When you’re first starting out, it can be hard to imagine that there are entrepreneurs out there complaining of having grown too fast. But for some, it’s not a problem that’s welcome. For every Ben and Jerry’s, (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield turned a rundown Burlington, VT gas station into an ice cream empire), there’s a Zynga or a Living Social that has enjoyed incredibly fast-paced growth, let their operating costs get out of hand, and then had to engage in mass layoffs when reality hit. If you’re enjoying fast-paced growth, make sure that this is reflected in your operating margins, not just the metric of revenue. You don’t want to be the butt of the old retail joke: “We’re losing a buck on every sale, but we sure are making it up on volume!”
My contention has always been that you can build a serviceable shop in your home, develop your hand skills, and make fine furniture. In the past year, I had an opportunity to build a shop from the ground up after moving to a new home. I found a house with an unfinished basement, and set to work. In this article, I will discuss everything from layout, to electrical, to equipment selection. I intend to name names with respect to equipment, so that readers will know what I chose. Everyone’s budget will be different, but I think almost everyone will be able to treat this as a starting point, and adjust accordingly, depending on their own budget.
Tired of having your caulk tubes lying all over the workbench or your shelves? Make this organizer from a scrap of 2×8 and a piece of 1/4-in. plywood. Just lay out a pattern for your 2-in. hole saw to follow and drill holes through the 2×8. Then glue the plywood to the bottom. Now you can set it on a shelf and easily identify the tube you’re looking for. — Burnie Lorenz
Due diligence is the process of going through the current owner’s books with a fine-tooth comb to verify inventory information, sales data, average ticket price, and every other aspect of the business. Doing all this yourself is difficult and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to involve accountants and lawyers to ensure that you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. A big red flag to watch out for here is how intertwined the current owner’s personal expenses are with the business accounts — this can obscure the genuine flow of cash in and cash out of the business. The purchase price of an existing business is often calculated as three to five times the net annual revenue, so you’ll want to take that figure into account before you make an offer.
After you are done narrowing down your list of business goals, you are now ready to plan out when they will be accomplished. Just remember, nothing is set in stone so if you need to remove or add something to your business goals later down the road, that's okay. It happens to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes our priorities shift or things didn't go as planned and you need to make changes. 
I didn’t want to get a truck with a million miles on it. I am not a trucker by trade; I got my CDL specifically for this project. I didn’t want to get into a truck and then have to worry about its structure, engine, and transmission—and then start building Optimus on top of it. That’s why I got a brand-new truck custom-built from Western Star to become Optimus Prime.
It’s important that you have a fundamental understanding of what is making your business successful before you decide to expand. Who are your customers and why do they enjoy what you offer? Who are your suppliers and will they be able to deliver to your new location? What are your operating costs and will they be the same in a new location? A lot of small businesses start off in the suburbs of a town before making the move to a city’s business district, only to find that unexpected additional costs are swallowing up their profits.

While an electric miter saw is a convenience, it is not necessary to do good work.  A quality electric miter saw will run around $150-$200, that by itself would destroy our budget.  A hand saw with a miter box does the job just as well at a fraction of the price.  This highly rated Stanley version for ~$60 should get the job done, albeit with a bit more elbow grease.
For this reason, on-demand applications can get very time intensive. Consider building on an on-demand platform on both iOS and Android. A typical app on a single platform would require one experience to be designed. In the case of an on-demand app on two platforms, four would be required. That's one experience for each user in the system (i.e., two per platform) plus each platform (i.e., four in total). On-demand apps also often require a number of administrative interfaces. The only way to reduce the cost of an on-demand platform is to streamline the typical feature set included. For example, you could remove in-app payments or administrative interfaces while doing market validation.
James Hamilton (or “Stumpy Nubs”) is a self-taught tool expert, engineer, writer, teacher and video producer. In 2008 he went into woodworking full time, creating a weekly Internet woodworking show that focused on the workshop itself. Now, Stumpy Nubs Woodworking has grown into one of the most popular multi-media woodworking resources in the industry.
Hey there Ryan. Cool blog! I love the idea of trucking-it! I’m not able to do something like that, though I wish that I had taken the time when I was younger to do so. Here’s a suggestion that you might consider, if you haven’t already considered it before: Obtaining and using a hammock. I’d suggest bolting in an eye hook on the truck, or using the bumper as a tie point if you don’t have a second tree around. Also, in the high desert, you could use rocks as anchor points for it. Just an idea, from one camper to another.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before joining the top to the base, loosen the bolts and screws on the lower stretchers to create a little play in the leg posts. Align the top notches with the leg posts and tap the top into place with a hammer and piece of scrap wood, working evenly around the table until all leg posts are level with the tabletop. Tighten the lower stretchers and you’re done. A hefty thanks to Doug Merrill for this weighty idea.
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.
If I had it to do over again, I would stick to an entry level miter saw and table saw until I had both the funds and need to upgrade to more capable saws.  Because of this, I'd stick to the two saws we looked at in the $500 build: ​The Craftsman Table Saw for ~$150 and Hitachi 10 inch Miter Saw for ~110.  These two additions bring our running total to just over $500.  
The good news is that when you’re starting your small business, you now have the tools to take a data-led approach to choosing the right store design. For example: Not sure what type of music gets your customers in the mood to spend? Simply choose a few different styles and display a different one each week. After the test is complete, analyze sales data to help you identify what could be impacting sales. The key to getting accurate results from this kind of test is to avoid switching up the other variables in your store that can impact sales, such as signage, or testing one type of music during a regular business week and another type during a holiday week. For more details on how to create controlled in-store experiments, you can check out Lean Retail 101

