Disclaimer: Reviews on FitSmallBusiness.com are the product of independent research by our writers, researchers, and editorial team. User reviews and comments are contributions from independent users not affiliated with FitSmallBusiness.com's editorial team. Banks, issuers, credit card companies, and other product & service providers are not responsible for any content posted on FitSmallBusiness.com. As such, they do not endorse or guarantee any posted comments or reviews. Post Your Comment
Shop layout is all about making the best use of space. Place your machines so that you have adequate “safe space” that you need to work around them. The “buffer area” beyond that is the amount of room you need to run large stock though a given machine, keeping in mind that buffer areas can overlap between machines. If you want to get more organized, buy some 1/4-inch squared paper, make scale models of each machine including the safe space around each, and place them on your model shop layout. Remember that buffer areas need to be long enough to put an 8' sheet through a table saw, or a 6' plank through your planer, for instance. I raised my planer, so that I can use the area above my router table to pass long planks through the planer – all it takes is some modelling, and a little shuffling, and you will find the layout that works for you. Each space will have chal­lenges; I had the area under the stairs that was wasted space, so I installed the dust collector there.
At some point in the process of starting a small business, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will hear the following statistics (or variations thereof): 25% of new small businesses close their doors within the first year and 60% are gone within three years. The exact numbers here may vary, but the message is all the same: be afraid, be very afraid!
Unfortunately, the requirements across the country and across different industries are as varied as the bodies enforcing them. The only way to guarantee that your licenses and permits are all squared away is to seek out regulating authorities on the county, state, and federal level, as well as consult with the relevant industry-specific bodies for your business type.
There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and cash that goes into starting and running your own small business. One of the primary benefits of incorporating is that it limits the liability and risk of any losses your business may accumulate along the way. In other words, when you incorporate a business, you are typically not personally responsible for business debts. So if life happens and something goes wrong, as long as you and your business are not legally considered the same, your house, your car, and your goldfish are all safe.

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.


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.

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.


A commercial real estate lease is a long-term rental agreement between the landlord of a commercial space and a business. There are many types of commercial leases and many types of commercial spaces. Leases include full service leases, net leases, and modified gross leases. These leases help tenants rent out office spaces, retail and restaurant locations, as well as industrial spaces.
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.

Concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but over time they stain and you’ll end up tracking a lot of dust and dirt into your home. An epoxy floor finish is easier to clean and can also provide extra grip. For a softer surface that will help your joints when standing a long time, check out those restaurant grade rubber floor mats or some durable options that include garage floor tile.

The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall behind your laundry room door. The materials are inexpensive. Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract an inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves. Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.
We first obtained legal permission from Hasbro [which originally developed the Transformer toy line back in the 1980s] to build it late in 2015. I also had to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL), so I spent a few months learning how to drive a truck while simultaneously spending the winter of 2015-16 working with Western Star to piece together on paper a vehicle that mirrored the Optimus Prime truck. Once the factory delivered the truck in April 2016, we got to work on the customization and fabrication right away. It was roadworthy again by October 2016. So the entire process from start to finish was about a year.
Garages are usually dark, which makes setting up task lighting a priority for a productive workspace. Track lighting is an easy option to install and gives your some directional overhead lighting, but it can cast shadows (especially if the light source is behind you while you work) and you’ll need another lighting source for task and overall room illumination. A simple, adjustable work lamp is helpful for soldering or when you need bright focused lighting.
Gutting: We actually took on a pretty big project when we bought our van because it came with a preinstalled wheelchair lift that we had to remove. Unbolting all the parts took both of us working on it for a full day, and it wasn't the most glamorous job. The good part was that we were able to sell the lift and the reclining bench seat for a combined total of $260. If there's anything to remove from your van, do this first.
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.
Some people lean towards starting a small business because they seek freedom, others to fulfill their passions. Some entrepreneurs, however, are driven by a desire to build a legacy, one that that they can hand down to generations to come. Whatever your reasons are for reaching for the stars and aiming for the moon, before you start, remember, there is a dark side.
Great shop just what you need. You mentioned your lighting was a little thin on the ends of your shop. The best way to lay out rows of lights in an open space like yours is to figure out how many rows you want. Now in your shop six rows would give you a good coverage, so you would divide the length, 60′, by the number of rows, this gives you the space between rows, then divide this in half, this gives you the space from the wall to the first row. For a 60′ room with six rows this would be 10′ between rows and 5′ off the end wall. This will give you consistent light from wall to wall.

I have been working on building out the space, starting with a new welding table and small material/saw rack. I was able to dedicate a 20' x 28' area to fabrication. I need to figure out some things like angle grinder storage, fume exhaust hood and cold saw set up, but I will get there. Power is one nice thing with a 400A 208VAC 3ph supply panel. Also got the compressor in a sound dampened closet with cooling so the noise level is down significantly. Oh ya, dedicated 15 ton AC for the shop has been nice.


Most of today’s POS systems have integrated inventory management software that allows you to put hours back in your week, whatever the volume of your stock. A quality point of sale system will allow you to manage pricing changes, track product availability, cross-check inventory, and automate reorders with ease. All of which are crucial in helping you develop a deeper understanding of your business, enabling smoother day-to-day operations and smart purchasing decisions.
Spacious pathways are a key aspect of good store planning. In fact, it tops the list of retail experts’ store design tips. Heshy Lovi, Sales and Marketing Director for M Fried Fixtures, recommends aisle widths of four feet or more. This, he says, ensures your aisles and pathways will be comfortable for all customers, including those using strollers or wheelchairs.
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.

