Everything from the way the customer is greeted as they walk through the door to the way your products are presented following a sale matters. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. Early on when just starting your small business, you as an owner, will be able to exert a lot of direct control over these details. But as you grow, you will come to recognize the value of a well-trained and motivated staff.
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.

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.


Hey! Thanks for stopping by and checking this out, I appreciate your comments as well. It is something I really should do… I’ve done a bit more research on this since I initially posted it, and it is less intimidating the more I read. It just comes down to actually doing it and spending some more money, I guess. I’ve got the 22RE in my truck… I still need to look more into the alternator aspect though.
Another flexible option is the portable work tables the guys are building back in our shop. This gives us a work surface that we can move wherever we may need it. Now the main workbench we’ve left a little gap between two of the cabinets for a trashcan or a stool to slip in but we did need to support the countertop where it crosses so Tim and Chris are adding some 1x4s to bridge the space. They’re also putting in a 2×4 inside one of the cabinets where the two pieces of plywood will have to be seamed. Then it’s just a matter of laying in the pieces in place and nailing them down to the cabinet. That trim strip around the edge is mostly for looks but the cedar backsplash along the back will keep us from banging up the wall or getting small items stuck between it and the counter. All in all it started to look pretty good.

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
Hey, you ever wonder what it look like behind the scenes at a home improvement show? Well here’s a little glimpse of it. This is a storage building I’ve had for awhile and we use this for storage and materials and props we use on the show and it’s also used by my construction company. Well this part of the building has kind of turned into a little bit of a dumping zone, where people just dump things that they’re not sure exactly where they go in the rest of the building.
“If it’s a retail space then location is critical. Proximity to other retailers, access to transportation, and visibility/signage opportunity can be critical. In this case, there may only be 4 or 5 spaces available that meet the business’s criteria and objectives. A good broker will sometimes develop creative alternatives that might be outside the locational parameters but offer other advantages – such as co-tenancy or lease term flexibility.
Great shop just what you need. You mentioned your lighting was a little thin on the ends of your shop. The best way to lay out rows of lights in an open space like yours is to figure out how many rows you want. Now in your shop six rows would give you a good coverage, so you would divide the length, 60′, by the number of rows, this gives you the space between rows, then divide this in half, this gives you the space from the wall to the first row. For a 60′ room with six rows this would be 10′ between rows and 5′ off the end wall. This will give you consistent light from wall to wall.

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.
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.
While we think a battery isolator and a 200-watt solar kit provide more than enough power for most vanlifers, some people may want additional ways to generate electricity and charge up their batteries. Especially if you’re planning on running power-hungry electronics like TVs and air conditioners, adding a generator and/or shore power hookups will help you deal with the extra load.
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:
State Parks/Developed Campgrounds. Every once in awhile, it’s kind of nice to stay at a state park or other developed campground - and a big reason why is that they have showers (and sometimes laundry, too). This is what we’ve done most often when we need a shower on the road. Many state parks also have small day use fees if you don’t want to actually camp there.
Now if don’t have space for a dedicated workbench say in your garage you can build one that folds out of the way when it’s not in use. Simply mount a board to the wall to hinge the table on, then you can use some eye hooks and chain to support it. Now it won’t support a ton of week but it should be just right for a weekend project every now and then.

