Resources

TIPS TO CREATING A MOBILE RETAIL BUSINESS

When starting a new business venture, so many questions come to mind, especially when venturing into the unconventional method of starting a mobile retail business. We've compiled all the necessary steps to take in opening your mobile retail business. Included below are answers to the most frequently asked questions as well as a brief breakdown of writing a business plan. 
If we've left anything out, or if you have further questions, please send an email to info@americanmra.com or call (213) 785-4783.

2015 MOBILE RETAIL SURVEY

The American Mobile Retail Association partnered with California Lutheran University in 2015 for a national survey on the mobile retail business industry. We are excited to release our findings! Below are the results from the 2015 survey.

A 2016 survey will be conducted shortly. If you are a Mobile Retailer in operation and would like to participate please email info@americanmra.com with email subject "2016 Survey Interest List" to receive survey information. Thank you!


STEP 1: Where to start...
The best place to start is learning how you will be able operate your mobile business in your city as listed under the current laws; this includes which licenses and/or permits you may need to obtain. You will want to contact your city hall for that information. 
You may also review the municipal codes yourself (do this for each city you want to sell in). The municipal codes, necessary permits, and rules and regulations vary depending on your city and state. Start by reading the municipal codes for the city you want to do business in, which can be found by visiting your city's website, or by going into the office.
Use this website to find your city╩╝s municipal code: https://www.municode.com/. You may also contact your local economic development center for FREE assistance. 
This video on our youtube channel explains in depth: 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8zctsuh7AQ

STEP 2: Once you know how you may operate...
You will want to file for your business: sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, S-Corp, etc. The IRS website provides a breakdown of the different ways you may file your business, as well as information on obtaining your EIN:
http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed

You will probably need to obtain a business license in your city, and a peddlers or vendors permit (if allowed) is additional, which will allow you to sell on public streets. IMPORTANT: Not all cities allow retail trucks on public streets and may not offer such permit.

You may also need to obtain a sellers permit through your state. You may obtain your sellers permit at the Small Business Association website: www.sba.gov.

STEP 3: Write a Business Plan!
Once you have filed your business and obtained all necessary licenses and/or permits, you will want to write a business plan. This can be an intimidating task, so we’ve attached a sheet on the topics that should be included in your business plan.

This article by Entrepreneur Magazine explains the importance of writing a business plan: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/38290

Visit the US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website and review their in depth articles about the different topics to cover: https://www.sba.gov/writing-business-plan

The SBA also has a free online business plan template to help you get started:
https://www.sba.gov/tools/business-plan/1

Your local economic development center may assist you in writing your business plan, and their services are typically free.

STEP 4: Funding Your Mobile Business
After completing your business plan, you may need to obtain financial assistance. You can apply for a traditional business loan, take out a line of credit, do a crowdfunding campaign, or find an investor. A local economic development center will have leads for funding as well.

STEP 5: Create a Logo, Website and Social Media Profiles
Once you've got your funding in place, you are ready to get started! Time to create your logo, website and social media accounts. Make business cards and have flyers to pass out advertising your business. At the very least, you will want to have a presence on social media sites facebook, twitter and instagram. 
* BRANDING TIP:  Make your profile name the same on all social media sites. For example:

www.americanmra.com
Facebook.com/americanmra
Twitter: @americanmra
Instagram: @americanmra

STEP 6: Purchase the Truck and Flip It!
Now you’re ready to purchase the truck or trailer, or maybe you already have it. Time to turn that truck or trailer into a store on wheels. Look on Pinterest for inspiration for your interior. Search keywords "fashion truck" or "mobile boutique" or "mobile shop." You can hire a contractor or fabricator to do the build out for you. The cost varies according to the materials you purchase and the hourly labor rate, but according to a 2013 national survey by the AMRA, the average cost is between $5,000-$10,000. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBNJBjiU7fo

STEP 7: Decorate the exterior
There are 2 options to decorating the exterior of the truck:
1) Paint w/ vinyl decals: starts around $1,500. Recommended if you're looking for a clean, minimal look.
2) Wrap job: starts around $3,500. Recommended if you're looking for lots of colors and graphics.
*** TIP! Your truck is your FREE advertisement; include all important company information such as website, social media handles, phone number and any other information you want people to know.

STEP 8: Purchase the Inventory
If you are new to buying wholesale, we suggest you visit tradeshows to learn about the different brands available to you. You will need to have a sellers permit from your state in order to attend. This website has a list of the top 250 tradeshows for all industries:
http://www.tsnn.com/top-250-us-shows-list
Grand Opening!
Time to reveal the mobile retail business by hosting a grand opening event! Send out a press release to local press outlets (TV, radio, newspaper, bloggers) with details. Promote it on your website and social media. Post the event to websites like eventbrite, yelp, and facebook. If you need help writing a press release, we have a template you can follow.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the total investment to start a mobile retail business?
Based on a 2013 national survey conducted by AMRA, the average cost to start a mobile retail business is $25,000. This includes, but is not limited to: filing your business, buying a used truck, doing the interior rebuild, painting or wrapping the exterior, and purchasing inventory. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOhtGUoS7kQ


What types of permits and/or licenses do I need in order to start a mobile retail business?
It's important that you check with your city, county and state for specific business license requirements, as it will differ according to each city and state. At the very least you will need to file your business (LLC, Partnership, DBA, etc), and acquire a business license in your city of operation. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth: https://www.youtube.co/watch?v=b8zctsuh7AQ

What are the rules for selling merchandise from a vehicle?
The municipal codes, necessary permits, and rules and regulations vary depending on your city and state. Start by reading the municipal codes for the city you want to do business in, which can be found by visiting your city's website, or by going into the office. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8zctsuh7AQ
- Use this website to find your city: https://www.municode.com/.
- You may also contact your local economic development center for FREE assistance.

What kind of drivers license is required to operate a retail truck‬?
This is determined by your state DMV. Contact your local DMV office for specific requirements.

What kind of insurance will I need for my mobile retail business?
We recommend both liability insurance as well as auto or commercial insurance. The DMV will determine whether you need regular auto or commercial insurance. Email info@americanmra.com for our latest Vendors List which has over a dozen leads for liability and auto insurance nationwide.

Where can I find a truck or trailer? What is the "right" size?
There are many styles of vehicles to choose from: step-side van, box truck, RV's, trailers, etc. There is no "right" style, it's all personal preference. The average length of mobile boutiques is between 18-26 feet, not including the stairs. That's a cargo space of 10-18 feet in length. Your local newspaper is a great start, as well as classifieds websites. Try extending your search to surrounding areas for better results. Visit the Classifieds page at www.americanmra.com for a turnkey retail truck. Search local classifieds websites such as:
- Craigslist http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites
- Recycler http://www.recycler.com/
- Ebay Motors http://www.ebay.com/motors
- Uhaul http://www.uhaul.com/TruckSales/

How do I get power to the inside of the boutique?
You will need to install a dual battery system or a generator. The Honda generators are the most popular amongst mobile vendors because they are low emissions and the most quiet generators currently on the market:
Try searching classifieds websites such as Craigslist for deals. AC and heater units will run off a generator that holds 3000 watts or more. These can be installed at an RV supply store. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8vqhEFIsMk

How do I decorate the interior? How much will it cost? Where can I find inspiration?
Look on Pinterest for inspiration. Search keywords "fashion truck" or "mobile boutique" or "mobile shop." You can hire a contractor or fabricator to do the build out for you. The cost varies according to the materials you purchase and the hourly labor rate, but according to a 2013 national survey by the AMRA, the average cost is between $5,000-$10,000. This video on our youtube channel explains in depth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBNJBjiU7fo

How do I decorate the exterior?
Paint w/ vinyl decals, which starts around $1,500, recommended if you're looking for a clean, minimal look. Wrap, which starts around $3,500 and recommended if you're looking for lots of colors and graphics. Email info@americanmra.com for our latest Vendors List, which has several leads for paint and wrap companies nationwide.
*** TIP! Your truck is your FREE advertisement; include all important company information such as website, social media handles, phone number and any other information you want people to know.

