Having a plan of action is key to learning how to start and run a successful small business. Whether you are looking for funding from a bank or angel investor, or are lucky enough to completely fund your venture on your own, an articulate and well-thought-out business plan will help you define what your business stands for and what it intends to become over time. As the age-old saying goes: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Don’t put your business idea in the hands of fate. Plan thoroughly, give yourself some benchmarks for success and be prepared to innovate as you go.
A track saw, such as those by Festool and DeWalt, makes things even easier and offers greater accuracy, but these saws are also quite a bit costlier. With a circular saw, you have to keep the shoe pressed against a guide while pushing the saw forward. Track saws, on the other hand, pop onto their tracks and need only to be pushed forward. Track saws often feature splinter guards to help reduce tearout as well for smoother and straighter edges.

Setting up and running a small business is awesome, especially if it’s your first business. Is it tough at times? Yes. But if you don’t build your dreams, who will? In 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 27.9 million small businesses nationwide. This number has trended upwards over the last decade, accounting for 64% of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011. In a world that appears to be dominated by today’s retail giants, it’s easy to overlook the huge impact that starting a small businesses can have on our U.S. economy. However, these numbers illustrate something that we strongly believe at ShopKeep – that the brave folks who open new businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the lifeblood of our local communities.


Power outlets are also needed for lighting, heaters, AC units, radios, televisions, CNC machines, 3D printers, and computers—all of which you’ll find in many workshops (although maybe not together, and maybe not all in your garage.) You simply can never have too many outlets and it’s much safer to have too many than not enough. Bring in an electrician to help install your outlets and setup 220v power if needed for larger shop tools.
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:

Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.

Now, we’ve already applied some resurfacer to fill up some of the deeper holes and after that dries overnight we’ll use a floor leveling compound tomorrow morning to really smooth everything out. Leveling compound is more fluid than the resurfacer so it flows into all of the low spots to even out the surface. Now, this won’t look like a finished floor when Tim’s done but it should do the job for our shop. Now, while he wraps up this Emily has a Best New Product that might be a great addition to your workshop.


The primary investment of any garage workshop are the tools. Protect your investment with a high quality tool chest that is neatly organized and (if needed) lockable. Look for smooth rolling ball-bearing drawers, and if you’re buying used, beware of rust and dirt that could corrode your tools. We recommend installing drawer mats to keep your tools from sliding around. They also give your tools a softer cushion to rest in.
Smaller speed bump displays (above) and larger merchandise outposts (below) placed along your store’s main traffic flow let you draw customer interest to certain products. Speed bumps let you feature new finds and hot sellers in eye-catching ways. Larger outposts are great for special price stock or product groupings such as seasonal features and branded collections.
If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.

But here’s a quick back-story so you know how things went down. The reason I moved my shop so many times was because the sale of our old house fell through at the last minute. This is the house with the original Wood Whisperer shop/garage. We took the house off the market to recuperate and wait for the market to improve. In the mean time, I decided that I should probably make the best of the shop space that I was already paying for, so that’s why I moved my tools back there. When we eventually put that house back on the market, it sold on the first day. That was a BIG surprise! While we weren’t financially (or mentally) ready to build the new shop, I wasn’t about to lose a chance to get that 2nd mortgage gorilla off my back. So all of our resources went into the sale of the old house and the purchase of my mom’s new place. Truth is, there really wasn’t much left to put toward the new shop. Thanks to some financing wizardry, we made it work. But let’s just say I’ll be paying this off for quite some time!
As a carpenter, I need to bring certain items with me every day. I bought a cheap plastic tote in the tool storage area at a home center and modified it for my needs. I made a small plywood deck, drilled a couple of 3-in. holes for coffee cups or glue bottles and then fastened it to the tote. Another piece of plywood has holes to keep pencils upright and organized. My tote sits nicely on my bench seat, but it could also be attached to the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners. You could easily customize these totes for plumbing, garden or painting tools, electrical supplies—what have you. — Don Simms. Check out this jumbo tote for fasteners.
A commercial real estate lease is a rental agreement that allows a business to rent commercial space from a landlord. Commercial leases come in three main forms: full service leases, net leases, and modified gross leases. The process of identifying, negotiating, and signing a commercial lease is a long process and it’s important to understand the required steps which are discussed in detail in this article.
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.
We use this fan for extra circulation when it’s hot, and to get the air moving when it’s cold at night and we have all the windows closed. We also keep it on for our dogs while we’re driving. There are cheaper 12V fans out there, but generally the cheaper the fan the more power it draws. The Endless Breeze is a great little fan, and it’s definitely worth getting for the added ventilation.
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.
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.
Do you want to create the next great retail dynasty? Do you want to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? Or are you just looking for a simple local lifestyle business? Are you hoping to create a franchise model? Or do you see your local business as a testing ground for an ecommerce business? Your end goal will clearly inform your decisions, so it’s worth considering what it is early on.
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.
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.
Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct tons of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history. Some tour guides offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.
This is where I started thinking about how I was going to store all of my lumber.  I had planned on building a wall rack, similar to what I had used in my single car garage.  But I hated using up an entire wall for lumber storage.  I also knew from experience that I would easily lay stuff against it and soon be digging lumber and junk out of my way.  I decided to use the space under my workbench to store the long boards and I realized that by pulling my bench out from the wall I could slide sheet goods behind it.  This created a problem:  How do I get it out.  The Shop isn't long enough to pull out 8 foot boards from inside and I would probably have to move things around to get to it anyway.  So my plan for this came at kind of a sudden epiphany moment, when I decided to cut access doors in the front and build my storage into my workbench area.  This has been the single best idea that has come out of my shop.  I can't express enough how easy it is for me to get straight to a board i need with no hassles.  I just remove the doors and pull out what I need.  I can store a surprising amount of lumber in this area.  I do have a secondary area for some cutoff sheet goods and a scrap bin next to my table saw in the garage.  But this area stores most of my lumber.
The idea behind this segment is to find products that solve common problems we face as homeowners. And the cool thing for me is that I get to learn a lot about the professional side of home improvement. Well, I’m looking for do it yourself items. For example, do you know why carpenters pencils are shaped differently than ordinary round pencils? So they won’t roll off of an inclined surface like a roof. And the larger size allows you to draw fat lines as well as fine ones while you’re marking lumber.
Power walls are your go-to spot for hot finds, new items, and seasonal features that attract instant attention and pull customers through the entry area and into your store. These areas are likely going to change frequently and you need to plan for it. Outfit these spaces with versatile displays that can be easily changed to showcase various product groupings.

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.

Most people know they should document their homes contents for insurance reasons but they often ask why or how to do it the right way. If you have a loss due to fire, theft or a natural disaster your insurance company will need certain details to complete the claims process, including a description of the item, the model number, the serial number the date purchased the color and the purchase price.
Ever wonder why you walk into a supermarket and the first thing you see is fruits and vegetables rather than toilet cleaner? The complex art of displaying arrangement and the perfectly optimized in-store customer journey can seem like some sort of semi-magical, commercial Feng-Shui. But it’s actually just business 101. At its core, store design is a fairly simple exercise. Think about your shop’s layout from a customer point of view and consider what might surprise and delight you, what might annoy you, and most importantly, what might convince you to make a purchase.

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.  
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