Small Business Idea – Stonemason and Decorative Brick Worker

small business idea

How to start a small business as a Stonemason and doing Decorative Brick Work

Description of Job

• Design and install decorative stone and brick walkways, patios, walls, and garden features.

• Build brick and stone custom barbecues. • Repair and maintain existing exterior stonework.

The Need and Demand For this Business

Outdoor stonework in the form of walkways, patios, walls, and barbecues can beautify a property and increase its value. Stonemasonry is one of the oldest con- struction skills, little changed in thousands of years; in modern days it is a craft not often practiced.

Challenges Faced By the Business

This is outdoor work, with heavy lifting. You’ll need to lift and place heavy stones, bricks, and tiles and use tools to

shape them. You’ll also be working with heavy mortar and cement. In some parts of the country, this is a seasonal job that is available from late

spring through late fall. You may be called upon to design a decorative element or wall or to follow the plans drawn by an architect or contractor.

Important Things to Know About the Business

Stonework is in demand nearly everywhere, but with different purposes or styles in various settings. In a big city, jobs might include walkways, steps, and small patios. In rural and suburban settings, jobs might include larger patios, outdoor fireplaces and barbecues, and stone walls.

The traditional method of training for stonemasonry is to work as a helper or apprentice to a skilled craftsperson. In some areas, unions offer training and for- mal apprenticeship programs. You can also learn many of the skills from books, web sites, and educational programs. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers has programs around the country and a national training and education center in Maryland to teach basic job skills for brick, stone, tile, terrazzo, and restoration work.

How to Get Started In the Business

If you are already trained as a stonemason, advertise your services with flyers at home and garden centers, retail outlets, and community centers. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Make yourself known to architects, contractors, and landscapers who might recommend your services to their clients; offer a commission or bonus for work they send to you. Ask satisfied customers to recommend you to others; in return, offer them a bonus or discount on further work.

Up-front Expenses for the Business Startup

You’ll need stoneworking tools, cement and mortar mixing equipment, and land- scaping equipment.

You will need a truck or van to transport your tools and equipment. You may be able to have stone, brick, and other materials delivered directly to the site by your suppliers; if not, you’ll need a heavy truck with a lift gate or ramp.

Other expenses include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge For This Service

For a simple job like a barbecue or a brick patio, you can charge an all-inclusive set fee that covers the cost of materials and your time. Another option is to charge an hourly rate plus the cost of materials and supplies.

Skilled stonemasons typically charge $25 to $40 per hour for their labor; unionized workers generally receive a higher rate.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: Some municipalities and local homeowners’ associations may have regulations about the type and size of ornamentation, walls, and fences.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance.

Small Business Idea – Making Storage Shelves, Playhouses and Doghouses

small business idea

Start a Small Business Making Storage Sheds, Playhouses, Doghouses

Description of Job

• Specify, deliver, and install predesigned and prefabricated storage sheds, children’s playhouses, doghouses, and other structures.

• Custom-build structures to client’s specifications, complementing the home design.

The Need and Demand For This Business

Some stuff just doesn’t fit or belong inside your house: lawn mowers, bicycles, outdoor toys, tools, hoses, lawn food, and fertilizer among them. No one wants to go up and down the stairs to the basement (if you have one) carrying the lawn furniture.

A storage shed can hold the stuff of summer and winter in a way that com- plements your house and adds to the value of your property.

What child wouldn’t treasure a private playhouse? What dog wouldn’t like a place to call his or her own?

Challenges Faced By this Business

Designing and building a stand-alone shed or outbuilding involves most of the same skills involved in constructing a house, albeit on a much smaller scale. You’ll need carpentry skills and knowledge of building and engineering practices.

A much simpler solution is to become an assembler and installer of pre- designed and cut wooden structures or high-quality metal buildings.

In most localities you need a building permit to erect a structure. In some areas you also have to deal with zoning laws and regulations on design, materi- als, and colors.

Depending on the soil and type of structure, you may need a concrete slab or other type of foundation.

The contract should state that the client agrees to pay for any changes to the project beyond what is included in the contract.

What You Should Know About This Business

Consult town and city authorities to learn about local regulations and practices. Study the homes in your area to determine common architectural styles.

Make contact with suppliers of predesigned and cut wooden structures and with makers of unassembled metal buildings. Establish a wholesale or commer- cial account.

Find a source for off-the-shelf plans. Many companies offer blueprints and plans that can be customized with trim, color, and other touches.

Make contact with local architects who would be available to draw custom plans for small projects.

How to Get Started

Post flyers and ads at community centers. Some home supply outlets and lum- beryards may permit you to post your flyer if you are a commercial customer there.

Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Let other builders and contractors know of your new business; they may refer jobs to you that are too small for their business. Offer a commission or bonus for work they send your way.

Up-front Expenses

You’ll need woodworking and assembly tools and a vehicle large enough to transport them. Wood and metal parts and kits can usually be delivered to the construction site by suppliers.

Books and plans are available in bookstores, over the Internet, and through catalogs. Other expenses include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge For The Service

Based on the specifications agreed to by the client, your contract will specify a bottom-line price for design, delivery, assembly, and finishing of the job. Add any extra charges for building permits, zoning clearance, and inspections.

An alternative way to price a job like this is to perform it on a cost-plus basis, whereby the client agrees to pay the actual cost of all materials and other expenses plus a fixed amount or percentage representing your profit. You’ll have to build into the profit payment for your time in ordering and assembling the structure.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: Some municipalities and local homeowners’ associations may have regulations about the type and size of outbuildings, and they may also have zoning limits on the percentage of a lot that can be covered by a structure and its proximity to property lines.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance

Small Business Idea – Deck Construction

small business idea

How to Start a Deck Construction Business

Description of Job

• Consult with clients about design and materials for decks, and prepare detailed plans and a price quote.

• Obtain all necessary permits for construction.

• Purchase materials and build decks.

• Arrange for any necessary inspections after completion and confirm recording of approvals.

The Need and Demand for this Business

In days gone by, nearly every house had a large front porch where families would sit after dinner and exchange small talk with neighbors and passersby. With the advent of suburbs, the front porch moved to the backyard and became a comfort- able wooden deck.

In many parts of the country there is a strong market for new or expandedDECK CONSTRUCTION 47

decks. Construction of a ground-level or slightly raised deck is a relatively sim- ple construction project.

Challenges faced by Deck Construction Business

Stay close to the ground, at least at the start of this business. Building a second- story or higher deck requires advanced design and the use of lengthy load-bearing girders, beams, or supports, which will greatly increase your exposure to liability claims.

In many localities you will need to obtain a building permit before construc- tion and seek approval from an inspector afterward. You may also have to con- form to local regulations about size and design of structures.

The most difficult jobs involve work on soft or sloping ground. You’ll also have to deal with extremes of temperature and environment in some parts of the country.

What You Need To Know About This Business

Learn the basics of deck construction from available books, web sites, and plans. Among important concepts: proper installation of concrete footings or founda- tions; specification and use of pressure-treated lumber; and proper protection against rot, splitting, and insect infestation.

You’ll need to prepare a plan for construction so you can show the design to your customers, seek building permits, and order materials. Pressure-treated and manufactured deck boards come in standard lengths and widths that should be adaptable to most jobs; the simplest and least expensive jobs are built using read- ily available dimensions.

Advanced designs add railings, benches, and other wooden features. You may also be called on to integrate lighting and electrical outlets into the deck; in most localities you’ll need to work with a licensed electrician for such features.

If the plans call for creation of a new exit from the home to the deck, you may want to partner with an experienced contractor or carpenter for that part of the job.

How to Get Started with Deck Construction Business

Place flyers and ads in community centers and home supply stores. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Make your services known to existing contractors who may refer small jobs to you; you can offer them a commission. Ask satisfied customers to recommend you to friends and acquaintances; offer a bonus or discount for business they bring to you.

Offer to teach a class about small construction projects at a community school; this may yield some publicity and clients.

Up-front Expenses

You’ll need commercial-grade tools, including a circular saw, power drill, ham- mer, levels, safety goggles, and mask. For construction of concrete footings or foundations, you’ll need a wheelbarrow and hoses for making concrete.

Building supply companies should be able to deliver lumber to your con- struction site; you will need a station wagon or small truck to haul your equip- ment to and from jobs.

How Much to Charge For This Service

You should quote a price for the job that includes your time plus the cost of lum- ber and hardware, including connectors, nails, and screws. Base your price on your cost—if the customer asks for special lumber or other features you need to take that into account.

Your price should include amortization of tools and your vehicle, plus a por- tion of the cost of insurance.

Legal and Insurance Issues

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance

Small Business Ideas – Landscape Designing Service


How to Start with a Landscape Designing Business

Description of Job

• Change a landscape’s appearance using trees, shrubbery, and/or flowering plants.

• Maintain a client’s garden and plantings.

Need and Demand for A Landscape Designer

Beautifully planted and maintained properties with flourishing shrubs, artfully placed flowers in vibrant bloom, and handsome rolling lawns do not happen by chance.

