While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!

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.
I added an accessory mitre gauge to the saw for accurate cut-off work. The Incra Miter1000 showed up under the Christmas tree after the Lee Valley flyer photo with part number mysteri­ously ended up on the fridge door with a circle around it last December. A great addition, the Incra is light, accurate, and provides adjustable stops for cutting multiple parts to precise length. I will also make a plywood cut-off sled for the saw for squaring larger panels.
Conversion vans have some pretty sweet built-in amenities, including high-tops for extra headroom. Many have comfy captain chairs, leather seats, mood lighting, TV/VCR, and a rear bench seat that folds down into a bed. If you’re not picky about your living situation, this could be all you need to get started. And if you gut it and customize it yourself, the high top offers tons of great storage options that other vans just don’t have.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.

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?
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.
Another flexible option is the portable work tables the guys are building back in our shop. This gives us a work surface that we can move wherever we may need it. Now the main workbench we’ve left a little gap between two of the cabinets for a trashcan or a stool to slip in but we did need to support the countertop where it crosses so Tim and Chris are adding some 1x4s to bridge the space. They’re also putting in a 2×4 inside one of the cabinets where the two pieces of plywood will have to be seamed. Then it’s just a matter of laying in the pieces in place and nailing them down to the cabinet. That trim strip around the edge is mostly for looks but the cedar backsplash along the back will keep us from banging up the wall or getting small items stuck between it and the counter. All in all it started to look pretty good.
I think the music comment was about speakers for playing music. I put a few 8″ in ceiling speakers in from MonoPrice.com ($60 / pair I think) and love them. A space that big would probably need at least 3 pairs. You’re not throwing a rock concert with them, but they provide very decent background music for not much cash. The speaker wire from MonoPrice is dirt cheap too. Just add a cheap receiver to drive them. Of course, you probably don’t want to spend that cash at the moment. But it’s a good starting point for the future.
Check your local papers, especially the free shoppers, for information about upcoming shows Another venue for craft retailing is at the local flea markets that spring up in every community just about every weekend. Again the entrance cost is usually minimal. Ultimate Small Shop Result The only other thing you need is a little marketing savvy. With little cost and some effort, you will be well on your way to knowing whether there is a market for your craft. Once you know that, you can move on and think about other ways of selling, such as in galleries, on consignment, on eBay or from your own website. Once you spend your precious time and energy creating a scrapbook, make sure it lasts! There are a few simple things you can easily do to ensure that your scrapbooks look just as good as the day you finished them, for years to come. The first thing to avoid is paper that is not lignin-free. You’ve probably heard that before, and it is true, but what is lignin anyways? Lignin is a stiff component of a plant that quite literally holds it together. Although lignin is necessary for plants and trees, you want nothing to do with it! After a while, lignin will cause photos, fabrics and other paper that touch it to turn brown. Yes, the lignin-free paper does cost more, but it is a vital part of preserving your cherished scrapbooks. If the paper is not lignin-free, it will eventually discolor your photos and other materials touching it. So when buying paper for your scrapbooking projects, be sure to look for packages that say “lignin-free,” because if it doesn’t say it, then it most likely isn’t.The fabric is a big concern for preserving your scrapbooks, but unfortunately, it is often overlooked. Many people assume that all fabrics are acid-free, but they aren’t. Silk actually goes through an acid bath during the manufacturing process, as well as many tie-dyed fabrics. This isn’t to discourage you from using it, not all. Just try to make sure that no photos directly touch fabric, and if you need them to overlap, make sure there is a layer of paper between the two. Another consideration when using fabrics is if the color will bleed off onto your page and other things touching it. To test for this, cut a square inch off and soak it in a glass of water overnight. If there is no color bleeding from it the next day, then there isn’t any risk to your scrapbook. But if you do see color in the water, or collecting at the bottom of the glass then don’t use that fabric in your scrapbook at all. When using glitter, be sure there is a top layer of spray adhesive to lock them down, or better yet use special glitter glue where the glitter is mixed right in. If this is not done right the glitter will slowly fall off, and loose glitter means scratched photos. After you have planned the layout for your photos, be sure that you are using the right kind of mounting tape for them! Regular mounting tape is fine for buttons and bottle caps, but when it comes to mounting photos you need to use special photo mounting tape which is completely acid-free. Ultimate Small Shop Member If you don’t, your photos will slowly discolor. The tape should say “acid-free” right on the packaging.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your size should make you lean. Every single aspect of your store or restaurant can be tweaked and optimized to ensure more and more customers are coming through the door. As you experiment with strategies on Facebook or Twitter, introduce a new email marketing techniques, or simply erect new signage outside of your store, you have the chance to measure your success and react quickly to failure.

The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
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).
Every shop should have good lighting, whether natural or artificial. My video work dictates limited natural light, so I was sure to have plenty of overhead T8 fixtures (6500k). You’ll hear me mention in the video that I was disappointed to see that the ends of the shop were just a little dark. Thankfully, I was able to get the contractor to come back in and drop in 4 more fixtures for me, two at either end. Now the light is bright, crisp, and evenly distributed from one side of the shop to the other.

The dream of a dedicated home shop is a common one among woodworkers. Whether you currently borrow shop space, work in your driveway or side yard, or compete for a corner of your basement with Christmas decorations or your fur­nace, you may be ready to build your own space that will allow you the free­dom of more room and time, and will also keep dust, fumes, and noise under control. Every design/build situation will be unique but there are a series of consid­erations that you will face in the design and construction phases of your project. Let’s walk through the process and dis­cuss the questions that you will need to ask yourself and others as you approach this project.
So before you start to consider fixtures and displays, think about the product positioning throughout your store. Where are your evergreen, seasonal, limited availability, and sale products going to be featured on an ongoing basis? This process is called product mapping. Following is an example of a product mapping plan that features a mix of product categories in defined areas:

I don’t think you have run into this problem, but I have to deal with condensation in the cap as I live in a moist climate. I was thinking of an old van type roof vent with fan for active ventilation, or drilling holes along the side of the cap, inserting short cuts of pipe with fine screens (mozie land), and capping them. This way I could control for rain, cold, etc., but create some passive cross ventilation at roof level.
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!
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…

Everything from the way the customer is greeted as they walk through the door to the way your products are presented following a sale matters. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. Early on when just starting your small business, you as an owner, will be able to exert a lot of direct control over these details. But as you grow, you will come to recognize the value of a well-trained and motivated staff.
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.
Nice video Marc. I did enjoy seeing the details of the construction process. Since becoming a homeowner and a woodworker (something that happened literally at the same time) I have become fascinated with anything having to do with the process of building and finishing and all the details in between. I thought of an off the wall question while watching this video and that is do you write yourself any kind of script for any of your monologues and/or narrating or do you just have a general idea of what you want to say and wing it?
Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
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