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 :)