assembly table.

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.


Ventilation is extremely important in the rain. These window deflectors allow us to leave our front windows cracked while it’s raining, so we can pull in fresh air and create airflow with our vent fan. As a bonus, it also reduces annoying wind noise while driving on the highway. The Auto Ventshade is fairly inexpensive, easy to install, and makes a great addition to any van (make sure you get the correct one for your specific vehicle).

GoWesty, a well-known Vanagon restorer and parts maker, recommends not buying a Westy unless you have at least $25,000 to spend overhauling it and replacing aging components. Even if you find a cheap Westy hiding out in a garage somewhere, be prepared for frequent breakdowns and expensive mechanical headaches unless you spend the cash to fully rebuild it.


You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls.  I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall.  Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution.  The walls are a simple board and batten system.  The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB.  They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding.  However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet.  I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint.  If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed.  It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
Well, I hate pegboard, pegboard’s in every shop, people use the heck out of it. And what I wanted to do was start moving the tools in, get a few of them in and then maybe just build some little racks for the screwdrivers and a few of the things like that. But things that are like categories – like a drill, drill bits – just let the drill bits be right here. Certain things maybe that you don’t use all the time, hole saws or maybe brass for something like that, can go down in other drawers.
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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