Mobile enterprises are gaining in popularity across the country. Entrepreneurs are turning to these businesses on wheels because they are a fairly inexpensive and easy way to start a business. They are not just ice cream trucks or food vendors, mobile businesses have grown to encompass an eclectic mix. Across the country, florists, hair stylists and even dancers are gutting old vehicles and are turning them into decked-out mobile shops, avoiding the overhead costs associated with brick and mortar retail and are galvanizing customers in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Austin.
While their business models vary, many of their challenges are the same including gas prices, government regulations, and inclement weather. But for those freewheelers looking to get into the driver’s seat, here are just a few viable businesses that are on the road to success.
1. Dance Studio
Fifteen-year-old Amiya Alexander launched a mobile dance academy, Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy for Detroit students ages 2 to 12, bringing dance lessons in ballet, tap, jazz, salsa, and hip-hop. Alexander also teaches classes on healthy eating and wellness. With the help of family donations, the teenpreneur invested $20,000 to get her mobile dance studio up and running. That money helped them purchase a 52-passenger school bus. After removing the seats, they installed ballet bars and wood flooring. Today, classes are held inside the big bright pink bus which drives around town to offer affordable and accessible dance lessons for underserved Detroit communities and families. Formal dance instruction can cost anywhere from $30 to $60 per class. With the help of donations, Alexander is able to offer her students a discounted rate of $11.50 per class.
2. Beauty Salon
Taking advantage of the beauty business is New York’s LeMetric Mobile Hair and Beauty Studio. In 1987, Elline Surianello founded LeMetric Hair and Beauty Studio, a midtown Manhattan-based full-service hair salon that offers styling and custom hair systems and extensions as well as beauty services, such as facial masks and hand/foot treatments. About a year ago, Surianello decided to purchase a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and had it custom-built into a beauty shop on wheels that offers blowouts and cuts in front of your office much like those popular street food trucks. Other mobile services include many of the same brick and mortar services including hair styling and extensions, makeup applications, and spray tanning. Outfitted with comfortable seating and even a runway, Surianello’s truck and her team can service busy working women or entire parties of ladies looking for a fun way to get ready for a big event like a dream wedding, doing hair, nails, eyelashes, and more. Check out these three other intriguing mobile businesses from Kiplinger’s.
3. Testing Lab
Jared Rosenthal’s mobile DNA-and drug-testing lab, called Who’s Your Daddy?, is housed in a retrofitted RV. From the inside of his office-slash-testing-site, Rosenthal can take patient samples, file paperwork and send the samples to a remote lab – for $79 to $599 a pop. Setting up the truck wasn’t easy, and Rosenthal struggled to get a loan. But now, he enjoys a steady business at hospitals, jails, job fairs and accident sites across the tri-state area. In addition to paying for gas for the RV and its generator, Rosenthal shells out for frequent maintenance, weekly washings, $400 a month for insurance, and employee salaries. In order to save money, he ends up doing a lot of menial tasks, such as driving and fixing the truck himself.
4. Fitness Gym
Personal trainer Rick Harper operates the Boxing Bus. He ran a chain of successful gyms, Box 2B Fit, for two years. While business at his boxing clubs and boot camps was pretty brisk, some customers wanted him to come to them. So he bought an old vehicle for $1,000, installed a new sound system and some gym equipment, and took to the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina. Most of Harper’s Boxing Bus business comes from regularly scheduled home visits, though about one-fifth of his clients are companies that hire the bus for employee use. In addition to convincing some customers of the value of mobile fitness stations, Harper’s s bigger struggle is fluctuating gas prices. Despite that needling concern, he turns a tidy profit.
5. Flower Shop
Retail space in trendy Santa Monica can run as much as $15 per square foot, but in her mobile flower shop, Jenifer Kaplan never has to worry about rent. The Flower Truck, a converted ice cream truck that Kaplan found on Craigslist, picks up flowers at a wholesale market every morning and cruises around Venice, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills, selling bouquets to passers-by. Kaplan started the business with a $15,000 investment. After finding the truck, she spent two months repairing and retrofitting it before hitting the road on Valentine’s Day 2011.The truck makes frequent appearances at street fairs and farmers’ markets, as well as at private events, such as weddings and business functions.