Where do I purchase product?
If you are new to buying wholesale, we suggest you visit tradeshows to learn about the different brands available to you. You will need to have a sellers permit from your state in order to attend. This website has a list of the top 250 tradeshows for all industries:
http://www.tsnn.com/top-250-us-shows-list

How do I process sales?
You can get a POS System (point-of-sales systems) that runs entirely off your iPad or tablet. The most popular options amongst mobile retailers are:
- Square Register https://squareup.com/
- Vend http://www.vendhq.com/
- Shopify http://www.shopify.com/
- NCR Silver http://www.ncrsilver.com/
- Preferred Payments https://www.preferredpayments.com/amra
     Preferred Payments can set you up with payment processing and integrates with multiple POS systems.

How do I process credit card transactions?
You can process credit card transactions through your iPad or tablet. The most popular options amongst mobile retailers are:
- Square https://squareup.com/
- Intuit http://payments.intuit.com/
- PayPal https://www.paypal.com/
If you are processing over $2000 a month in credit card sales we recommend utilizing a credit card processing company for the lowest rates!
- Preferred Payments https://www.preferredpayments.com/amra

How do I obtain a business loan?
You can receive a traditional business loan from a bank, get a private loan from an investor, or use a Crowdfunding platform. Your local economic development center can also assist you (for free!) in applying for either a traditional or nontraditional loan.

The Small Business Association has a complimentary, 30-minute tutorial on preparing a loan package:
https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/How%20To%20Prepare%20a%20Loan%20Package_Transcript_0.pdf

Popular crowdfunding sites:
- GoFundMe: http://www.gofundme.com/
- Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/
- Indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/
- Kiva: https://zip.kiva.org/

Should I trademark my brand?
It is always suggested you trademark your brand to protect your company's image and intellectual property. Filing for your trademark can be very daunting if you don't know what you're doing, and chances are your trademark will be denied. We suggest hiring an attorney to do it for you. Our vendors list has a few leads for trademark attorneys, and this video on our YouTube channel explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxqm-sOD6MI

How do I address theft and/or safety concerns?
- conduct business in well-lit, heavily populated areas.
- have 2 people on the truck at all times: one at the cash wrap, the other on the sales floor.
- keep smaller, higher priced items closer to the cash wrap.
- always keep your driver and passenger doors locked.
- don't accept bills larger than $20, and keep your cash drawer out of view. If people only have large bills, suggest they use a credit card instead.
- don't leave items left outside unattended.
- keep pepper spray or mace on your truck.
- overnight parking is where the big break-ins happen. After hours, park your mobile boutique in a well-lit, gated facility with security or surveillance cameras.
- follow your intuition. If a location doesn't feel right or seems unsafe, leave.
if selling on public streets, stay in well lit, heavily populated areas.


WRITING YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

Your business plan tells the story of your company. It talks about the present, the future, and is the plan on how you get from your present to future. You will want to to answer the following questions in your business plan:

1) What is your business; either the existing business, or the idea?

2) Who are your customers and why do they want to buy from you?

3) How will your customers find out about your business? How will you tell them about it?

4) Who are your competitors, and what makes you different than them?

5) How will you be carrying out the basic functions of your business?

6) Who is your management team, and are they capable of guiding your business to success?

7) What is the long-term future of your business?

8) Financials: How much will it cost to start your business, operate it, and how much will you make?


CATEGORIES TO COVER IN YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

Executive Summary
Highlight the most important aspects of your business and summarize the key points of your business plan. This is typically written last, but is the first paragraph of your business plan.

Company Description
The basic facts about your business: company name and type of product selling

Target Market Description
Identifies your customer and explains theirs needs and wants as your consumer.

Competitive Analysis
Evaluate other companies offering a similar product or service and how you will be different.

Marketing and Sales Plan
How will you reach your customer and make sales?

Operations Plan
How you will run your business and your operational factors.

Management Team
Describe the key people running your business: partners, management, etc.

Development Plan and Milestones
Show where your business growing: where will it be in several years time? How will you get there? What milestones will you reach along the way?

Financials
A set of financial statements showing both the current financial status of your company, and future financial goals. If you’re seeking a loan, when will that loan be repaid?

Email info@americanmra.com for our 16-page Vendors List, which includes several leads for insurance, POS sytems, fashion wholesalers, store supplies + more!
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Interested in joining the American MRA?  Visit the Membership page and fill out the online application.  For questions or assistance on membership, email info@americanmra.com.

If you would like to speak to us about opening or growing your mobile business, please visit our services page or email us at info@americanmra.com.