A great deal of work goes into designing, planting, and maintaining a stand- alone garden or plantings around a house. Unless you were born with a green thumb or have developed one through years of practice, it may make sense to hire a professional landscape designer.

Challenges for this Business

You’ll need an artist’s eye and a gardener’s knowledge of plants, trees, and con- ditions. What kind of plants grow best in your area? How long is the growing sea- son, and what are the extremes of heat and cold, drought and rain? Is the soil in your area too sandy, or does it have a significant amount of clay or loam? How much mulch do you need to use?

How much sunlight does a particular area receive, and what is the exposure of the plot of land you will be working on?

Take the time to meet with your clients and make sure they understand your proposal and its costs. Make certain you are aware of the boundaries of your client’s property; if you put a tree on a neighbor’s property you may be opening yourself to liability or a financial loss.

What You Need To Know

You need unimproved or underimproved land and clients who are willing to pay to have their property professionally landscaped. The best area for this sort of work is likely to be suburbs.

Look for areas with new subdivisions and other recent construction.

Make use of books, magazines, and the Internet to research landscaping schemes and learn as much as you can about plants that thrive in your area.

You will be selling your services to plan and implement changes to the land- scape; you can also sell your time to maintain the health and attractiveness of plants you have put in place.

How to get Started with A Landscape Designing Business

You can gain hands-on experience by working as a helper for a gardener or land- scaping company. Some large home supply stores and garden centers offer classes on planting and landscaping.

Post flyers and ads at community centers, in retail stores, and on bulletin boards. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Make contact with area greenhouses and nurseries, contractors, and real estate agents; ask them to refer business to you and offer them a bonus or com- mission for doing so. Ask friends, acquaintances, and satisfied customers to rec- ommend your services, offering them a bonus or discount on future work.

This job can be operated in conjunction with a lawn mowing service (covered earlier in this chapter) or separately. If you will not be offering lawn care, make contact with a company that provides this service and seek a reciprocal agree- ment whereby they will refer landscaping jobs to you and you will recommend them for their services.

Upfront Expenses for This Business

You will need your own tools for planting and maintenance, including shovels, trowels, shears, pruners, and weeders. You will be able to rent major pieces of equipment such as earth movers and power shovels, or hire a subcontractor for such work.

You will need a vehicle large enough to carry your equipment. Most nurseries and plant suppliers will deliver trees and shrubs to your work site.

Some landscapers use computer programs to draw plans that show how plants and shrubs will be placed on the property.

How Much to Charge For This Service

Most of this sort of work is billed on an hourly basis, plus the cost of any plants and other expenses. You can offer some fixed prices for simple jobs such as creating a flower bed or planting a bush.


Small Business Idea – Deck Cleaning Service

small business idea

A small business idea for starting a deck cleaning service

Description of Job

• Clean dirt, stains, and mold from wooden decks and balconies.

• Make minor repairs to wood surfaces.

• Apply water sealer and tints.

The Need and Demand for a Deck Cleaning Service

Wooden decks, raised patios, and balconies are gracious extensions of the interior of our homes. Yet as part of the outside, they are constantly exposed to rain, snow, and extremes of temperature. They can accumulate dirt and grime and mold.

Cleaning a deck is relatively simple with the proper tools and chemicals, but it’s not a job that many homeowners relish.

Challenges Faced by a Deck Cleaning Business

Deck cleaning is typically limited to the warm weather months, and demand may be highest in late spring and early summer.

Some detergents are extremely caustic and may be dangerous to pets and some plants; you may need to protect against overspray and take care in your cleanup after the job is completed. There may be local regulations on the storage and use of these chemicals.

Some decks may already have rot or other damage that should be repaired before cleaning and coating is performed. You may want to have a relationship with a carpenter who can perform such work.

Power washers do a good job of blasting out debris between the cracks and cleaning the surface of the deck, but an overly strong spray can also damage the wood.

Water-repellent coating chemicals need to be applied when temperatures lie within a specific range, and the deck will need to be protected from humans and pets while it is drying.

Things You Should Know

Consult a home supply store for advice on the latest chemicals and tools. A professional deck cleaner uses brushes, power sprayers, detergents, and bleaches to clean wooden decks. Once the deck has been cleaned, the wooden surface is then coated with a water repellent. Some water-repellent chemicals include a tint to add a bit of color to the wood.

How to Get Started in the Business

Post flyers and ads about your services at home supply stores, in community cen- ters, and on neighborhood bulletin boards. You can also place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Ask satisfied customers to refer others to you, and offer a bonus when they bring in new business.

