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Running A Mobile Business Smoothly – Challenges and Opportunities

Rachel Present Schreter | Jul 9, 2018

For entrepreneurs interested in starting a new business, one option that may be worth considering is running a mobile business. Rather than setting up a traditional brick-and-mortar store, many first-time entrepreneurs set up shop in a truck or van. This type of business enables them to offer their products and services to customers just about anywhere they can find a parking spot.

For decades, ice cream trucks have been the most obvious example of a mobile truck business. In recent years, food trucks have become a growing craze. However, there is no shortage of mobile business ideas that go beyond serving food. Some mobile businesses choose to sell clothing or shoes, others sell flowers or knitting supplies. It’s also possible for entrepreneurs to run a mobile salon business, allowing hairdressers and beauty professionals to go to their customers and not the other way around. The industry even has its own trade association called the American Mobile Retail Association that can be a big help for assistance and questions on how to start a mobile business.

Benefits of Being Mobile

One of the benefits of a mobile business that might drive you to explore that option is the lower startup and overhead costs. That’s not to say it’s cheap to run a business out of a truck or van. However, you can avoid paying rent, and some of the other maintenance expenses like heating and electricity that are unavoidable with a brick-and-mortar shop. Without these costs, it can be a little easier to get a business off the ground.

Running a mobile business also means you are not tied to one location. You can have the same face-to-face contact with customers that you’ll get with a traditional brick-and-mortar shop. However, you have the flexibility to change locations whenever you please. If business is slow in one area, you can move to another neighborhood with more potential customers. If there is a big event with large crowds, all you have to do is drive your truck or van to that location. This can make it easier to find new customers and create a steady flow of revenue.

Challenges of A Mobile Business

Of course, even the best mobile business faces plenty of challenges to operating out of a truck. For starters, there is likely to be little room for storage in your vehicle. This means you will be refilling your inventory more frequently than brick-and-mortar shops. Doing this usually requires always having funds available whenever you need to buy new supplies to keep your business running. The alternative is renting space at a storage facility, although that adds to your overhead costs.

It can also be a challenge to find the best locations. You may have several options for where your business can be located at any given time, but you can’t be in two places at once. It’s important to understand the kind of customers you want to attract so you can be someplace where they can find you. This could also mean a different marketing approach than traditional businesses. Mobile shops may use flyers and business cards rather than TV or radio commercials. It also makes it vital that you have a presence on social media so you can let customers know where you’ll be setting up shop on any given day. 

Finally, when you operate your entire business out of a vehicle, you first need to find a vehicle that fits your business needs and can also be a reliable form of transportation. Also, remember that the cost of gas, vehicle registration, and routine maintenance on the vehicle will be part of your budget. If you have a truck that breaks down, you won’t be able to do any business until it gets fixed and can get back on the road. For mobile businesses to start finding success, the first challenge is usually finding the right vehicle. 

What’s Different When You Go Mobile

For any big or small mobile business, there are things to consider that traditional physical storefronts don’t need to worry about. For instance, you may need to pay fees or apply for permits to park your vehicle in certain locations, particularly large public events. You will also want to be aware of any local laws regarding mobile businesses. In some cities, there may be limitations on where you can park or operate from, and how long you can stay in one location.

Another important consideration for any mobile business is insurance. Like most businesses, a mobile business should have general liability insurance to protect against a customer getting injured while visiting the business. Also, unlike many traditional businesses, a mobile business will require commercial auto insurance since they will have a vehicle on the road being used for business purposes. Many mobile business owners also choose to have contents insurance, which provides coverage in case merchandise is stolen or damaged.

Last but not least, any mobile business owner should remember how fickle the weather can be. After all, it’s tough to attract people to a mobile business in the rain, or the snow. But if you can to tolerate the occasional bad-weather day and meet some of the other unique challenges of operating a mobile business, running a mobile business can be a fun and rewarding business opportunity for an entrepreneur.

Authors

  • Sofya PogrebSofya Pogreb
  • Sanjay BiswasSanjay Biswas
  • Natalie CutlerNatalie Cutler
  • Guy GoldsteinGuy Goldstein
  • Rachel Present SchreterRachel Present Schreter
  • Alon HuriAlon Huri
  • Evyatar SagieEvyatar Sagie
  • Zeke ScherlZeke Scherl
  • Annie RyanAnnie Ryan
Rachel Present Schreter
Rachel Present Schreter | Author
Rachel is passionate about helping small businesses get the tools they need to succeed. Rachel is a marketing guru with years of experience working with tech companies, non-profits and small businesses to ensure that they are reaching the right audiences with their products.

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  • Sofya PogrebSofya Pogreb
  • Sanjay BiswasSanjay Biswas
  • Natalie CutlerNatalie Cutler
  • Guy GoldsteinGuy Goldstein
  • Rachel Present SchreterRachel Present Schreter
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