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.
We love natural light as much as anyone, and the big windows in our van were something we were super excited about. But when you're living in a van, you'll want some privacy. Trust me. You'll also need curtains to keep out the lights when you're trying to sleep. Making your own curtains can seem like a daunting task, but it's not all that hard. (I speak as someone who had to look up a tutorial to operate a sewing machine!)

This holds a lot of stuff but mainly our handheld power tools, so it needs to support a lot of weight. Any shelf in a workshop will probably wind up supporting more than you initially planned so build it as strong as you can and don’t scrimp on the materials or the fasteners you use to hang it. Now the next step is to install our recycled cabinets that will line the wall under the shelf. Now these cabinets are a little plain but that should work great for a shop like this. Even if you don’t own a remodeling company you can usually find these things pretty inexpensively from salvaged warehouses which recover them from renovation projects then resell them to the public.
Other important power tools—A good jigsaw will help get you through many tasks, particularly cutting curves, that would otherwise require a bandsaw. Look for one with blade guides that keep blade deflection to a minimum. A handheld drill is also essential. A quality corded drill is much less expensive than a cordless one, and will never leave you without a charge. Also look for a quality random-orbit sander with a provision for dust collection.

This is about how I built my wood shop. We decided to move from our previous home for a variety of reasons. I saw the move as an opportunity to gain a bigger shop for my wood working hobby. The house we found had everything we wanted, except for a shop or even a garage. It did have a non functioning indoor pool. We thought this space would make a nice wood shop. I could just build a floor over the pool and have a shop. As we got further into the inspection process, it was looking as though fixing the structure over the pool was going to be expensive. It looked like we would have to put a bunch of money into a structure that was not really a wood shop and not a functioning pool either. It made more sense to take out the pool and structure, and then build a wood shop from the ground up. We started this project by regrading our side yard to gain access to the pool in the backyard. Once we had access, we took out the pool. We half filled the hole where the pool was with compacted gravel. I realized that if we sank the shop into the ground I could have the ceiling height I had always wanted in the shop and preserve the view from the house. The design of the shop is a box with a shed roof. The roof wraps down the east side of the structure. I like to think of it as a slightly open toolbox. The entire shop is laid out on a 24 inch grid. The windows and doors fall within this grid. I had a general contractor built the shell and then I built the windows and interior. The interior walls are comprised of a 34 inch concrete stem wall at the base. Above that is a 9 foot, plywood wall. In the space above the plywood wall and below the shed roof is poly carbonate panel to form a clerestory. The tool layout in the shop is divided into 4 areas: an area near the door for material storage and prep, a central area for general wood working, and two areas near the back of the shop, one for turning and one for metal working.
I grew up in New Jersey and now live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Good thing, too, because we certainly need that extra property space to store the leader of the Auto­bots.Back in 2013, I founded an Internet company called AmericasFootprints.com, which gives people an opportunity to preserve their most precious memories (in private) for the current and future generations of their family. That’s because I believe everyone has a story and I also believe everyone deserves a chance for their story to live on.
​Buying rough cut lumber saves a ton of money.  Buying lumber that has had all four sides surfaced (s4s) will cost roughly 4 times as much as buying rough cut lumber.  Let's look at an example: I'm going to build a table that will require 50 board feet of oak.  If I buy finished oak it will cost around $5.5 / bf or $275.  Alternatively, I can buy rough cut oak at $1.25/bf or ~$65.  In this one project I've saved $210.  That's enough for a new power tool.
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.
When starting your small business, the easiest way to go about choosing a business name is to approach the task the same way you approach building new relationships. Did we lose you for a second? Here’s what we mean. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone based on a first impression. There are endless relationships that instantly blossom or never get off the ground based off of this one simple fact. Most of us, even if it is on a subconscious level, understand this. Which is why when we meet someone that we are trying to impress, we make an attempt to adjust our appearance, body language, even the way we talk, to ensure we are putting our best foot forward.
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.

