“Every time I’m choosing a new a location, I head down there with a big flask of coffee and a clicker to count all the people that walk past. Then I walk to the nearest public transportation at rush hour and look at how people are heading home. I turned down one location because while it was right next to the subway, I noticed all the commuters were coming out of the other subway entrance. It turns out all the residences in that area were on the other side of the street.” —ShopKeep Founder and Experienced Small Business Owner
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. 

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Plus, taking the time to put pen to paper should benefit you as the small business owner as much as any potential new employee. Creating this kind of central resource about best operating practices will force yourself to formulate your thoughts and be clear about exactly what you want. Whether that means codifying sales procedures or deciding who can take cash from the cash drawer, you’ll have a clear and consistent company policy, something to which most employees will respond favorably.
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.
This is a fundamental question. A good place to start is with a survey of your property. Most municipalities have a maximum percentage of your lot that you can build on and standard setbacks from your property lines that you will need to adhere to without needing to request special permission to build. On a photocopy of your survey you can draw in what your local setbacks are in order to define the location within which you will be permitted to build. In a best-case scenario, you will have the space to build without compromising too much on space or location; otherwise, you may need to request a minor variance, which would allow you to circumvent an obsta­cle such as a setback.

So, if you’re looking for a retail or restaurant location, you’ll want to figure out how many customers you expect to have, on average, and multiply that by 15 square feet. If you’re looking for an office space, you’ll want to forecast the desired size of your workforce and multiply it by 100 – 150. This will give you the size of the commercial space you need.


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


When starting your small business, the type of business structure you choose will depend on three primary factors: liability, taxation, and record-keeping. Most small business owners begin their commercial life as a sole proprietor because it’s the easiest way to get started. In fact, if you’re in business and you haven’t taken any action to incorporate, you are most likely deemed a sole proprietor by default. You are entitled to all the profits of your business but also responsible for all its debts, losses, and liabilities.
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.
Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.
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.
My husband is always hounding me about wearing eye protection whenever I use power tools. (Admittedly, I could be more diligent about it.) So, he recently glued some small magnets to several pairs of safety glasses and stuck them on all the power tools in our garage that have metal housings. Now it’s fast and easy for me to grab the glasses when I need them, and I’m reminded that my husband loves me. — Lisa Yanda. Here’s the other must have safety gear every DIYer should own.
Will this make me money? If it will not, cross it out. If you want to keep it on, please rephrase your goal so the outcome can be money driven. For example: Grow Instagram following (bad) vs. use Instagram to drive traffic and sales to website (winner!). This way, you can break that goal down into tasks ( ill show you that in an another step) and those tasks will lead to you actually making money with that goal instead of with just a larger Instagram following.
Hi Ryan: Nice job on the truck. I also have ’94 Toya 4×4 coffin sleep setup. Looking to change (access cab wanted) and may use some of your ideas. One thing I didn’t see you mention is ventilation. I am from the Mid-Atlantic region(DC/Maryland, you’re old stomping grounds) and ventilation at the New is important. My side windows have screens and I use an old mesh fly with a flexible pole for the rear tailgate area. It works really well. Kinda jerry rigged but is easy to put up and take down as well as pass through for nighttime truck exits. Not needed out west as much since bugs and humidity are lower but can’t live w/out it in these parts.
Becoming a small business owner is one of the most rewarding and inspiring journeys a human being can take. It provides you with a chance to be your own boss, take control of your financial destiny, and become a meaningful contributor to your local economy and community. There will always be a reason not to take the plunge. But if there is one rule of small business — and life — is that nothing will happen if you don’t make it happen.
Store design experts advise small retailers to keep versatility in mind when choosing product displays. Your stock will likely change over the years. If you install permanent, unmovable displays, you will likely regret it later. Adjustable display options such as slatwall, gridwall, apparel racks, and shelving tend to be good choices for small retailers.
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.
According to store design experts, this is the part of the process where store owners tend to put the cart before the horse. Once the floor plan is sketched out, store owners are quick to purchase and install fixtures, then fill them with product. Far too often, the fixtures chosen aren’t ideal for displaying a range of products in a particular space. Or worse, they don’t offer flexibility needed in valuable display areas that are constantly changing to house featured and seasonal products. 

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.
Make sure to utilize the tax-specific resources provided by the SBA and the IRS to fully research your federal and state tax obligations. These include, but are not always limited to: corporate income tax, employer tax and excise taxes. For most small businesses, the right first step is applying for an Employee Identification Number, which you can do using this IRS EIN online application. Depending on your state, you might also need to register for a sales tax license. 

