No Office? No Problem: Mobile Businesses in Canada

by Danielle Bloom

4 min read

A mobile business exists completely on the road. The classic example is an ice cream truck, but in recent years, creativity has abounded in this niche. Now, you see unique mobile businesses doing everything from washing dirty laundry to providing paternity tests. If you’re looking for an interesting business to start, you may want to think about going mobile.

Advantages of Mobile Businesses

In many cases, mobile businesses are less expensive to start than stationary businesses, and they often have comparatively low overhead. To illustrate, compare a food truck with a restaurant. In both cases, you need food and cooking equipment, but with a stationary restaurant, you have to buy or lease a space, which can be prohibitively expensive. In contrast, with a food truck, you simply need to buy or rent the truck. You also don’t have to worry about setting up a dining room, creating atmosphere, or paying wait staff. With a mobile business, you can also meet consumer demand in unique ways. If you know that an area is craving a certain product or service, you can bring it right to them. For instance, you could start a vegetable truck and bring it to urban areas without a lot of fresh produce for sale. In other cases, a mobile business reduces the risk of being tied to a particular location. For example, imagine you want to open a tanning salon but you can’t find an area with an adequate customer base. In this case, you can put some tanning beds in a van and drive the van from area to area to serve as many clients as possible.

Disadvantages of Mobile Businesses

While there are huge upsides to mobile businesses, there are also a few downsides, and unpredictable fuel prices are at the top of the list. For example, if gas costs $1.25 per litre when you start your business but then jumps to $2.25, that can constitute a huge increase in your outgoing expenses. To counteract this risk, work possible fuel increases into your financial projections. You also have to deal with logistical elements, such as parking. If you predominantly meet clients in residential neighbourhoods in small towns or suburbs, parking is typically free, or you can even use clients’ driveways. In contrast, if you tend to serve clients in urban areas, you need to prepare with parking permits or ample change for meters (and the ability to finish the job before the meter runs out). You have to contend with vehicle repairs.

Vehicle Deductions

Keeping your vehicle running is critical to the success of your mobile business. If you cancel on clients because you can’t make it due to a breakdown, you risk losing business and damaging your reputation. Because of that, it’s important to keep up with routine maintenance and work repair costs into your budget. However, to counteract those costs, you can write off all your vehicle expenses as business expenses.

The Future of Mobile Businesses

The mobile trend is hot, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Issues such as rising fuel prices and traffic congestion in certain areas may affect the future of this industry negatively. On the flip side of the coin, the increase in aging consumers who may have trouble leaving their homes and growing customer demand for home delivery of products and services may help the industry to thrive. In many cases, the potential success boils down to the type of service you plan to provide rather than the health of the mobile business sector in particular. Before investing in a mobile business idea, do some market research, and make sure that there’s a demand for what you’re selling.

Possibilities for Growth

If your mobile business is successful, it’s relatively easy to continue your growth. For example, if you want to expand your business in your own community, you can simply invest in another truck, copy your current idea, and hire a few people to run your second mobile location. Some mobile businesses also have success with setting up licencing or franchising opportunities. For example, one mobile entrepreneur started a small bar on a bicycle – patrons pedal to move the bar as they drink. When this entrepreneur was ready to expand, he decided to sell licencing opportunities to people who wanted to start pedal pubs in their own communities. Essentially, this entrepreneur packaged his experience and knowledge into something that others could buy. That allowed him to increase the revenue of his mobile business without the risk of buying his own second location. Many mobile businesses lend themselves to this type of growth model, so it’s something to keep in mind as your business grows.

Ideas for Mobile Businesses

Hair salons, dog grooming, and other service-oriented concepts are popular mobile business ideas, but you may want to think outside the box as well. Party buses, mobile boxing gyms, and even moving massage parlours can also be successful in this niche. When developing your concept, think about what you like to do and how to bring that concept to clients. For example, if you like cleaning golf clubs, you could bring that service to customers, but if you prefer cooking, you could start a personal chef service that goes into people’s homes and helps them plan and prep dinner for the week. If you want to start a business, you don’t necessarily need a set location. Instead, you may want to take the show on the road. With creativity, diligence, and a bit of knowledge about business, it’s possible to get a new business rolling.

References & Resources

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