How to Start a Fashion Truck Business

How to Start a Fashion Truck Business

So you want to know how to start a fashion truck business, eh? You've come to the right place! We've compiled years of research and interviews with fashion truck and mobile boutique business owners into a quick and handy reference to help you decide if and how you want to launch your fashion truck empire.

Location

Where are you planning to operate your fashion truck business?

Because you're considering launching a mobile business, your location may not feel all that important, but it's actually one of the first things you should consider when thinking about starting a fashion truck. Why? Because you want to operate in an area where there are enough potential customers to support your business. You don't have to live in a big city, but you do want to operate in an area with enough markets and events to support a healthy pop-up schedule, as this will likely be your main source of revenue.

Your town should also have a healthy business community that can support — and not feel threatened by — the mobile boutique industry. For example, are there other businesses that would be interested in partnering with your fashion truck on pop-up events and sales? Many non-competitive businesses (such as coffee shops, bars, wineries, salons, and restaurants) enjoy partnering with fashion trucks on events that help bring in more customers.

Learn more about planning a fashion truck pop-up schedule, including finding business partnerships.

Inventory

What are you planning to sell in your fashion truck?

Planning for and sourcing your inventory will be hugely important. Not all fashion trucks sell clothing — some sell housewares, beauty products, handmade items, even vinyl records. Whatever you decide to sell, you want to make sure you have a solid plan for both sourcing and selling your inventory. Will it be easy for you to get new items? Once you're fully stocked, will you be able to sell the items, given the area you've chosen to operate in, your pop-up schedule, and customer base?

Before committing to a full inventory line, you might consider doing research in the form of surveys, or even launching your "fashion truck" without a truck at first, by popping up at markets and events in a 10x10 booth and getting your potential customers' read on what's hot and what's not. In other words, before you buy a truck, make sure you've committed to an inventory that's going to sell.

Vehicle

What kind of vehicle will you use for your fashion truck business?

There are quite a few considerations that go into the purchase of the vehicle you'll use to operate your fashion truck business: price, size, where and how you'll store the vehicle, planned maintenance (and cost of maintenance — for example, vintage trucks look cute but can be costly to repair, as parts aren't as readily available), whether you plan to tow your vehicle or purchase a self-propelled truck, etc.

For more information on planning for the purchase of your vehicle, check out our free guide, How to Find & Buy Your First Mobile Boutique Truck.

Build-out

How will you handle build-out of your fashion truck?

You might choose to plan and execute build-out of your truck on your own, or you may hire someone to do it for you. Either way, you need to create a plan for how you'll handle the construction of your fashion truck interior. This includes cost of materials, interior sketches and space layout design, and a time and location for the completion of build-out. (You might not want to plan to complete build-out outside in a cold climate during the winter, for example, so plan to purchase your truck in the spring or store it inside while you can work on the interior.)

Here's an example of how one mobile boutique owner planned her truck build-out.

Funding

How will you fund your first year of operations?

Before you start operating your truck, you'll need to not only purchase your vehicle and furnish it, but you'll need to purchase inventory. Depending on what you plan to sell, wholesale vendors may require minimum purchase orders. Best to plan the acquisition of your opening inventory in advance! How much will you need to spend in order to open your doors with the inventory you need?

In addition to inventory, you need to budget for the following: parking and storage, automotive repairs, insurance, marketing, hardware and software, business licenses and fees, supplies (such as tissue paper and shopping bags), and incidentals. 

One of the easiest ways to budget for startup and ongoing expenses within the first year of operations is to write a business plan for your fashion truck.

Permits + Licenses

What permits and licenses are required in your city, county or state? What laws govern the operation of mobile boutique businesses where you are located?

Mobile retail permits and licensing vary greatly from region to region. Some cities and counties have no laws on the books governing the operation of mobile retail units, while others have specific permits, licensing and legal restrictions to acquire and consider. While the American Mobile Retail Association can be of some assistance to you in discerning the laws that govern mobile business operations in your area, the best thing to do is conduct your own research, so you get the most up-to-date information in your area. Doing your own research can also connect you with important business resources in your city.

Here is a guide for figuring out what business licenses and permits you need to operate a mobile boutique.

Insurance

What insurance is required for your fashion truck, and how much will it cost?

When insuring a fashion truck business, keep in mind that you're purchasing insurance not just for your vehicle, but for the truck contents (furnishings, inventory) and for commercial liability, which covers you in the event of an accident involving a shopper. Policies range from $1,500-4,000 per year. 

Read more about how insurance coverage for fashion trucks, including finding a broker and budgeting for your business' insurance needs.