Whether you end up looking at self-checkout counters, fancy lighting systems, special refrigerated cases, or any of a countless number of options, never forget that these are only tools to help accomplish your main goal. Your store needs to create an environment where customers want to be, where they feel comfortable and appreciated, and where that experience will prompt them to purchase (and hopefully encourage their friends to do the same). Equipment and technology decisions should always be made with your customers in mind.
At times, while you are starting a small business, it will seem like there is a brick wall in front of you, made up of all the different problems that will occupy your time and mind: a lack of funds, permits, regulations, tax worries, inventory issues, or a lack of customers. Concepts like “free time” and “the weekend” will take on a very different meaning. While the emotional ups and downs of cash flow management and customer service, may drain your will to live.
It all depends on what you care about most. Putting your kitchen by the side door could simplify refilling your water and propane tanks. Putting it behind the driver’s seat creates a nice, open feel in your van. Right behind the cab makes your van more private, while all the way in the back is a different twist on most van layouts out there. Some vanlifers even have kitchens that pull out of the trunk on drawers for cooking outside.
To help, I’ve pulled together 40 small business ideas for anyone who wants to run their own business. Use these as a jumping off point to spark your own unique ideas.And if all else fails, live the words of Airbnb Co-founder Brian Chesky: “If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”
After years of digging down under router tables, lifting the entire unit up to change bits, and then fighting to get the plate flush again in the table, I chose to spend the money to pur­chase a router table, fence, and lift system. I did a thorough review of these systems, and chose the Canadian made Jessem Rout-R-Lift II kit. The system comes with a solid steel stand, a phenolic table, an adjustable extruded aluminum fence, and their base model lift system. For budget reasons, I did not choose the hefty Mast-R-Lift, but I am quite happy with the lighter Rout-R-Lift II. It will last me a couple of lifetimes, so it is the right system at the right price for me in my one-man shop. Hats off to Jessem for making a great lift at a very rea­sonable price in the middle of a tough economy. The table is durable, and flat. The direct drive lift is smooth and precise. I mated the lift system to a mid-sized model 690 Porter Cable router, which has a fixed speed, and enough power to do any­thing I need. The Jessem system uses a bayonet type mount for the table inserts, a nice touch that makes swapping the table insert quick and simple. As with all my machines, the router table is connected with the supplied dust port to my shop dust collection system with automated switching. 
Well I’ve been kind of fighting that, because I wanted to keep it open to where you could have the flexibility of moving things in and out. It probably makes sense. Actually have another old set of cabinets I thought about putting here, maybe put some really good casters on it to where you could keep it here. I’m also, wanted to be able to store like drum sander, other things that can go under it and then you can take those out and put them on this.
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.
Volkswagen campers are by far the most iconic vehicles in the vanlife community. They’re classics, and they always will be. This category includes the old Kombi bus (VW Bus), the 1980-91 Vanagon, and the newer Eurovans. Also known as Westfalias or Westies, many VW vans were converted into campers by the Westfalia Company in Germany (except for Eurovans, which were converted by Winnebago in the US).
Instead of permanently mounting my 6-in. vise to a work-bench, I attached it to scrap plywood so I can clamp it wherever I need it. Stack two pieces of 3/4-in. plywood and screw them together with 1-1/4 in. drywall screws. Mark the vise-mounting holes on the plywood and drill 3/4-in. guide holes through both pieces. Recess the nut by drilling through the bottom sheet with a 1-in. spade bit using the 3/4-in. hole as a guide. Fasten the vise to the plywood with bolts sized to match the vise-mounting holes. If the bolt shafts are too long, cut them off with a hacksaw. — LuAnn Aiu. Plus: Learn how to use vise grips to pull nails.
Though store planning software isn’t a necessary tool for the average small retailer, it can certainly come in handy if you are looking to develop specific planograms, such as for the holiday season or a special event. Store design software is more common for multi-location retailers that want to deploy the same planogram in multiple places. Either way, if you are looking to build planograms, DotActiv offers a handy free tool.
“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self- honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
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.
As a retailer, it's possible to use furniture, displays, racks, and other tools to create a clear path for your customers through your store. This will vary greatly depending on the size and your general store layout. However, you know that most North American customers will naturally turn right — so, your next job is to make sure that as they do, they also continue walking throughout your store to gain the maximum exposure to your products. This not only increases the chances of them making a purchase, but a well-thought-out path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of foot traffic in your store. 
After you are done narrowing down your list of business goals, you are now ready to plan out when they will be accomplished. Just remember, nothing is set in stone so if you need to remove or add something to your business goals later down the road, that's okay. It happens to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes our priorities shift or things didn't go as planned and you need to make changes. 
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.
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:
It’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing the right location when starting your small business. We’re sure you’ve heard the saying 1,000 times before, Location, Location, Location! Some of the world’s most well-financed franchises have this weaved into their business DNA. McDonald’s Ray Kroc is the perfect example. When asked about the business, this well-know American businessman and philanthropist once stated, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”
Small business owners can maintain steady, manageable growth by keeping a firm eye on costs and always aggressively looking for ways to increase sales and grow their brand. It can be difficult to empower staff and managers around you, especially if you’ve spent a long time steering the ship alone, but it is an essential part of successful expansion. Stay open to suggestions from your managers while making your current business best practices clear to them.
Once you have an idea of your store layout and a product mapping plan, it’s time to consider your store fixtures and displays. Fixtures are permanent—fixed—parts of your store such as lighting, counters, fixed shelving units, and dressing rooms. Displays hold product and tend to be movable, versatile, and customizable, like modular units, gondolas, tables, slatwall, and clothing racks.
You’ll also sometimes want to walk a property with a licensed contractor. This is because some commercial spaces require lease build outs, which are necessary additions or improvements to the space. Build outs can be fully or partially covered by the landlord. It’s important in this scenario that you get an accurate renovation estimate and negotiate a build out into your lease.
DeAnna says that in general, the front left of a retail store is a good location for the checkout counter, like the one above. Shoppers naturally drift to the right when they enter a store and tend to loop around the store, leaving on the left side. So, a checkout at the front left of your store puts it your customers’ natural exit path. Plus, it doesn’t distract them from shopping as they make their way around the store.
We have a 5-gallon clear plastic Hedpak container that our sink drains straight down into. We really like this container because it’s clear, which means we can easily see how full it is. With 5 gallons of gray water capacity, we only need to empty it every 3-4 days. Dumping is easy - just remove the tank from under the sink and pour it out into an RV dump facility or other approved area.