I save all my back issues of The Family Handyman magazine and love the projects and repair tips. The trouble is, I’m not always ready to do the project when the issue arrives. To make my favorite articles easy to find at a later date, I put a stick-on label on the cover and then add notes for easy reference when the time comes to do the job. — Willie Schreiber. Plus: Check out this small workshop storage solution.
“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
If you’re looking to setup a shop equipped mainly with stationary power tools, I’d focus the bulk of your budget on the primary big tools. It’s easier to come up with $10 for a couple of clamps as an impulse purchase, than it is $1000 for a good table saw (TS). Most shops feature the TS, and that’s where I’d focus the bulk of my research and budget, unless you’ll primarily be using a band saw (BS). The biggies for me would be a good full size stationary table saw, planer, jointer, router and router table, and maybe a modest DC (like the HF unit for $150). With those main tools, you can build just alot using dimensional lumber or sheetgoods. A BS and DP are nice, but can be added down the road…in the meantime, a modest jigsaw and handheld power drill worked fine for early on. You’ll want a reasonable work surface, whether it’s a nice bench, or an old door. I’d add a good tape measure, squares, a chisel or two, sandpaper, and some basic clamps, then would add more clamps, block plane, and other extras as you go. (Ask family members for gift cards to Rockler, Woodcraft, Amazon, Lowes, HD, etc….). $3k is doable if you’re selective….the used market can be your friend if the right deals come along.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
On a more mundane, but equally important note, the costs of retroactively fixing errors in a name choice or a business structure can be enormous, both in your time and in real-terms. It is therefore important that you do your research and establish the correct legal structure for your business early on. Still not sure what steps you need to take to incorporate your business? Visit BizFilings.com to learn more about the first five steps you need to take when incorporating your business.
Some people lean towards starting a small business because they seek freedom, others to fulfill their passions. Some entrepreneurs, however, are driven by a desire to build a legacy, one that that they can hand down to generations to come. Whatever your reasons are for reaching for the stars and aiming for the moon, before you start, remember, there is a dark side.
As you can imagine, this collective overflow of dare we say, lack of imagination, has resulted in a surplus of duplicate business names across the country. This wasn’t necessarily an issue until the internet came along. The introduction of the World Wide Web has left small business owners from all over the world competing for the same digital real estate: www.tonyshardware.com, facebook.com/tonyshardware, @tonyshardware and more.
A lot has changed in recent years. Sophisticated, yet affordable technology now exists that can help track customer relationships from an ad placed on Google, right through to a successful sale. This offers small business owners a unique chance to be entirely data-driven in their marketing approach. Every single aspect of your small business can be tweaked and optimized to ensure that you are enticing customers, up selling where possible, and encouraging people to spread the word about your business.
I’m a 60 year young widow who just bought a bright yellow 2003 S10 step side with the intention of camping in it. But I discovered that finding a used S10 step side topper is harder than finding hen’s teeth!! Buying a new one wasn’t an option. Just found a black step side topper for a Ford Ranger. Isn’t a perfect fit but it works. And the colors compliment each other although color wasn’t my primary concern. I took two days to drive from the St. Louis area of MO to the Kansas City area to pick it up.
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.
Now also we have some shelves that we built here above this, little cubicles like this work great to organize your workshop so you can have different tools or different supplies in the different little areas. And we’re about to install a very simple countertop. Now this is nothing more than just three-quarter-inch plywood and we decided to stain it instead of painting it, because you know it’s going to take a lot of abuse with all the pounding and the dings, and dents you’ll get in a workbench so staining it and then sealing it with a coat of sealer will probably hold up better than anything else. Now we’ll put another coat of sealer on it after we finish the front edge band and the backsplash and once all of that is complete, boy this thing is going to work nice.
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.

Through my cabinet-shop connections, I managed a snappy deal ($200) on a used cabinet saw with a 54-in. commercial rip fence. That price would be hard to match, but it is possible to find a hybrid or used cabinet saw with a high-quality fence for $600 to $1,200. Some of them will run on 120v household current, meaning you won’t have to rewire your shop for 240v service, but be sure to check for compatibility before you buy.


From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.
Small business owners can maintain steady, manageable growth by keeping a firm eye on costs and always aggressively looking for ways to increase sales and grow their brand. It can be difficult to empower staff and managers around you, especially if you’ve spent a long time steering the ship alone, but it is an essential part of successful expansion. Stay open to suggestions from your managers while making your current business best practices clear to them.

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.
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!