Drill four 5/8-in.-dia. 1/2-in.-deep holes on the large disc?inside the traced circle?then use 5/8-in. dowel centers to transfer the hole locations to the underside of the small disc. Drill four 1/2-in.-deep holes on the underside of the small disc and a 1/2-in.-deep hole in the center of the top for the dowel handle. Glue in the dowels to join the discs, and glue in the handle. We drilled a wood ball for a handle knob, but a screw-on ceramic knob also provides a comfortable, attractive grip.
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.

However you design it, a loop floor plan surrounds customers with product displays on outer walls, and allows for all types of creative display variations in the center of the store. A loop floor plan works well for most types of small retail stores, such as apparel and accessories, toy, homewares, kitchenwares, personal care, and specialty products.

Remember, your retail store layout guides product placement, directs customer flow, and defines the overall look and feel of your store, so it deserves plenty of thought. Many factors will affect your floor plan choice, including the size and shape of your sales floor, the types of products you sell, and even the customers you hope to attract. Keep these factors in mind as we explore each floor plan option in detail.

While the recession brought with it a well-documented squeeze on small business lending from banks, there are a number of alternative funding sources available to those who are starting or expanding their small business. Loans and/or equity investments can be sourced from multiple sources, including credit unions, savings and loans, and private financial companies. Family members, friends, and colleagues are also potential avenues to explore.


If you choose to hire a draftsperson or architect, they may charge you based on the square footage of the area you are proposing, by an hourly rate for their time or as a percent­age of the cost of the structure. Costs of building permits will be a percentage of the estimated cost of the structure you are proposing (e.g., $15 permit fee per $1000 or 1.5 percent), or a cost-per-square foot depending on your municipality (e.g., $1.20 per square foot). Design work and permits will both dif­fer depending on the part of the country in which you will be building, so ask the questions as you move ahead. One of the costs that is often overlooked in planning is the increase in annual property tax you will pay once your improved property has been reassessed.

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.


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.

I’ll throw this suggestion out to you too – while a warm sleeping bag would be a good start, maybe a couple sheets of plywood to put over the truck bed with a tarp over that would provide you some extra protection from rain/snow and also trap in some body heat. You wouldn’t have to make them permanent and could just slide the wood into the bed when not sleeping under it. A cheap bivy as Ryan suggested would also be a good consideration and a quality sleeping pad to provide some warm rating and comfort from the truck bed.
One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
I have a plastic bed lining on my truck, which also covered the back of the tailgate… I just popped the screws off, took off the plastic liner and drilled holes in the sheet of plywood to match those used by the plastic tailgate cover. Sorry if that doesn’t help you with your setup. But I’m sure you could just drill your own holes in the metal tailgate. Use the plywood cover as a guide for your screw holes…
Sounds fun right? Well the truth is — yes! It’s more than fun, it’s liberating. Sure, there is some risk involved (and a bit of a learning curve). But for those who do it right, who take advantage of the technology available, who build the right support network around them, who get funding from the right sources, and who choose the right people to work with, working for yourself is the new job security.

I have a basement shop with a walk out and a seperate entrace to my shop.I have approx. 5oo sq feet to work in there, there is natural light that comes in with a graet view of the lake that we live on.I have started to dress up my shop after making such beautiful furnisher for other people it started with a bench witch is 11 ft, long and plenty of stoarage space under the bench , the low storage aera of the bench is made from black walnut and the bench top is oak with bubinga trim. Saw cabient is white oak ,miter saw cabient is walnut ,american chestnut ,cherry and maple. Now the joint cabient looks out of place so I will be making a better looking cabient for the 6in. jointer. I had made a plant self to start plants along the widows but took it out and put a bench top there so it looks as a big window sill but I use it for a place to set tools as I am working on the bench also I have put walnut around the widows and painted the walls.There is a 10in. powermatic table saw,powermatic drill press fl.modle,rockler 6in. jionter, mekeita compond saw,delta 14in band saw, I have two planers and a table mount router in my bench top ,also there is an old american lath witch I have in stoage and a sears jig saw.