“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
The kind of apps that fall into this app type are extensive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples. Remember that some of these apps have been worked on for many, many years. Thus, a v1.0 social app or social networking app will likely not offer all of the same features. For instance, Snapchat did not start with videos, filters, or their "Stories" functionality. A social app would, however, include user authentication, friending, favoriting (or other data interaction), some sort of messaging, and comparable "baseline" functionality.
Minor variances are applications to your municipality to suspend a particular by-law to allow your project to proceed, based on common sense or precedents set by other buildings in your area. If your municipal committee of adjustment denies permission because a neighbour voices concern over the development, you would have to appeal the decision to the municipal board of your particular province. In that case, you may be better off looking for another piece of property with an existing structure that you could renovate, more relaxed zoning regula­tions, a larger lot, or more congenial neighbours. 

A table saw is one of the most important tools in the workshop for its ability to make long straight cuts. It will also cross cut with ease and if you don’t want to cut clean through a board you can adjust the height of the blade to make a dado or rabbet. A handy feature with the BTS10ST table saw is the vertical stand which also saves on storage space.
Equity financing is money raised in exchange for a share of ownership in your business. The core benefit of this type of funding is the lack of debt. You won’t have to worry about those pesky monthly repayments. The downside? You are giving up total ownership of your business, you are giving up the rights to a portion of the ongoing profits of the business, and you are potentially giving up some control of how your business is run (Though this is not always the case).
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
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

Of all the LED lighting options, puck lights are the most difficult to install. You’ll have to run wiring behind the ceiling/walls for each light. And you’ll need to cut a hole with a hole saw to recess the lights into the ceiling. But with some preparation and care it's not too difficult. We have full instructions for installing LED puck lights in our epic electrical post.
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.
​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.  
I bought an energy-saving outlet strip for my TV and its components. One outlet controls several other outlets on the strip, so when I turn off my TV, the adjacent controlled outlets for my VCR, DVD player and receiver sense that no current is going to the TV anymore, and those outlets shut off. Then I decided to try it out in the shop. I use it with my router table, disc sander and orbital sanders, so when I flip one of them on, my shop vacuum also starts up to take care of dust collection. It also has two outlets that are independent for other accessories you’d like on all the time. You can buy the outlet strips at amazon.com. One choice is the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet (about $30). — D. Linley. Plus: 30 more smart tips for working in your home shop.
We have LED puck lights in our van. Puck lights are typically recessed into the ceiling, so they have a very clean look that’s really integrated with your van. It’s also easy to create different lighting zones by running your lights off different switches. We have six puck lights in the main living area that are controlled by one switch, and two more over the bed that run off a separate switch.
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.
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.
The subfloor provides a stable layer - basically a sheet of plywood - for your floor to sit on. You’ll see a lot of van build videos on Youtube showing a ¾” subfloor, but that thickness just isn’t necessary in a van. The thicker the subfloor, the higher the cost and weight, and the more valuable interior space it takes away. We recommend using ¼” plywood for your subfloor, which is plenty thick enough for a van.
Both kids and adults have sat inside [the Optimus Prime truck] and been brought to tears. For many, it is a dream come true. Some kids are very intimidated by Optimus Prime because of the size and won’t go anywhere near it. But I love making people smile. The fact that I can make them smile for just a few minutes by seeing Optimus Prime on the highway means the world to me.

Begin by cutting off a 10-in. length of the board and setting it aside. Rip the remaining 38-in. board to 6 in. wide and cut five evenly spaced saw kerfs 5/8 in. deep along one face. Crosscut the slotted board into four 9-in. pieces and glue them into a block, being careful not to slop glue into the saw kerfs (you can clean them out with a knife before the glue dries). Saw a 15-degree angle on one end and screw the plywood piece under the angled end of the block.


The thing I wanted to mention was that I moved from Seattle to Loveland, Colorado north of Denver in July ’05. I brought my ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 8.5′ Northland Grizzly slide-in camper. It was myself and my 9 year old Black Lab mix Lucy. One thing I had not anticipated was the temperatures here in Colorado. It was 105-106 degrees for the first week I was here. My job was in Boulder, which is known for its “bunny-higher” types. I couldn’t leave Lucy in the camper at the RV park because I didn’t have air conditioning in the camper. I took her to work with me and tied her long rope to the trailer hitch on the truck so she could crawl under it and get into the shade. I also put out plenty of cold water for her that I replenished often. By the afternoon of my first day at my new job I heard rumors that people were going to call Animal Control on me for having my dog outside in temperatures that hot, even though she had both shade and water. I ended up having to leave early my first day so I could go purchase a $600 air conditioner and install it in the camper so I could leave Lucy there during the day and I didn’t have to worry about her comfort.
These new companies no longer charge crazy upfront fees, moving instead to what’s known as a “SaaS” monthly subscription model, often with a free trial period. Therefore, the risk of trying a new product is greatly reduced, as you are required to pay little or nothing upfront. Even Microsoft announced in 2015 that they would be moving their flagship product, Microsoft Office, to this pricing model.
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.

In general, a table saw requires at least eight feet in front and behind to accommodate standard sheet goods and four feet side to side. A work table should provide four feet clearance on all sides, and pathways between tables, benches and storage units should be three feet wide. Proper clearance will allow you to move about with ease while you work.

×