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.
On-demand apps incorporate many of the elements seen in apps with logins and social features. Like ecommerce apps, they also include a transactional component, because users need to purchase goods and services. Unlike social and ecommerce apps, however, on-demand apps essentially require two completely unique user experiences. For example, an Uber driver needs advanced mapping and routing functionality while a rider doesn't. Similarly, the driver doesn't need to do a payment while a rider does.
That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.
Do you have 3 goals left? Great! That's the perfect number. Do you have more? That's okay as well. If you have more time to work on your business, then you may be able to accomplish more then 3. But it also depends on the type of goal you are trying to accomplish. I just recommend not trying to over achieve in fear of not accomplishing everything you set out to do. 

Use this model whether you’re looking to turn your team of one into a two-person shop or you’re hoping to build out your marketing department to a team of 10 or more.  By focusing on the skill sets your business needs to be successful — rather than on the resume of an individual candidate — you’ll ensure vital functions are covered while expanding in a sustainable way.


As part of my antique restoration work I do a lot of faux finishing – hence the supply of stains and paints. Since I didn’t want to dust the house, the new shop is not connected to the house heat and air system. But, having just finished our first winter I now know the shop didn’t get below 45 degrees – and, the oven in the corner can make the shop toasty in no time at all.
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.
We've written about routers on the site before and my favorite is the Bosch 1617​.  It is light enough that you can control it when using it handheld, yet powerful enough that it won't have any problems when you mount it under a table.  On top of that, it comes with a plunge base which makes it significantly easier to use handheld.  The package clocks in at ~$190.
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.
Remember the social media networks we asked you to secure in section five, Choosing a Business Name? Well, now is the perfect time to activate those channels. Use social media to build excitement about your grand opening and keep potential customers informed about special promotions and sales. People want to know what makes you special, so tell them why your store or restaurant will be different to what is currently available. From sharing pictures of that new fancy espresso machine or sneak peeks of your store’s interior, you can gain buy-in to your central message and build some anticipation before you even open your doors. Knowing how to to leverage key social channels is imperative to starting a success small business that will stand the test of time.
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:
Large or small, most retail stores use one of three basic types of retail store layouts. Which type you use depends on the kind of store you have and the products you sell. For example, grocery stores usually use grid layouts because they are predictable and efficient to navigate. Boutiques typically use more creative layouts that allow businesses to highlight different products.
I hope to build my own stand-alone dream shop sometime in 2015 – in the Texas Hill Country. I’ve not yet found the right lot, so much is yet unknown….but am thinking roughly 30′ x 40′ overall, with 10 or 12 foot ceiling. At one end, there will be a 10′ x 30′ space walled off into three spaces: a small finishing room, an office/design space, and a half bath.
I like how you thought out the lighting for you shop. I have 6ea.6 tube T-8s but find 6500K bulbs but find lighting for filming is not that good, seems dark to me I use a Canon T3i its a decent camera I do have a row of windows in a 16′ garage door and aman door with a window on one end and a small window at the other end of my shop. Any idea what the issue may be?Could I still be getting too much light?
The more outlets the better! I have a good mix of 220v and 110v outlets throughout the shop. I even included a few in the ceiling and the floor in hopes of avoiding power cords in the walkways. And although this contradicts my previous comments about over-committing, I picked locations that would likely work for various tool configurations. If at some point they don’t work for my setup, I just won’t use them.
The first step in choosing a business location has little to do with site evaluation. It’s about understanding who your customers are. What kind of people are they? When and where do they work? How do they spend their free time and extra capital? Get to know your potential customers and you’ll have a far better chance of finding both a site and a property that they’ll want to frequent. Once you know who they are, you need to ask yourself if there are enough members of this target demographic near your intended storefront location. If so, what time of day they are most likely to be near your storefront? And, will it be quick and convenient for them to stop in?
Trying to compete on price is rarely an effective long-term strategy, so it’s important to consider how you will differentiate your offering. Will this be with amazing customer service? Or maybe with superior product quality? Regardless of what you choose, how will you allocate your budget to make it possible? How will you market your small business? How will you get customers through the door?
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.
​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.  
Conduction is heat transferred across solid surfaces- think touching a hot stove. It’s also how heat gets out of your van in the winter. The heat inside your van is conducted through the solid surface of your walls and ceiling. Insulating the inside of your van will help prevent heat loss through conduction during the winter, and will also stop your van from conducting the sun’s heat inside during the summer.
Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.
You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.
In a small store, these are usually one and the same. In stores where customers don’t shop with baskets, Lesley recommends having a checkout counter large enough to hold products as customers continue shopping. Remember, empty hands pick up more products, and that leads to more sales. Also, make sure checkout counters are large enough to handle the checkout process efficiently and allow space for customers to set down a handbag.
We have a 5-gallon clear plastic Hedpak container that our sink drains straight down into. We really like this container because it’s clear, which means we can easily see how full it is. With 5 gallons of gray water capacity, we only need to empty it every 3-4 days. Dumping is easy - just remove the tank from under the sink and pour it out into an RV dump facility or other approved area.
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