The first thing to understand about a business plan and financial projections is that the process of compiling them is often more important than the final product. Sure, the actual sheets of paper, filled with spreadsheets and graphs with pretty arrows pointing up and to the right are great — and can be very important in helping you to secure funding — however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of starting a successful business, it’s the process, not the paper, that counts.
Whether you build or buy your workbench, it must be designed and constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through. The base and legs should be sturdy and the table should not easily be knocked over. The top should be durable and not easily dinged or dented. Make sure your workbench is made of a material appropriate for your types of projects, too.

People tend to buy cargo vans for work and hold on to them for years, so many vans on the market can be pretty beat up. Although you can find inexpensive cargo vans in good condition, it can be tough to find anything with lower mileage - so be prepared for all that comes with owning a higher mileage vehicle. Cargo vans also don’t offer much headroom. There’s no way even shorter people will be able to stand in one, and the lack of headroom also cuts down on storage space.
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.

Again, it is the inspiration I have (hopefully) given my son. To never be afraid to try, even at the risk of failure. If you don’t have all the answers, go with the knowledge you do have and trust everything else will fall into place. I am no millionaire; I have entered into a lifetime of debt because of what I’ve done with this build. And I’m going to try and keep it on the road as long as I can. I am not getting any help from Hasbro and Paramount Pictures, so I am looking for help with sponsorships.
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.
It is particularly important that you think about your customer’s experience holistically. Big-box retailers have long understood that people have five senses and that those senses affect decision making in a profound way. Whether it’s through intelligent lighting, the right music selection, or the careful piping in of a beautiful scent, smart retailers have learned the art of manipulating customer mood — whether they need you excited about a sale or relaxed and in the mood to hang around.

One site that I found a year or more ago was Life Remotely. They converted their truck to accomodate 3 people traveling from Seatle to the end of South America. They camped in tents most nights and some hotels/hostels but did a lot of conversions to their truck. Plus they blogged the whole time which is pretty cool if you want to take the road trip international.
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Remember, your retail store layout guides product placement, directs customer flow, and defines the overall look and feel of your store, so it deserves plenty of thought. Many factors will affect your floor plan choice, including the size and shape of your sales floor, the types of products you sell, and even the customers you hope to attract. Keep these factors in mind as we explore each floor plan option in detail.

However, while this product might draw the customer through the door, it will not, on its own, make your business a success. A strong small business has to be resilient to the challenges the world can throw at it, whether that means an economic recession, sudden fluctuations in commodity prices, or problematic suppliers. And a big part of resilience comes in the form of diversification.
Let's talk about a few strategies for building out your shop below retail price.  There are the obvious ones like yard sales, craigslist, estate sales, and thrift stores, however, these can be hit or miss.  First of all, not everyone lives in an area where these avenues exist.  Second, when your brand new to woodworking, it can be hard to evaluate a tool that your buying second hand.  Because of this, I'm not going to focus on these channels in this post, but I will say, if your willing to do some hunting for second hand tools, you can easily save 50% to 75% on some perfectly fine equipment.
These basics are going to set you back about $180, leaving you with $320 left to work with.  We are going to be leaving behind two hand powered tools from the $250 shop and upgrading to powered alternatives.  This should lead to more consistent results, more enjoyable builds, and increased efficiency.  These are all goods things that only the biggest fans of The Woodwright's Shop would argue with.
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.
The thickness planer—A thickness planer will significantly expand the creativity and craftsmanship of your work by allowing you to buy roughsawn stock and use wood of any thickness in your designs. Nowadays, a new planer often represents a better value than a used model. In recent years, DeWalt and Ridgid have introduced portable planers with chip-ejection fans, which work as a built-in dust collector. Dust collection is important for all tools, but essential for thickness planers. This feature can help delay the expense of a dust collector and thus reduce the overall cost of a planer. Speaking of dust collection, I should mention that I don’t use a dedicated dust collector in my shop. I use a shop vac with a small hose for my sanders and a larger-diameter hose for the tablesaw and router table, and I depend on the built-in chipejection fan for my thickness planer.
Hey Marc. Just wanted to send a huge congrats your way for this milestone. It’s been pretty awesome to follow you on this journey since I discovered you on iTunes some 5 or 6 years ago. Mad props for what you’ve done to grow and enhance the online woodworking community as well as woodworking as a whole. I think with todays generation (as well as future generations) growing up behind a computer, the work that you and the rest of the podcasting world do will go a long way towards bringing new people into the craft. I hope that in the future you are able to start a series of videos showing how you introduce Mateao to the craft. Keep up the awesome work!
One of the challenges in building a cabinet for hand tools, is that as soon as you define a place for each tool in your custom cabinet, you find that you need more room to store the must have tools you just bought. I decided to make a couple of open cabinets, and employ the use of inserts that can be replaced or modified as my tool collection grows. Part of the goal was to make a clean, efficient shop, while keeping to a budget. I bought paint grade maple plywood and made the cabinets. Applying a solid maple face frame to the cabinet makes a clean looking cabinet from sheet goods purchased at $50/sheet.

