A little over 3 years ago construction tanked and I found myself out of a job. On a fluke I took $300 out of our personal checking account (mostly for paperwork) and started a small engine repair shop out of my garage. I only advertized on Craigslist. The first month was slow, the second month the shop was making just enough money to stay open and buy my smokes and beer. The third month, the largest landscape maintenance company in the US was in my driveway wanting us to repair and maintain their equipment from a new local branch. We kept that relationship for almost 2 years until they set up their own internal shop. The rest is history, good history at that. I listed us on google Places, Superpages.com, Bing, any internet resource that would serve our target market. Today, no advertisement is needed and we are 2-4 weeks behind, year around.
Getting your name out there along with a good reputation is a must. In addition to folks being able to find you, you need a "hook". Our hook is we do not charge for an estimate. Every other shop around here charges $50-75 for an estimate. Need a $2 fuel filter replaced? It will cost you the minimum $50-75 at other places. I am not joking, I witnessed it with my own eyes when I was at another shop purchasing parts in the early days before I had my wholesale suppliers set up. And there is another point to help with success/profit. Find yourself some suppliers that will cut you a better deal than you currently get on all your stuff: Meats, ingredients, serving utensils, that kind of stuff. Network, get to know people who can help you. One of my customers is currently setting me up with a 6 camera security system with a 30 day record DVR for a couple hundred bucks, because I treated him right when I worked on his stuff. If I need a new filing cabinet, i have a customer that can hook me up there too. I could write a book on what all I did to succeed. No I am not rolling in the dough yet, the shop takes care of itself as well as all the household bills. But every month it just gets a little better. Expect tough times for the first couple of years, and when you arent cooking and making money, get out there and hustle!
Dedicated Stick Burner, Pitmaster @ All About The Q, facebook.com/itsallabouttheq KCBS CBJ