You may want a garage door if you will need to access your shop with large workpieces or tools, or if you or future owners will ever want to use the space to park a vehicle. Garage doors are notoriously drafty, however, so if you think you can live without one you will probably be warmer. Instead, you could opt for out-swinging double doors. In a small shop you can, at a pinch, rip longer lengths of lumber by feeding the material out of either a strategically placed door or window.
Disclaimer: We spend hours researching and writing our articles and strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content. However, our research is meant to aid your own, and we are not acting as licensed professionals. We recommend that you consult with your own lawyer, accountant, or other licensed professional for relevant business decisions. Click here to see our full disclaimer.
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.
When Julie Owen bought Cocobolo Interiors in 2008, she set about adding more contemporary items to the Armonk, N.Y., shop. But with only 3,000 square feet, she struggled to figure out where to put her expanding line of furniture, lighting fixtures and accessories. Her solution: create sections within the shop and arrange the furniture the way customers might imagine it at home, using low bookcases and folding screens as dividers. 

Once again I would like to Thank You for letting so many of us see what is going on in your world. It is very educational and entertaining to see what has happened in the past few months of your dream shop build. As I was watching the video I periodically looked out my window to see the snow falling steadily and building up along the windowsill. Every now and then I imagined I was in your sunny backyard admiring your Shop. I am looking forward to seeing what you will create in your New Space. Keep up the Good work and Congratulations on your Dream Shop.
Starting to see a trend here? Notice how each of these questions begins with the customer in mind. As with all things related to your store, it’s critical to put your customer at the core of your decision making. At first glance, little things like cold drinks that aren’t quite cold enough, can seem insignificant, but it’s often the little things that hurt the customer experience and can turn a customer off to your business forever.
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.
Once again I would like to Thank You for letting so many of us see what is going on in your world. It is very educational and entertaining to see what has happened in the past few months of your dream shop build. As I was watching the video I periodically looked out my window to see the snow falling steadily and building up along the windowsill. Every now and then I imagined I was in your sunny backyard admiring your Shop. I am looking forward to seeing what you will create in your New Space. Keep up the Good work and Congratulations on your Dream Shop.
Though store planning software isn’t a necessary tool for the average small retailer, it can certainly come in handy if you are looking to develop specific planograms, such as for the holiday season or a special event. Store design software is more common for multi-location retailers that want to deploy the same planogram in multiple places. Either way, if you are looking to build planograms, DotActiv offers a handy free tool.
If you are going to apply for a trademark, make sure to conduct a comprehensive search, like the one mentioned in ‘Securing Your Business Name’ to ensure no one is already using your proposed name in a similar capacity. The United States Patent and Trademark Office also provide a simple search tool that will quickly let you know if you’re potentially infringing on someone else’s turf from a legal point of view.
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.
Since there’s less wiring involved, installing LED strip lights is much simpler than puck lights. You also won’t need to cut any holes because strip lighting should come with its own adhesive. We’ve seen most vanlifers stick strip lighting down the side edges of their ceilings. However, it’s not as easy to create separate lighting zones as it is with puck lights.
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. 
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.
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide wage replacement and medical and death benefits to employees who are injured or worse on the job. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gives up his or her rights to sue for liability leading to the accident. Your premium will reflect the type of business you operate and the average salary of your employees. Much like auto insurance, business owners who are new to starting a small business or those with less experience tend to pay higher premiums.
As Kizer & Bender always tell retailers: Put it on paper. If you haven’t settled on your store layout—or even if you have—the first thing you need to do is work your plan out on paper before you start moving things around in your store. Putting it on paper helps give you a clearer picture of the desired result and any potential issues before getting started. Remember, many small retailers find that a mix of floor plan and layout styles works best.
For small business owners starting or wanting to grow a small business, attracting and retaining customers is a huge priority. Let’s face it, without customers you don’t have a business to run. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the number of high-quality, affordable technologies that are specifically geared towards helping small, local business owners improve the day-to-day operations that impact this aspect of their business. This includes point of sale systems, tax software, bookkeeping software, employee scheduling and payroll programs, inventory tracking tools, customer loyalty programs, gift card technology, ecommerce opportunities, website builders, email marketing software, and social media management tools. The list goes on and on.
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.
Leslie recommends that retailers provide some type of seating for both customers and anyone who is accompanying them. Shoppers do get tired and so do their friends and relatives who are along for the ride. Why not offer them a chair? Seating can be as simple as stools near the checkout or a lounge area near the dressing rooms, like this fun setup below:
Before you bid in an online auction, check the site’s rules of operation. At some sites, a winning bid is a binding contract, which can be a problem if you can’t inspect the tool before you purchase it. Don’t forget shipping costs. In some cases they can exceed the cost of the tool. Also, make sure the tool you’re buying will run on the power you have in your shop. Many former industrial tools run on 240v single-phase power. If your shop doesn’t have 240v service, you’ll need to factor in the cost of upgrading before deciding to buy. You don’t want to saddle yourself with a tool you can’t use, no matter how good the price.