If you want the ability to cook inside your van but don’t have a whole lot to spend, your best option is the Coleman Classic propane camping stove. For about $60 you get a sturdy and reliable 2-burner stove that runs off of replaceable 1-lb propane canisters. We’ve seen many people using these out on the road, and they do the job very well. Coleman has hardly changed the design of these stoves for decades, so you know they’re doing something right.
On a more mundane, but equally important note, the costs of retroactively fixing errors in a name choice or a business structure can be enormous, both in your time and in real-terms. It is therefore important that you do your research and establish the correct legal structure for your business early on. Still not sure what steps you need to take to incorporate your business? Visit BizFilings.com to learn more about the first five steps you need to take when incorporating your business.
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.

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.

Household vacs are not designed to handle large quantities of sawdust or wood chips. Their filters clog up quickly, greatly reducing suction. While you can get away with using a small cordless vacuum for small messes, a shop vacuum offers greater power and capacity. Whether you already own a shop vacuum or are shopping for your first, consider purchasing disposable bags or a washable and reusable CleanStream filter.
Thanks! Yep, the canopy clamps and the grooves in the bed liner are the only things holding the side shelves and sleeping platform in place. You just pop off the clamps with a ratchet and the whole things lifts out / slides out easily. That’s what I did to treat the wood after construction, takes maybe 15 minutes to pop out. Very modular. It’s been in there for more than two years now, same wood, and everything is still looking good and working fine. I like it!

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.


There are benefits to either approach. Sharing a common wall with your house can require some careful soundproofing but can reduce heat loss and exterior fin­ishing costs like siding. A shop located in an addition is more likely to be allowed to have living space or storage space above it, and it may be easier to make use of the existing plumbing and electri­cal and heating systems of your home to service your shop space. Another advantage of an addition is not having to run to an outbuilding in minus-30-degree weather or a summer downpour.
Every woodworker (I think!) dreams of someday being able to construct their own dedicated woodworking space. To date, I have bounced around from garage to garage (about 4 times), making the best of a crappy real estate situation. And while I have been lucky to have fairly large spaces to work in, I still daydreamed about the possibility of designing a shop from the ground up, with both woodworking and video production in mind.

Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.


The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.
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.
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.

4. Avoid a cluttered look. Owen managed to add more merchandise but avoid a cluttered look by using neutral colors, such as ivory and gray for furniture and larger items. She then accented the space with smaller brightly colored items like vases and pillows. She also makes sure not to crowd her merchandise too closely together. "We try to make it look elegant and give it some space," she says.

As the old saying goes, the only two inevitable things in life are death and taxes. Almost all small businesses in the United States are subject to some form of corporate income or gross receipts tax on a state level — that is, unless you happen to be a lucky inhabitant of the great states of Wyoming, Nevada or South Dakota. Actually, even these states will require you to pay state workers' compensation insurance and unemployment insurance taxes. Oh, and of course every small business in the country is subject to some form of federal taxation.
Really enjoyed watching the video of the shop build. You will be turning out great pieces in no time. At the end of the video it looks like you have your dust collection system up and running. Where did you purchase the duct work? I thought I remember you talking about this in the old shop. Did you use regular HVAC 4″ round duct or a heavier piece. Thanks for the insight and good woodworking.
Expert Tip: Banks are often reluctant to provide long-term small business funding. They prefer short-term loans that are associated with physical assets, which can then serve as collateral. So instead of just asking for a generic loan, maybe consider raising capital for specific equipment that will kickstart your new business, like an espresso machine or delivery vehicle.
Without organization, living in a van can feel cluttered and chaotic, so you'll want to make the most of your storage space. This is a good time to make sure you've paired down your belongings to a reasonable amount and to make sure everything has a place. (As a former engineer who loves making things as efficient and optimized as possible, this was Ben's favorite step!) 
Now nobody reasonably expects you to actually hit that exact number in five years time, but the point here is accountability. A really great small business plan forces you to think through your goals, associate a dollar value with each, and articulate clearly how you will make them a reality. By declaring your projected revenue in month seven or your expenses in year five, you are giving yourself a benchmark for success.
So keep this in mind when choosing fixtures and display units: The ultimate purpose of fixtures and display units is to put your products front-and-center. But at the same time, the overall look, styling, and finish is your biggest branding opportunity. Choose cohesive fixtures and display pieces that coordinate with your product collections but don’t overpower them, like the successful looks below:
Conduction is heat transferred across solid surfaces- think touching a hot stove. It’s also how heat gets out of your van in the winter. The heat inside your van is conducted through the solid surface of your walls and ceiling. Insulating the inside of your van will help prevent heat loss through conduction during the winter, and will also stop your van from conducting the sun’s heat inside during the summer.
It might sound harsh, but when starting a small business your online presence is crucial. If you speak to some experienced local business owners, many will denounce the existence of online review sites like Yelp and Google Local. They’ll tell you about the added time and pressure they now face to maintain social media profiles for their businesses. A lot of local entrepreneurs will share their bad experiences with online daily deal websites like Groupon. But all that complaining doesn’t change one established fact that the internet isn’t going anywhere.
Great website! I spent a summer living out of a ford focus hatchback while road tripping around the United States. The rear seats were replaced with a small platform to store gear and the rear windows were tinted. I enjoyed the freedom that anywhere I parked no one would see me hop from the drivers seat to my platform for some zzz’s. Also no one would guess that someone is sleeping in a 3dr ford focus.

Store design experts advise small retailers to keep versatility in mind when choosing product displays. Your stock will likely change over the years. If you install permanent, unmovable displays, you will likely regret it later. Adjustable display options such as slatwall, gridwall, apparel racks, and shelving tend to be good choices for small retailers.
The on the go mode is ideal for when I’m just driving all day and need to pull over and get some rest, be it in a parking lot, a residential cul-de-suc, or wherever. I usually toss a couple of items in the cab of my truck and crawl into the “coffin” sleeping arrangement for a quick night’s rest, but I can also crawl in without placing anything in the cab.
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