“Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change—frequently—in order to flourish. It’s the retailer’s job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest products, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained—even when they don’t buy anything, that experience is what brings them back.”
Finding reliable cellular service (and the internet that comes with it) is a constant challenge in vanlife, especially if you do computer-based work on the road. A cell signal booster like the WeBoost Drive 4G-X helps a lot in areas where service is spotty. It can take a weak cellular signal and amplify it into usable internet for web browsing and getting work done.

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.

Once you’ve considered the questions in the previous paragraph, start thinking about how your products/services stack up against the local competition. Because unless you are offering something ground-breaking and innovative, chances are that your potential customers are currently having their needs met by another business. That means it’s going to be your job to convince them that Blue Sheep Bakery is a better option than Bob’s Bake Shop. If your first thought was to compete on price, sorry to break it to you but, that’s not going to cut it. There is more to starting a successful small business than matching the price to the guy down the street.


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.
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.
Hospitality expert, Chip Conley founded and grew the Joie De Vivre hotels from a single San Francisco location to become California’s largest boutique hotel management company. How? He understood the value of a unique vision when it’s consistently applied. He created each hotel to reflect the spirit of a niche-oriented magazine that he felt represented his target market. Examples include the Phoenix (Rolling Stone), the Rex (The New Yorker), Hotel Avante (Wired), Wild Palms Hotel (Fast Company), Hotel Los Gatos (Town and Country), and the Water's Edge (Yachting). Obviously your inspiration doesn’t need to be a magazine, it can just as easily be a song, a group of words, or just a particular image. Find something that resonates with the customers you have in mind and design your store to reflect that vision.
Many small business owners start on a shoestring budget, intertwining their personal and business finances, supporting the business with their personal credit cards, accepting payments into their personal checking account, and even submitting tax returns that mix up personal and business finances. While this is common, it can create tax headaches, make bookkeeping more time consuming, and, most importantly, can also interfere with the proper evaluation of your business.
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
There is a profound difference between a good idea and a thriving business, but as the saying goes: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” At a certain point, turning your dreams into reality is as basic as putting a plan in place and, step by step, making it happen. The good news is that there has never been a better time for starting and learning how to run a small business.

Hand tools offer your best chance of finding a real bargain. Until the early 20th century, nearly all woodworking was done with hand tools, and their designs and uses have changed little. Most of the high-end planes on today’s market, for example, are just reproductions of the original designs. And because the originals were mass-produced, they are fairly easy to find at rummage sales and antiques stores. (For more information, refer to Matthew Teague’s article, “Buying Old Tools,” in FWW #180).


MPG: I'm going to be blunt and tell you that you're not going to find a campervan -- no matter how new or expensive -- that has great gas mileage. When you're driving your home, the miles per gallon are going to be lower than with a typical car. But it's good to ask the previous owner what type of mileage they were getting so you have an idea of what to expect. As a benchmark, our 1994 Chevy G20 got between 15 - 18 miles per gallon. Certainly not great, but there are worse out there.
Shop looks great Marc, I see the Clear Vue in the picture. I love mine, I used 8″ PVC for the main trunk line and came out of that with 6″ drops. It works great. I wound up building a collection bin instead of using a can, only thing I didn’t do was make the bin big enough. It holds more than the typical can but I still should have made it with more capacity. The 1800 with the 5 hp motor is stout.
Thanks again for the inspiration. I've just finished putting the door on my 12x16 shop. Aside from shingles it is ready for the winter. I've yet to cut out the hatch for the lumber or start on the interior, but at least it's weather tight and I can work on the rest I the coming months. I am planning to use mineral wool bays for insulation to mitigate sound and ease installation. I don't see a way to add pictures to this reply (I'm on my phone), so I'll try to add one or two later.
I totaly get not wanting to get into the cost part of the shop. We just went through a house renovation, and my stock answer to the ‘how much’ question is either ‘enough’, or ‘enough that was right for us’. There is a quality of life or utility aspect that every person needs to figure out for themselves. And, I would think not having to bounce around from garage to garage anymore has gotta be worth something!
Chances are if you’re starting a new small business, you’re not afraid of a little risk. However, it’s also highly likely that you have invested a large amount of money in this new endeavor. It is only prudent to take sensible steps to minimize the impact of unexpected events, like the untimely death of a business partner, a lawsuit from a customer or employee, or a freak accident of nature.
Find out what tools you need and how to budget for shop setup. Whether you are going to be doing furniture, cabinetry or woodturning, this workshop tools list and budgeting guide can help. Learn how to prioritize purchases of shop tools based on space, interests and cost. Check out a comparison of the workshop tools you can get for $4000 vs. $10,000 and determine how much you need to spend for the shop you want.
Making sure any holes in your insulation are sealed off and filled helps your insulation really do its job. Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks spray foam insulation is the best way to fill in any space around your foam boards, and to insulate any hard-to-reach spots. You can also spray this into the hollow vehicle frame for insulation (you’ll need a whole bunch of cans for this).
I do not rip on the table saw as a rule, to prevent kick back that periodically occurs when natural wood pinches the blade, turning the wood into a missile. I bought a fairly powerful saw, so this is one place where a lighter saw would be adequate. Essentially, I use the table saw for ripping sheet goods, cutting dados, tenons, and cutting small parts to length – all of which can be done with a 1.5 HP saw. I ended up with a King 3 HP, three-belt drive, 10" table saw. The castings are true, and the King Tru-rip fence reminds me of the Biesmeyer fence used on the Canadian General saws. The model is KC-11FX, and it can be purchased for less than half of the price of other, simi­lar saws. On this purchase, I went with the suggestion of Jeff at Brettwood Machinery – he was right; a very good value saw that runs smooth, and has a decent fence.
If you live where summers get hot and humid, you may need more than a fan to keep cool in your workshop. Fortunately, air conditioners will both dehumidify and cool your space — and you don’t need a traditional window to get the job done. Instead of a residential window unit, consider a freestanding portable air conditioner that you can use as needed on hot days.
The nomadic truck camping lifestyle has been incredibly freeing, not only is cheap and accessible to most anyone, but it can take you beyond places you even imagined. One book that I’d recommend to all newcomers to this lifestyle is Bob Wells’ How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV, which will help you better understand the ins and outs of this lifestyle.
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