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.

If you want the ultimate vehicle to customize for your DIY van conversion, the Sprinter is the van for you. They have enough headroom even for tall people to stand up, and enough interior space to design any kind of layout. They also typically have diesel engines, which means greater fuel efficiency and engine life (many diesel Sprinters have been known to make it past 400,000 miles). If you think you’ll be doing a lot of off-roading, the Mercedes Sprinter also comes in a 4x4 version.


A large table saw just isn't a feasible fit in most small shops. But you should be able to get away with at least a portable table saw. Never mind veteran woodworkers who might look down on these compact tools–they're well-suited for many of the smaller ripping and crosscutting operations you'll need to perform. Some of the more compact table saws, such as this 10-inch Skilsaw, are small enough to be stored in a closet or under a table.
I wouldn’t give up on Craigslist or garage sales.. For around $1K or less, you can pretty easily find the four big ticket items (TS, BS, Jointer and Planer) and have the extra $2K to spend on accessories, material, DC, other goodies, etc. The key is patience and persistence, and if applied correctly, you can have a fantastic setup for very little compared to purchasing new. If you are setting up a business, you don’t usually have the time to scour for good deals, but for a personal shop, there is no pressing need other than that itch to get something done.
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.
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.
After years of digging through piles of stuff on my workbench for the air compressor accessory I needed, I had this idea. I simply drilled 7/16- in. holes on the underside of my workbench top and threaded in a few 1/4-in. NPT male couplings with quick-connect couplers. A wrench and some upward pressure are all it took to screw the couplings into the wood. Now I just snap my accessories onto the couplers when I’m not using them. — Donnie Dressler. These are the best tools for automotive work.
Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three 1-5/8-in. nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place. Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors.
I place the band saw first in my order of purchases, because I consider it the heart of the shop. Band saws are very safe tools for ripping, re-sawing, cutting curves and more because all of the force is downward, virtually eliminating any chance of unexpected kickbacks. I wanted a saw that had a strong back, dynamically balanced cast iron wheels for smooth operation and flywheel effect, 12" depth of cut, good dust extraction design, a large table and a solid fence. After shopping around, I settled on the General International Model 90-170 14" saw. It is very smooth, comes with an Excalibur fence, and it is light enough (133kg) to move into your basement without crushing someone.
Once again I would like to Thank You for letting so many of us see what is going on in your world. It is very educational and entertaining to see what has happened in the past few months of your dream shop build. As I was watching the video I periodically looked out my window to see the snow falling steadily and building up along the windowsill. Every now and then I imagined I was in your sunny backyard admiring your Shop. I am looking forward to seeing what you will create in your New Space. Keep up the Good work and Congratulations on your Dream Shop.
“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
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.
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