When you are looking for small business funding options, be it from the local bank, an angel investor, or even a family member, the first thing you will be asked to present after your business plan will be any existing financial records. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward by keeping meticulous records, with your business finances completely separate from your personal finances.


Every aspect of your store should flow from a clear statement of who you are and what you stand for as a business. From the sign hanging proudly outside your store window, to the color of the wallpaper in the in-store restroom, every detail should contribute to conveying your unique purpose and brand to the world. This consistency should also be applied to all your online assets, for example, your website design.
Just stumbled across your article and it’s right on time as I am about to launch a special events venue (ballrooms, meeting rooms, outside garden area, outsourced caterer, etc). Not sure what type of zoning this business falls under. I read that zones are usually for office, retail, industrial and leisure. Any idea what type of zone I should be looking for? Also first time trying to get a commercial space for this type of business, any specific suggestions?
Secondly, your size allows you to laser-focus your attention on the right audience. Walmart wants to sell everything to everyone. So maybe instead, you just focus on selling colorful earmuffs to children in the Mission District in San Francisco. This kind of clarity allows you to compete for search rankings on Google, key positions on Yelp and other business recommendation engines, and for space on social media.
When I built my shop I opted to buy a much higher quality miter saw and table saw than I truly needed at the time.  It ate up a ton of my budget and forced me to put off adding the tools that would allow me to buy cheaper stock for 2-3 years.  During that time my savings buying rough cut lumber would have probably paid for the upgraded equipment I started out with.  

The enormous range and affordability of options has provided the chance for small business owners to apply technology to their accounting, marketing, and day-to-day operations. You can spend less money, save valuable time, and gather data about almost every aspect of your business. What’s more, you can enhance the way your customers experience your store in a meaningful and cost-effective way.
To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.
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:
Are your table saw accessories where you need them—when you need them? Follow reader D. E. Warner’s advice: Attach pegboard panels to the stand to hold the wandering herd of push sticks, blades, throat plates, wrenches and jigs. On an open metal stand with angle-iron legs, drill holes in the legs and bolt the pegboard in place. Here’s another super storage project using pegboard.
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 almost goes without saying that everything about your shop's design should project the right answers to each of these questions. But in today’s market, you have to go one step further. In our digitally connected world consumers have seen it all. The true art of compelling store design is in telling a story about your business, while simultaneously anticipating the needs of your customers. It’s all about the surprise and the delight.
The standard option for a shop floor is a concrete slab. You’re probably not going to go to the trouble of creating a basement beneath your shop, although it is possible. The weight of most woodworking machines suggests that a con­crete floor is the most solid and durable substrate available. It has the potential to be used as thermal mass to store heat from your heating system or from the sun, but it can be tiring and hard on your body to be standing on concrete all the time. You can add a vapour barrier, 2x4 sleepers and a wooden floor above the concrete to ease the tendency of the floor to strain your feet and back, or you can add anti-fatigue mats in key areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods.
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.
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.
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