Volume 7, Issue 5, September-October 2003
Finding the Shop
It took me nine months to find a shop to rent for my window tinting business, and thatís a long time. What I kept coming up against was finding a facility that was small enough, but also had an automotive bay.
My mentors had advised me that the rent alone could break me, telling me that I had to bring in enough gross income in three days to pay for the whole monthís rent or I wasnít going to make it. When you are given that kind of advice, you tend to look for something small and cheap.
The Mobile Advantage
My mobile tinting business was quite helpful in locating properties. Because I was traveling to lots of areas, I started looking for lease signs or rentals in the areas which I found myself calling on frequently. I came across a location with a small front office that I could use as a waiting room and a service bay that could hold several vehicles. I had been advised to keep the square footage between 900 and 1,200 square feet, and this location fit the bill.
I then scoped out the neighborhood. It was in a primarily industrial area that seemed to be growing with a large commuter community nearby. I managed to stay close to local specialty stores such as detail centers, custom stereo stores, dealerships and a large auto body park.
I found that since I was already established with the dealers and now was closer to them, they had no problem dropping off their carsóno more mobile service for them and some initial start-up business for me! Other businesses nearby included a detail store that would provide many networking opportunities, a car stereo store (where my film could hide the large and fancy stereo systems they were installing) and an auto body park where I could re-tint the windows that had been damaged.
The Big Move
Moving into my new place had some ups and downs and there are some things I wish I had been made aware of. I wish I had gotten an occupancy permit before moving into the location. My shop could have failed the cityís fire code and I, instead of my landlord, could have been stuck with the bill. Fortunately, this didnít happen.
Also, I wish I had gotten a sign up before I moved in. Itís now been seven months and I am still fighting the city to approve our color scheme. I found out that my industrial park had a set standard of colors from which to choose and our logo wasnít fitting in with the other tenants. If I had checked with my landlord or the county for color and size requirements, I could have avoided the delay. Fortunately, I didnít get fined or have to buy another new sign.
Finally, I wish I had researched utility costs for my area, even if I had just asked the guy next door what he was averaging per month and if summer or winter was more expensive. When I moved into my location during the winter months, our shop came with an electric heater, which really burned a hole in my pocket (pun intended). If I could have gotten a gas burner from my landlord, I could have saved a lot of money.
The bottom line is to remember to keep overhead cheap, find a place where there is some visibility, see if the area has other shops that can complement your business and ask the landlord a lot of questions. Only then is it time to start running a window tinting shop.
Laurence Streidel is the owner of Interior Guardz in Rockville, Md. E-mail him at
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