I get a lot of emails asking me how to start a fashion truck. Looking back, it happened so fast that I really didn’t think about it too much. We just found a truck, built out the inside, bought some inventory and launched it as fast as we could.
We figured things out on the fly too. Insurance, payment processing, bank accounts, forming a LLC, social media accounts, websites, finding events to go, marketing, painting the truck, interior design of the truck, graphics, building steps, scheduling home parties and a couple of other dozen things.
Here’s the thing though: everyone seems to worry about two main things: insurance and permits and licenses. To be honest, I didn’t have any problems getting business insurance. And the permits and licenses required vary so much from city to city and place to place that we just dealt with them as they came up.
Business Liability, Contents and Vehicle Insurance
So for our business we have two different types of insurance. Actually three types of insurance. Our company is a LLC (formed online through www.legalzoom.com). So our LLC has business liability insurance. This is for someone who gets injured or hurt while shopping with us. And it protects other businesses that have you come to their place when you do a show there. Usually they have you add them to the additional insured section and then they are covered.
Then we have contents insurance. This is a separate insurance policy that covers our merchandise against damage, fire and theft (i think theft – please don’t steal anything from me people). These policies are usually very inexpensive and just give you a piece of mind in a worse case scenario. Ours is actually rolled into our business liability policy so we only have to pay one policy for both coverages.
Finally we have vehicle insurance for the actual truck. This is a commercial auto policy and like regular car insurance. It covers us if we are in an accident or if something damages the truck. Here’s a tip: for the extra expense get towing coverage on your policy. If your truck breaks down (and it will it’s just a matter of when!) getting it towed will be expensive. Better to get it covered in your insurance and hope that you never have to use it!
Permits and Licenses
Permits and licenses seem to hang people up the most. And because of the newness of mobile boutiques the rules and information about them are spotty at best. Mainly the agencies that would grant you a permit or license have no idea how to classify you so they can’t give you a permit.
Here’s the thing though, you only need a permit if you plan on parking in a public downtown area/city limits and you aren’t part of a scheduled event. Because when there is a scheduled event/festival the main permit has already been granted and you will fall under a blanket permit and therefore be covered. Also, if you do private parties at peoples homes or on private property you don’t need a permit (as far as I know – I used the don’t ask don’t tell method in these situations).
One thing that you don’t want to do is start parking in downtown areas without a permit or license. You’ll probably get told to move on or possibly get fined for operating without one. Then you get on the cops or authorities radar and that could make things tough for you. Don’t make it hard on yourself. If you want to go to a downtown area then call the licensing office first and check to see if you can. If you can’t then you could chance it (not recommended) or you can do what I did and get an ordinance passed by the city council.
In the city of St. Paul there was no ordinance on books that would allow someone to sell merchandise from a vehicle in the downtown area. So I met with the business development council a couple of times and brought my truck down there for them to see it. Surprisingly, they loved the idea and invited me back to help them answer questions so that they could draft an ordinance. They did and it passed the City Council vote 5-0! The whole process took about 8 months or so but it really wasn’t that bad. I haven’t tried to do this in Minneapolis yet but I do plan on trying to find out if they are open to it.
The overall point of all this is to say don’t let things like insurance and permits or licenses slow you down. You’ll learn as you go and find our things as you go. Get the truck up and running as fast as possible and get customers as soon as possible and blow them away with your great products and service. Get out there to festivals and events and schedule some home parties or private shopping parties. Don’t get stuck before you get started. Go as fast as you can and make it happen.