Great shop just what you need. You mentioned your lighting was a little thin on the ends of your shop. The best way to lay out rows of lights in an open space like yours is to figure out how many rows you want. Now in your shop six rows would give you a good coverage, so you would divide the length, 60′, by the number of rows, this gives you the space between rows, then divide this in half, this gives you the space from the wall to the first row. For a 60′ room with six rows this would be 10′ between rows and 5′ off the end wall. This will give you consistent light from wall to wall.
Well I was just thinking about all of the supplies I’ll be able to keep in this large shelf unit we just installed in our workshop. Hey, that’s we’re doing this week is creating a very practical realistic workshop where we’ll be doing a lot of projects for the TV show, but it’s also going to be used by my construction company so it really has to be set up properly.

Although the market has even more options to build apps now than in 2015, there's also clearly more of a distinction in quality. The best app firms and app developers have further honed and distinguished themselves. They have more awards, stronger portfolios, better team members, and more specialized skills. The tools available have made it easier to build apps though, so there's also many more mediocre or low-quality options to build your app.
I’m picking up a 4×4 Extra cab pick up tomorrow and selling my current 97 Tacoma. It’s older and it’s got a lot of miles but it still has a lot left to go. Mine is available in the 3 grand range. They’re hard to find and all the rust free trucks are out here in the west but mine is one example of many good Tacos that are available at an affordable price that will fit the bill perfectly.
Many retailers are also opting for digital signage. While digital signage and display solutions are more of an investment upfront, they allow you to quickly and easily show customers sales, new products, upcoming events, customer reviews, and more. Mira Digital Signage is a popular digital signage option for small businesses that is easy to use and offers affordable monthly payments. Click here for a free demo.
Chris Marshall: You’re asking a question that would take many magazine articles or a whole chapter of a good shop-design book to answer adequately. If you haven’t already done so, you might also want to ask this question to the good folks that frequent our forum on woodworking.com. Every woodworker with a shop will have a slightly different answer, so here’s mine. I’ve never had a brick shop, but my last one was a metal pole barn (30 ft. x 40 ft.). I outfitted the interior with 2×6-framed walls and plenty of insulation. It stayed reasonably cool in the summer and warm in the winter, using a wall air conditioner and a 60,000 BTU furnace. Currently, I have a 24 ft. x 42 ft. garage space for my shop. It is framed conventionally with 2×6 walls and stick-built 2×10 rafters. I’ve only been in my new shop for about a year, but it is working just as well or better than my pole barn did, because the new shop has many large windows that let in lots more natural light. I’ve used 8-ft. fluorescent T8 light fixtures in both buildings with good success, and I ran both 110- and 220-volt outlets all around the room. The last shop had a plywood floor; the current one, a concrete slab. I thought I would notice a bigger difference between the two flooring types, in terms of how tired it makes my legs by the end of the day. But in all honesty, a good pair of supportive shoes seems to make the difference moot for me. Both types of buildings benefit from a dehumidifier during humid months (when I’m not running the A/C, that is) to keep the relative humidity low and my tools rust-free. If all things were equal, and money were no object, I would probably go with a conventionally framed wood building over the pole barn. It was easier to build that from scratch as opposed to retrofitting the pole barn framing with walls afterward. But, as I say, the next woodworker will probably offer you a completely different answer from mine. Good luck in your decision!
Now that you have your goals mapped out and you know the exact tasks that will help you accomplish them, I want you to pick a day of the week (preferably Monday or Friday) and start planning the week ahead - don’t skip this step, never skip this step. Schedule which one these tasks will happen on what day of the week. So you are literally pulling the tasks from that spreadsheet and placing them into this weekly planner. It’s important to keep in mind deadlines (the ones you set for your goals and when they should be accomplished) and the amount of time it takes you to do a task. You may also want to write down which day it’s due, and who is responsible for this task (if you work with a team).
Food in bear country… When I was in *real* bear country, like in the Sierras, I always kept my food and scented items in the provided bear lockers. Any of the trail heads or camping areas will have bear lockers. Other than that I never really worried about. Just kept it in the cab, yeah. But the Sierras were the only place I went with any considerable bear problems.

One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strap­ping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.
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.
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