The Costs and Benefits of Running a Mobile Business

Current shop owners share why this non-traditional business model works so well.

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But, for those still determining their business objectives, Steffe suggests outfitting the mobile unit with only the basics at first to save money and time both upfront and later. "Once you get into the business, you will look around your truck and say things like 'I don't need this space, I need to open it up more here, I need a dressing room, I need less shelving here, etc,'" she says. "You can always add on later."

[Read: 10 Easy Ways to Keep Energy Costs Down.]

The financing

There are a variety of financing options for those looking to get started in the mobile business world. Possibilities include dipping into personal savings, selling off equity, or taking out a private loan, but for those who might not have access to those types of resources right away, Steffe recommends crowdsourcing funding. "It's becoming a lot more popular and can really help people out," she says.

For example, Sterlings Mobile was successfully launched on $200,000 of crowdsourced funding. "If you have a home and you are willing to take out a loan against it, that is one route a lot of small businesses take, but that was not an ideal path for me," Kapila explains. "I was quitting my job, my wife was working, and we had a small child, so I went to people I met during my master's program, family and friends, and encouraged them to invest."

The mass of smaller investments has continued to help Sterlings Mobile to this day, as the investors give Kapila and his staff business advice and free word-of-mouth business promotion, another potential benefit of this funding method.

Moving forward

There are aspects of a mobile business that in a traditional brick-and-mortar shop, you wouldn't have to give a second thought, so take time to learn about what your exact need will be to make the venture easier. "Going from land to mobile is very difficult," McCrary says. "There are things I never even thought about, like, 'How am I going to have lights? And where am I going to park it? What about security?'"

It helps if you go in knowing that it will take time and often feel very difficult, Kapila says. "I went in a little naïve," he adds. "I thought, 'we will just get a trailer, put in a couple chairs and some water and we will be good to go.' No, there are regulations. You have to spend time figuring that out." Organizations like the American Mobile Retail Association and local government offices are stocked with information about business codes, permits and city regulations.

Research your target market now to reduce time spent and profit lost later. "Actively go to events, go to festivals and hit the streets to know the places you can and cannot go," Benson says. "Hunt down your customer and find out where they are so once you get your truck up and running you can feel like you can get some success and sales off of parking in those places."

[Read: What You Should Know About Savings Accounts.]

And finally, keep saving money. "Spend little and save money because in the truck business, one of the biggest surprise expenses is maintaining your truck," Benson says. "You can hear a funny noise one day and guess what? It needs a $5,000 new transmission. And you can't make money without a working transmission."