Up-front Expenses

You’ll need a water hose, stiff brushes, buckets, and chemicals for the cleaning, and you’ll need soft brushes for the application of coatings. You should consider the purchase of a power sprayer for cleaning large areas; the sprayer may also be available as needed from a tool rental company.

You’ll also need a vehicle to transport your equipment. Other costs include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge for the Deck Cleaning Service

You can charge by the hour, or calculate the cost for the job based on the square footage of the deck. The typical job includes cleaning plus application of a sealant or coating. Decks may require several applications of coating over multiple days.

In addition to the cost of labor, you should also charge for the cost of clean- ing chemicals and coating. As a professional, you should be able to purchase supplies at a discounted or wholesale price and resell them to your client at retail rates.

Small Business Idea – Window Cleaning Service

small business idea

How to Get Started With a Window Cleaning Business

Description of Job

• Clean windows for business and residential clients.

• Power-wash ground floor and hard-to-reach upper-floor windows.

• Squeegee and hand-finish windows.

• Remove screens, wash them, and replace them.

The Need and Demand for a Window Cleaning Service

Windows get dirty. Retail businesses and offices need to present a clean and neat appearance to customers, but window washing is probably not in the CEO’s job description. Homeowners also want their houses to appear attractive from the outside and to be able to see the world without having to peer through a glass darkly. They may not have ladders, or the inclination to climb one, and otherwise lack the equipment to do a good job, especially on second-story windows.

Challenges faced by the Business

It can be difficult to gain access to some windows; challenges include narrow alleys, uneven ground, and landscaping. One solution is to use power washers and rotary brushes on lightweight aluminum or plastic poles.

In many situations it will be necessary to enter a house to remove screens from the inside; some homeowners prefer to do that part of the job themselves.

You’ll have to guard against causing damage to windows, siding, gutters, and shingles on the house. You’ll also have to protect against harming landscaping, pets, and people below. Don’t accept a job where the windows or the structure of the house itself are obviously damaged, and skip any job you don’t feel you can perform safely.

Watch out for unpleasant surprises, including hornet nests, unfriendly birds, and uneven ground beneath your ladder.

Your insurance carrier—an important component of your business plan— may not want to cover you for any work performed more than 10 feet off the ground. State and federal occupational safety agencies may also have rules and regulations. We recommend you begin your business by limiting your services to ground-floor and second-story windows; once you are off and flying (metaphor- ically speaking) you can consider expansion to upper levels.

One way to avoid the complications of tall ladders and insurance concerns is to perform second-story cleaning from the ground using a rotary brush on an extendible pole.

Things You Should Know About a Window Cleaning Business

You’ll need a ladder, a power washer, squeegees, sponges—and no fear of heights. Although some homeowners may want to arrange for exterior window clean- ing just once a year as part of their spring cleaning, you may be able to build up a clientele of residential and business customers who want to schedule regular sessions throughout the year. Power washers range from simple rotating brushes turned by water pressure

to systems that use compressors and pumps to boost pressure. You’ll use detergents and sometimes special chemicals to remove bug and bird residue. Once the windows have been washed with detergent, you’ll apply an ammonia-based glass cleaner or something similar to finish the job without leaving streaks.

How to Get Started with a Window Cleaning Business

Ask satisfied customers to recommend your services to friends, acquaintances, and businesses; offer them a bonus or a discount for any jobs they refer to you.

Up-front Expenses

A typical window-washing tool kit would include window brushes of several widths and firmness, an aluminum or plastic telescoping water pipe and handle, and a set of squeegees. You’ll also need buckets for mixing chemicals and deter- gents, along with sponges, rags, and chamois. A simple straight-edge razor scraper will help remove labels and crud from glass. For ground-floor jobs, you’ll need a sturdy stepladder; for second floors, you can use the extendible pole system from the ground or climb a 12-foot straight ladder or sturdy exten- sion ladder.

Spend the time to learn the safe ways to use a ladder. For example, don’t try to use a stepladder as a straight ladder; don’t attempt to increase the height of a ladder by standing it on boxes, blocks, or other objects. Place the base of a straight ladder about one foot away from the sidewall of the house for every four feet of its vertical height.

You’ll also need a vehicle large enough to carry your equipment. You may be able to lash the ladders and poles to a rooftop carrier on a full-size car or station wagon; once your business has grown, a small van would work better.

How Much to Charge

You can charge by the hour for your services, or give a flat rate per window or for an entire house based on your estimate of the time required to complete the job. Include in your rate your cost for detergents and other chemicals and a portion of the cost of the equipment you must purchase.

Legal and Insurance Issues

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance