My mobile boutique interior was inspired by design images from the inspiration capitol of the world (wide web); Pinterest. I scoured pics of brick and mortar boutiques, other fashion trucks and interesting homes for months searching for my perfect style. I noticed all of my favorite pins had a similar rustic/ industrial vibe so that was where I started. With a mobile boutique trailer you also have to take into consideration space, and mobility. Whatever I added to the trailer had to be strong and as light as possible. Cost and budget were big factors too. There was little information available as to what materials would work best so I guessed on much of it. Some aspects of my design have worked out wonderfully, while some I would change if I was doing it all over again.
Two of the most noticeable aspects of my fashion truck interior are the light, simple color scheme and the galvanized pipe wall fixtures. Both of these design details were intentionally chosen to maximize the space available and give the boutique a more open, airy feel. I love the designs I have seen with shelves and cabinets built in but they tend to visually close off the inside and leave a few less inches in the center walkway. With just over 100 sq feet to work with, every inch counts.
You will need...
I knew I wanted a wood floor, I think it looks very chic and homey. To maximize space I went with a light oak color and to maximize my budget I went with stick on laminate planks. The floor was installed in just a few hours, cost a couple hundred bucks and has held up well against foot traffic and movement. The wall design is something I made a mistake on. Other boutiques went with sheetrock but I decided it was thicker, heavier and more expensive than I wanted so I went with paneling. I liked the vintage beadboard look of it but it has a coating on it that paint doesn't stick to very well. Even after 2 coats of primer, the paint still peels and bubbles every time something touches it. I tell myself the little nicks make it look "vintage" :) It's fine for now but do yourself a favor and choose a different material.
For the shelving, I wanted a bit of contrast and a rustic feel so I stained maple planks with an ebony stain, which lets the wood-grain texture show through. Since taking the picture above, I found myself needing more shelves so I added a black industrial garage type storage shelving unit on the left side. I may go back soon and add another galvanized pipe shelf but the idea of the challenge makes me procrastinate. Plus, I the guys in the pipe section of Home Depot avoid me now for some reason....
The decor in my mobile boutique is constantly evolving and I add or take away vintage and salvaged props as my merchandise changes. Having a simple color scheme helps because I can alter the colors of my merchandising accessories without them ever clashing. In the end, my boutique is a reflection of me and my personal style and if you are thinking of starting your own mobile boutique business, yours should too!
Thanks for reading and I hope this information helps in some small way. I welcome questions or comments, and appreciate you sharing this article!
First things first. I decided in mid-2013, while living in Little Rock, AR, to start a mobile boutique as an extra income source but there was not a lot of information out there, except for the experiences of other fashion truck owners. In other cities, I noticed that mobile boutiques were parking on city streets, which I thought was a fantastic opportunity. No rent, just metered parking! But I live in Arkansas and I realized I had never seen a food truck parked downtown in either Little Rock or North Little Rock, except during festivals. I needed to find out why. Not being able to sell in those locations would greatly affect my ability to park the boutique in busy areas and keep my costs down.
I discovered that in order to legally sell from my mobile boutique in Little Rock, I would have to be parked in a private lot in a commercially zoned area. The only exception to this rule (unofficially) is the River Market area downtown where merchandise vendors are allowed to sell during the biweekly farmers market. We'll talk more about the River Market later... So, where are the commercially zoned areas and lots?! The zoning office gave me a link to an interactive zoning map that shows property lines, and zoning info for each property. This map has come in handy while searching for possible selling locations.
Fashion Truck Whaaaa?
I started my search with the office that issues Little Rock business licenses, but the "boutique on wheels" idea was new to the person I spoke with so she referred me to the city zoning department to find out what sort of license I would need. I was transferred around a few times and had to call back before I got someone who could see my vision. He ended up giving me a $50 "peddlers" license and had me sign the mobile vendor guidelines which are also given to food trucks and vendors selling things from push carts. Those guidelines listed restrictions which made selling on city streets illegal. Bummer.
Get your Mobile Retail Permit FIRST.
The moral of the story is that every city may have different ways they categorize mobile boutiques, different permits and licenses, and different restrictions on parking and selling in city parking spots. The laws in your area could make a big difference in your business plan so check with your local zoning office in the beginning, before you start shelling out cash. Stay tuned for more tips on starting your own mobile boutique business.
My mobile boutique business was originally intended to be a part-time second income source, so I wanted to keep my start up costs as low as possible. My goal was to keep the whole project under $15k so I could sooner see a profit even working only part-time. I knew I would need to get creative to make this happen!
All About the Benjamins
The options for fashion trucks seem to be a box truck or a step van. Both of these options require a large capital investment and I just didn't have the cash! The trucks I found for sale under 10K were old and had tons of miles on the engine. Some were also beat-up and had manual transmissions. I can drive a stick, I just don't want to. I figured I would spend at least 10k on a truck, then I would have to have some body work done to get it looking decent on the outside and the interior would have to be cleaned and reupholstered. I would probably have to have the engine repaired and maintained on a regular basis since I don't know a single person who can change the oil on a delivery truck. Then, after making it presentable I would have to turn it into a boutique?!
Start Ups Stop Here
I didn't have a trust fund to help launch my mobile boutique business, and I didn't want to use up all my savings so I knew I would need some financing. During this research process, I learned that delivery trucks are much more difficult to finance than a cargo trailer. Commercial trucks are a capitol investment so you need a business loan (or lease), and most banks won't even touch a business less than 2 years old. If you can get a loan, the banks prefer the commercial vehicle to be younger with fewer miles (aka more expensive). My banker actually gave me this idea by saying "You should just get a personal loan for a cargo trailer, we do those all the time."
Ms. Tow Piggy
By then I was leaning towards a trailer, but how would I pull it? It is a MOBILE boutique after all. I had to do a ton of research to see which SUV's could safely pull the size and weight of the trailer. I know a truck would be a better option but I am just not a truck girl. I wanted the smallest SUV with the biggest towing capacity and Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Dodge Durango were all recommended. I could just get an older pre-owned model and use it only for pulling the boutique (and maybe jet ski's when I am rich). My tow vehicle would not require a business loan, and I had plenty of used SUV's to choose from in my area.
In the end, after months of deliberating, I got a brand new 16 x 7 shiny cargo trailer for under $5k and was able to finance it through the dealership for around $100/ month at a great rate. I paid a little more to get the one with an extra 6 inches of height. To pull it, I ended up finding a 2002 Durango in the same silver as my trailer for $5k. It has over 100k miles on it but runs well and can be maintained easily. The great thing about this setup is that I can actually use my SUV as my daily vehicle if I ever need to. You can't do that with a delivery truck. I had a towing package installed on the Durango for about $500 at my local Uhaul store and it easily pulls the trailer, even up hills.
Downsides to Owning a Trailer Mobile Boutique
I have driven small cars since I could drive, so cruising around in a large SUV pulling a 16ft cargo trailer is intimidating! Honestly, I am on high alert all the time and making turns in traffic is not only scary but dangerous. You have to drive this thing with RESPECT. I do not even think about touching my cell phone while on the road, and I drive like a grandma. Backing the boutique up is a challenge in itself, and it takes practice. It still takes me a few tries and I will go out of my way to avoid backing up :) With that being said, I believe driving a step van or box truck could be just as difficult.
"Fashion Trailer" Sounds Funny.
I think people associate mobile boutiques and fashion trucks with the image of a step van, just like food trucks, so having a cargo trailer may cause you to loose a few cool points.
There Goes my Lunch Money!
Gas cost will be an issue no matter what but many step vans and box trucks run on diesel and therefore get better gas mileage. While pulling my trailer, my Durango gets about 8 MPG. Ouch.
I genuinely hope this helps a few people in their search for mobile boutique bliss :)
Are you using every available free tool to advertise your hobby or craft business? If not, get on it! As the internet expands, its reach and the number of social media marketing outlets increase, along with your ability to cost effectively advertise your business. Civilian Style is all about being creatively thrifty and a little guerrilla marketing can go a long way when you are trying to increase traffic, sales, brand awareness and customer loyalty. Below are some popular free resources I have used and found to be very effective. Some are more time consuming than others, so it is important to analyze the effectiveness of each tool and then narrow your focus on the most beneficial campaigns.
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Think outside the box...pop up retailing is a great way to sell your crafts. Access to the public and great promotion exposure without dealing with wholesale account discounts or internet fees. Coordinate with other fellow crafters who sell goods with similar target customers and price points. Choose crafters from complimentary categories. For our event we combined the efforts of an eco-friendly handmade handbag company, a designer of custom contemporary clothing, and a handmade jewelry designer who uses fossils to create her one of a kind jewelry. Price points started at $75 and went all the way up to $350. Each designer set up their own area in the lounge area with branding collateral and a personalized display. We partnered with a local charity, Our House, and advertised a 10% proceed donation to the organization. The event also served as a clothing donation drive for the homeless shelter. I called several local venues that would support the size, theme and desired location of the event. When calling, you should put emphasis on the fact that a craft event would bring in new customers for the bar and the fact that you will be working with a charity. With this information, the bar manager of Prost in Little Rock "donated" the room rental for the evening. It's a good idea to have each of the designers put in a few bucks to purchase some light snacks from the bar/restaurant. Our event was named "Handcrafted" and was held during happy hour, which encourages more fun!. Handcrafted turned out to be a great networking event due to the turn out of professionals fresh from work. Each designer was able to showcase their collection, sell on the spot and obtain leads for future sales. It turned out to be an inexpensive event that benefited all three designers, the bar, the guests, and the charity organization.
Kay.dee.h Handbags, A.Gunk Designs, and Kate Baer Fossils can all be found on Facebook!